What is about people’s reactions when you tell them what your baby is called? People can be plain rude. To your face. Without blinking an eyelid. And it isn’t just the rude people…it’s all people. Even the most polite and well-brought up people you know will be unable to stop their pretty little noses wrinkling in a “I don’t like it” coloured frown the moment you reveal your baby name. Even your freakin’ mother or Grandmother won’t think twice before expressing their dislike of your name.
We called our daughter Billie Scout. Billie was the only girl’s name we could agree on after 8.5 months of sitting in the car randomly shouting out names. We must have trialled over 234,679 names and when one of us said ‘Billie’ it was the first time in the history of The Sims’ name-choosing that we both went, “I really like it.” Inspired more by the likes of Billie Holliday than Billie Piper, we were settled on the name as soon as we said it.
The ‘Scout’ was my choice. As an ex-English teacher, my favourite book in the whole world is To Kill A Mockingbird and as Queen VB stole Harper right from under my nose, I went with my second choice. My husband wasn’t a big fan but as we agreed that I could give the middle name to a girl and he could give the middle name to a boy, he didn’t have much of a choice. Plus, I may have played on the emotions of the moment and said, “Can I please give her Scout as a middle name?” a mere thirty seconds after pushing her out as I sat there hot, tired, sweaty, covered in blood and goo and presenting him with his firstborn. How on earth was he going to say no? So, Scout it was.
We hadn’t told anyone our names before giving birth. Well, that’s not strictly true. Previously we had settled on another name which we would have used whether it was a boy or girl. Easy right? We had told one couple what that name was only to find that, as they pipped us to the birthing post, they quite liked it too. Now, I’m well aware that no one has the monopoly on baby names but if you’ve made it clear to a very good friend that that is what you are going to call your baby…then maybe a phonecall to say, “Hey, I know it sucks for you, but we beat you to it and we’re going to call our daughter that name you told us you were going to use because you’d loved it for ever? OK?” wouldn’t have gone amiss.
But I digress…
So, Billie Scout was brought into this world and we started, as is normal, to tell people that she was here. Probably 70% of people came straight out and said they loved the name, best name they’d ever heard, so pretty, and really cool. They may well have been lying. If so, there were good at it and frankly, that’s what you do. If you don’t like someone’s baby name, you pretend really, really, really well that you do. It’s manners. Right?
Wrong. Other reactions varied from the subtly disapproving to the outright rude.
“What made you choose Billie?” was a real passive-agressive favourite of mine followed quickly in second place by, “Billie is soooooo unusual for a girl.” The less subtle responses included, “I’m not sure about Billie. Millie I like but not Billie,” and “What’s Billie short for?” I’d reply that it wasn’t short for anything and the best response was, “You mean she won’t have a proper name?”
Wow. Just wow.
I think my favourite response belongs to almost every old lady who stops me on the street to tell me how gorgeous she is.
“Thank you,” I say.
“What’s she called?”
“She’s called Billie.”
Quickly, a confused, disapproving cloud spreads from between their eyes all the way over their face.
“Billie? What you doing calling a girl Billie?”
Really! That’s happened. Twice.
There seems to be some disconnect for people between acceptable behaviour and anything related to your decisions about your baby. While someone would never dream of coming up to you and saying, “Wow, you’re a big girl aren’t you?” they feel perfectly OK with peering into the buggy and saying, “Wow, he’s a big boy isn’t he?” Offensive on so many levels and by the way, IT’S A FREAKING GIRL!
If someone came up to me and said, ‘Hi, I’m Pickle Chops, what’s your name?” my first response wouldn’t be “PIckle Chops? What kind of a name is that?” Ok, if it was Pickle Chops then it might be but my point is, we go out of our way to be polite to people’s faces about their personal stuff but we seems to think this doesn’t apply to a baby’s personal stuff.
Maybe it’s because they think it belongs to the baby and while they can’t understand human chatter, or have even a basic understanding of the concept of taking offence, it’s alright to talk about them behind their back. NEWSFLASH PEOPLE: we chose the name, I do speak human chatter and I know what it feels like to get offended so just lie, put a smile on your face, be polite and say, “Billie! How gorgeous. I love it.”