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Is My Baby’s Name a Crime?

When my son was born, I loved his simple and original name. But a close friend responded to our announcement with shock that I had used her name, the name she had picked out for a future child. She's not pregnant, married, or in a serious relationship right now, so I never ran my name options past her. I was completely unaware of her plans for the name, and I let her know that at the time. She's still hurt, though, and (months after the fact) is telling everyone that I betrayed her. This recently led to a confrontation between us over the phone that grew so heated, with so much yelling on her end, that I've stopped communicating with her. I just don't think she can be reasonable about this issue.

Now my son is a year old and I have a negative association with his name. I can't stop thinking about how I should have called him something else to avoid this drama. I want to love his name, but I'm having a very hard time forgetting about the negative end to my friendship. How can I make myself love it again?

–Guilty by Association

I have long maintained that name thievery is not a prosecutable offense. Names are not scarce commodities that we need to hoard and preserve for future use. They lose nothing by sharing—as the parents of any Noah or Sophia will tell you!—even within the same family, let alone a wider social group. As a pregnant woman, you had every right to survey the full landscape of potential names for the best fit for your child.

I'm not saying any of this to suggest you actually stole your friend's favorite baby name, whatever she might believe. It sounds like you never even discussed the issue with her, and she certainly shouldn't fault you for lacking psychic insight into her thoughts. But remember that even if you were guilty of the crimes she accuses you of, you'd still be well within your rights. The people having the baby get to name the baby. Period.

This doesn't change the fact that your son's name seems to have led to the end of a friendship. These two facts—you chose this name; you alienated your friend—have become linked in your mind, which is also understandable. The best way to recover your initial love of the name, then, is to unlink these two issues. To do that you'll need to shift, maybe uncomfortably, your thinking about her anger.

She's overreacting. But she's also suffering. Because this dream she's nurtured—of a baby of her own, a baby boy she could give this special name to—is not only out of reach for the moment. You actively seem to be living it for her! You're right that she's irrational right now, and I certainly don't suggest that you continue calling to apologize or to let her use you as a punching bag for her frustrations. Some time for both your tempers to cool sounds smart. But while you're cooling, think of all the love and hope she has contained in this name. Think of all the love and hope you have in your son. Both those things can coexist; neither has to take away from the other. Hope that she will come to see that truth for herself.


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June 19, 2017 4:48 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Imagine that your friend lashed out at you and told everyone that you betrayed her for buying a shirt that she couldn't afford but hoped to someday, because she wanted it to feel unique. And ended the friendship over that. Would you punish yourself by burning the shirt? What good would that do? Laugh it off (I know that's hard because no one likes being the object of hate and envy), say she must not have been a true friend out loud, and realize that this is the process of natural selection when it comes to friends. Friends change. You have a family now, she doesn't, and when friends have different life situations little things like this put fractures in the relationships. I had a best friend who I met in college who was very fertile and had a big family, after many years I only have one, and he's young. We spent the decade in different states, when we finally met again we discovered we had totally different parenting styles. That we are totally opposed to. That was rough and we had heated discussions, but I don't hate my parenting style--not for an instant, because it was more important than our friendship. Apparently this name wasn't as big a deal to you as the need to feel liked by her. So you must think of the name's virtues and all the reasons you chose it, and be grateful you found out what a self-centered snob she was now before later.

June 28, 2017 8:06 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Since your friend is not married or in a relationship, it might be years before she has a baby, so her child would be a few years younger than yours, so what's the big deal about them both having the same name?

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