November 12, 2019 Laura Dunphy

By Laura Dunphy

It started with a search for a carry-on bag in a boutique where totes and suitcases and travel pouches perched on exquisitely-lit museum pedestals. I picked up a rectangular prism of perfect proportions and inhaled the musk of its crisp leather accents when a saleswoman appeared at my shoulder. 

“Let me know if you need any assistance,” she said. “All of our pieces can be monogrammed, either with your initials or any three letters of your choosing.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Wait – not any three letters?”

She looked at me as if I’d just emerged from a Neanderthal’s cave. “Any three letters you like,” she said.

My mouth dropped open. There is no law requiring me to choose my initials for a monogram. How come I never realized this before??

I ended up not buying a bag… because I couldn’t choose three little letters to put on its side. 

Who said we have to use our initials as monograms, anyway?

I guess we can thank the ancient Greeks, who first put city initials on their coins. And the centuries-worth of artists and craftsmen who marked their professional works with their initials. (Shout out, Albrecht Dürer.) And the many, many monarchs from medieval times to today who’ve signed documents with special royal monograms or put their rulers’ initials on their money. 

Yeah, thanks a lot. Because of you, I’ve spent my entire life thinking that a monogram was for initials only. 

And, as anyone considering baby names has probably noticed, initials come with restrictions. First, your kid’s gonna have a last name. That’s one letter taken right there. 

Maybe there’s only a small set of first names that you and your partner can agree on. Maybe you’ve decided to honor a family member by using a name that starts with a certain letter. Once you double-check your name choices to avoid initials that inadvertently spell something terrible (DIE, ASS), what are you left with? 

The prison of three letters for all eternity… 

But wait! The prison has no bars! With monograms, we’re free to do whatever we want! 

Take my carry-on, for example. Sure, I could just slap my initials on the side and be done with it. 

Or… I could tell the world how I feel about travelling: AWE, YAY, OMG, YAS, WOW, YES, JOY. Then again, long security lines, cramped airplane seats, delays, resort fees, exchange rates, and jet lag make me think BOO, UGH, MEH, EFF, WTF. I could say BYE, I’ll BRB, I’m OOO. I could be both literal – and self-aggrandizing – and choose FLY. 

Am I friendly? HEY, SUP, HUG. Or maybe not so much? BOO, GRR, BAD. I could share vices… GIN, VIN, KEG. Or create a little intrigue… CIA, FBI, SPY, SHH.

How highly do I think of myself? Do I have a big EGO? Am I LIT, HIP, FUN, RAD, a total FOX… perhaps GOD? 

Or am I just OLD? 

Oh, how I regret all the times I declined Pottery Barn Kids’ offers to monogram my orders!

Our playroom chairs would have insisted you SIT and have FUN. My baby’s onesie could’ve proclaimed it my KID. At lunchtime, monogrammed bibs – MMM, YUM – would’ve guaranteed those mashed peas were a hit. Then a soothing tub, after which I’d wrap the baby in towels, marked with WET and DRY, and I’d put it to sleep on sheets instructing it to catch some ZZZ. 

It’s so obvious now that I could’ve taught my kids to read by simply monogramming everything. All I needed was a shirt emblazoned with MOM. I could’ve put HAT on their hats, BIB on their bibs, CUP on their – you get the idea. 

Or, when whittling down baby name lists, I could’ve given bonus points to any name that was three letters long or had a nickname that was. Imagine monograming a mug with your actual name! Oh, to be called AVA, BEN, CAL, DAN, EVE, FOX, GIA, HAL, IAN, JAX, KIM, LEA, MAX, NOA, ONA, PAM, REX, SAM, TRU, UMA, VAL, WIN, XUN, YIN, or ZEV

(My husband: You know you can buy a mug with your name on it, right? Me: Don’t bring me down!) 

There is one flaw, however, to this monogram free-for-all. When you can pick whatever letters you want, it’s really hard to choose. Maybe that’s the reason people stick with their initials. Maybe that’s WHY I can’t decide. Maybe I need a NAP. And then I’ll pick a great monogram. I know I CAN do it. 

Or at least I thought I could. Until the luggage store lady said I could choose a two-letter monogram if I’d prefer. Which means… OH. NO. 

Laura Dunphy is a writer and OLD BAG living in NYC. She wrote for Nameberry previously on When Mom Hates Your Baby’s Name and Naming Other People’s Babies

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.

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