I remember being in high school and obsessively watching “Friends” for the first time and eventually arriving at the Season 8 episode ‘The One Where Rachel Has a Baby: Part 2.’
Rachel and Ross are introducing their baby daughter to the group and going back and forth about the baby’s name, until Monica tells Rachel the girl name she’s been dreaming of naming her daughter one day. In true Rachel Green fashion, she hears Monica’s baby name…and promptly steals it.
There’s also an episode of Sex and the City where a domesticity-hungry Charlotte York attends a baby shower and overhears that the mom-to-be plans to use her baby girl name: Shayla. “It’s my secret baby name that I made up when I was 11 years old for my daughter when I have her!” protests a flustered Charlotte. The name issue is so serious to Charlotte that she even makes the other members of the gang swear not to use it for their own daughters. While Sex and the City really didn’t expertly address any other postmodern cultural issues well, they did a solid job with this one.
Baby-name theft is a thing, and it’s also no joke. Siblings, in-laws, and friends who once had solid relationships have seen their first taste of conflict over baby-name theft. It’s ended entire relationships as well as caused small disagreements. The natural dilemma here for many women is what do I do if someone steals my baby name?
Diffuse the Tension
If you’re feeling betrayed, the temptation will be to come at this person with guns blazing. Whether or not they knew you were planning on using this name, they’ve taken something important from you, and that will probably leave you feeling angry, sad, and more than a little hurt. But escalating tensions instead of trying to diffuse them first can take the situation from a little awkward to bad to worse. Also consider that if you haven’t said anything previously about using this name, they’ll be completely ignorant as to your feelings.
You can offer your congratulations or even try, “How funny, we love that name too!” If your friend is the Rachel Green type – a.k.a. a drama magnet – it’ll be even more of an effort to be the bigger person, but that’s just it. You’ll come out of this as the bigger person. While honesty is the best policy and their choice isn’t a reason to steamroll over your own feelings, make sure you employ tact and grace with how you go about talking to them.
Don’t Poison the Well
Who is this name-stealer to you? Probably someone important or a fixture in your life if you’re feeling the way you do. Maybe they’re a childhood friend, a family member, or an in-law. Consider this relationship when you think about how you’re going to talk to them.
Cutting ties with family members is the modern solution to any old offense these days, but that’s terrible advice. You might not remember why you cut ties with them 50 years in the future, but you’re sure to feel their absence, whatever the reason that broke the two of you up. If the name-stealer is family or related to family, not only will the two of you be put in awkward straits, but the rest of your family members will as well, and they might inevitably be pushed to pick sides in the debate.
It Feels Personal, but It’s Not
Whenever we’re betrayed, our first instinct is to see that betrayal as a cruel act of malice. This person has clearly been reading our innermost thoughts and plans for the future and subverted them for their own use.
Unless the name-stealer in question is a villain or a rival of Shakespearean proportions (which, to be fair, is entirely possible), the name steal is very likely not personal. It feels personal because it’s our name, the one we’ve chosen for our future little boy or little girl. If anything, the prospect of someone close to you using it for their own baby just goes to show what excellent taste you have.
Share the Name
The amount of Williams in my family is staggering. I’ve lost count at this point, honestly. But that illustrates one of the simplest and most straightforward solutions to name-stealing: share the name.
You can even try altering it to make it your own. Maybe use it as a middle name or double-name, or have it as their legal name on paper but give them a cute nickname. By the time your baby is out of high school, the name-stealing issue will have been long forgotten.
Go to Plan B
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The Bard said it best, even if he wasn’t talking specifically about name-stealing. At the end of the day, your baby will still be a perfect addition to the world and to your family, no matter what his or her name is. If you decide not to end up using what you planned on because the name-stealer happened to get there first, it will hurt for a bit. But you won’t be thinking about any of that when you meet your son or daughter for the first time.
Remember Who They Are
This person could be your sister, your cousin, or your best friend. And while your temper might be flaring, don’t let this get in the way of that relationship. One columnist writes that after she confronted her childhood friend about a name-stealing incident, they never spoke again. You probably don’t want that to be you.
However, this might be the last in a long line of grievances you have with your Rachel Green-type friend (because, to be quite honest, she’s a great example of what not to do). One etiquette expert suggests that if all it takes is a name to divert your relationship train off its tracks, there might be more problems than you think. If that’s the case, you now have the perfect excuse to cut ties and sail off into the sunset, with using your special name for your little one still a possibility.
In the end, Rachel naming her and Ross’s daughter Emma doesn’t end her relationship with Monica, and Charlotte doesn’t end up with Shayla, but with Lily and Rose. Name theft is frustrating, even infuriating, but it doesn’t have to end your excitement over expanding your family, nor should it.
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