Sunday, March 20, 2011

Daddy's Little Boy ... er, Girl

I confess. This blog has nothing to do with Geri's 1993 Volkswagen EuroVan with Westfalia roof as pictured above. I wanted a photo, and she did just drive it home, so it's still new and exciting. I was able to put a dent in my fear of heights by sitting up on the roof to paint it.

But no. This blog is about giving boy names to girls because Dad Always Wanted A Boy. And gosh! Maybe Geri is one of those.

I was at Senior Stretches at The Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center Foundation, Inc. (whew!) with Jimi (89) last Tuesday. One woman asked Jimi what her real name is. It's Evelyn, but, yes, her father always wanted a boy. Jimi has a sister, Larry. Her real name is Lorraine, but who cares? Dad always wanted a boy, so everyone knows her as Larry.

Marion (in her 70s) gasped and said, "My name's Marion but it's spelled with an O, the way it's spelled for boys. My dad always wanted a boy, so he made my mother spell it that way."

Then Rae (mid-60s) joined in. She, too, was named after her dad because blah blah boy.

Sheesh. These women, from their very births, were told they were wrong. Their very gender was unacceptable. Maybe with sonogram's early gender detection, the men have more time to get used to the idea, so maybe fewer girls end up with boy names?

Nah. I don't think so. All we've done is open up some names to both genders. Jamie springs to mind. And there are those names like Madison that seem to have started out as gender-neutral. Why not Hamilton or Washington, if you're getting so presidential? I don't like those names. Those are like Synovus. Or Wachovia. Or Third Fifth (or is it Fifth Third?). They're fake, like vinyl wraps on cars, when you could have actual paint from an actual artist (ahem).

I looked up Wachovia, just so I could despise it more authentically, but it turns out that Moravian settlers named it after a place on the Danube River (and what's more romantic than that?), and it's near Bethabara, North Carolina, and my only sister's name is Beth and mine is Barbara, and so it's all coming together now!

Beth, in fact, is Beth Ann. I would love to have been Barbara Ann, if only because of those dreamy Beach Boys, but Mom didn't think it was right to have girls with the same middle name, and Beth Ann got here first, so I am Barbara Jean. Oh, Barbara Je-ee-een, ta-ake my splee-ee-en! Ya' got me rockin' and a-rollin' ...

One of my Desert Island Books is Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. We move between an abused woman stuck in an insane asylum in the present to a gender-equal far-away future. In the future section, Piercy absolutely does away with gender-specific names. The people in the future – who go off into the wilderness as young teens and come out with names they've chosen themselves – are named Jackrabbit and Luciente and Bee. At first it bothered me, not knowing instantly if a new character was a man or a woman, but it ended up not really mattering. None of that society was divvied up according to gender. Babies were sort of test-tube babies (gasp!), and it took a trio of adults to get a baby going.

I read a mystery translated from Italian (if not from the Italian), and I found it very difficult to follow just because the names were so unfamiliar. And long. With so many vowels! Much as I want to shake my fist about genders and all, I probably really want something I can understand without having to think too long about it, or too far out of the bag, either.

I can't natter about names without mentioning my Aunt Ethel. She married my Uncle Pearl. Huckabone. You heard me.