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The Art of the (Baby Name) Breakup

February 10, 2020 Laura Dunphy
baby name struggle

You never forget your first breakup.

BenjaminBen – had so many attractive qualities. Strong yet sensitive, timeless and classic, with an easy likeability and appeal.

I wasn’t the only one who fell fast for his charms. Everywhere I went, people gushed about how much they loved Ben. At first I was delighted that so many people shared my opinion of Ben’s greatness. Then an uneasiness set in.

Would I ever escape Ben’s popularity? Was I destined for a life of strangers telling me about their personal experiences with Ben? Would those stories affect how I felt and make me wonder if I’d made the right choice in sticking with Ben?

I decided to end it.

I had to cross Ben off my baby name list.

It wasn’t easy. Ben was so appealing. Everyone agreed on that. Which was precisely my problem. I’d already named my daughter Sophie, which hadn’t been nearly as popular when I first fell for it, a decade before she was born. Its popularity at and after her birth made me realize that I wanted to prioritize more offbeat choices. The only choice was to dump Ben.

Just because a name has lots of great qualities doesn’t make it the best choice for you or me. And once I was finally able to let go of Ben, dropping other names got much easier.

Not just easier… fun.

I like Bianca, but dislike the nickname Bea. Would I suddenly change my mind if Bianca’s little friends inevitably started calling her that? I didn’t think so. Bye bye, Bianca!

I adore Olivier, but find Oliver way too common in my circles. Would the inevitable confusion grow tedious? Probably. Am I a spelling-obsessed freak? Definitely. Adieu, Olivier!

The strangest thing was how often I’d agonized over removing a name only to find another terrific one quickly sneak into its place. No sooner had I bid farewell to Bianca and Olivier, than I was welcoming Ingrid and Alistair.

Maybe instead of suffering over every name that’s giving us that hesitant feeling inside, we should confidently cross them off and be open to what happens. There are so many amazing names available – you could reject an entire book’s worth of them and still have more than enough left over for any one person to use.

I feel so strongly about this that I’d like to offer up some of my beloved ex-namefriends for your consideration. We weren’t soul mates, but they’re all worthy of a first date.

And so, I present to you (in verse) the names I’ve loved, in the hopes you’ll be inspired to weed out those not-quite-right names on your list and find your perfect match.

To All The Names I’ve Loved Before…

To all the names I’ve loved before but had to say peace out –

Someone will fall in love with you. Of that there is no doubt.

Abigail – It’s terrible with my husband’s last name.

Ben – I miss him, but I made the right choice all the same.

Claire – I’ve got a relative who’d say it’s in her honor.

Dashiell – In New York this name’s more popular than Connor.

Eleanor – A timeless gem that’s easy to misspell.

I’ll skip (for now) some names I’ve dumped that start with F through L.

Madeline – too easily confused with Madeleine.

Noah – love it, but the last name causes grief again.

Ophelia – I reread Hamlet and this gave me pause.

Paige – No reason why. It’s fine. I dumped it just because.

Regan, Samarra, Scarlett all had literary roots.

But when it came to picking them, I had to give the boot.

Verona, Geneva, Vienna: places I was glad to see,

But on my baby’s birth certificate they’ll never be.

Too popular were Aidan, Audrey, Lily, Jack, and Grace.

(When I chose Sophie, it was not. That blew up in my face.)

Dear names, I loved you so, and though I’m sad we had to part,

I’ll smile when I hear you’ve captured someone else’s heart.

About the author

Laura Dunphy

As a journalist, Laura Dunphy has covered everything from Hollywood celebrities to the U.S. Congress. A frequent contributor to Nameberry, Dunphy lives in New York City with her husband, daughter and son.

View all of Laura Dunphy's articles

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