Naming A Human Being Is Too Much Responsibility

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Sometimes there were names I hated at first hearing, but then came to like quite a bit the more I thought about them. “Bleh!” I said to Antonia, before saying it a few times and coming to like the sound of it. “Bleh!” said my husband at first, before deciding he liked the idea of a Roman name that was older than any on our list. (Other good Roman names that went on the list: Marcella, Aurelia, Augusta, and Octavia. If considering these, be forewarned that there are two Aurelias in a class of eight children starting preschool with my daughter next year.)

By coincidence, we live near the hometown of Princess Antonia, “The Minerva of Württemberg,” a 17th-century scholar, linguist, and Christian Kabbalist known for being deeply intellectual, philanthropic, and a little weird. Antonia and Minerva both went on the list.

Finally we wound up with a short list about which I was pretty excited: Beatrice; Gwendolyn; Cordelia; Margaret, who would be called “Daisy”; Clementine; Antonia; and Persephone, who would be called “Percy.”

Not long before the due date, my pregnancy hormones and I decided that we had to nix Persephone on the grounds that the original source material was too rapey. I still wasn’t any closer to singling out one of the others.

I told people I was waiting until she was born to decide for sure.

“I need to see her face to know if it fits,” I said. But nothing really fit that newborn face. She was swollen and red and cranky and tired and pissed off. She looked kind of like Grumpy Cat.

I thought when she was born there would be a clear choice. “Her name is Charlotte!” I would declare. I imagined being more sure of her name than I was of my own. But I had the same list and was no more sure than I had been before.

So we just crossed off the names and went with the one that seemed like the best of them at that specific moment in time: Antonia.

It’s great and I love it. She answers to “Nia” and “Antonia.” Old Italian ladies call her Antonella. It’s exactly what we wanted: Old and established, but not too popular and not too weird, with plenty of gravitas for the grown woman she’ll be some day.

I think we chose well, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever be 100-percent positive. Three weeks after she was born I thought, “Maybe we should have gone with Margaret. Is it too late to change her name?”

Five weeks after she was born, I thought: “Xanthippe is a great baby name! Why didn’t Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt come out before we filed her birth certificate?”

Antonia was almost certainly a better option for our daughter than Xanthippe, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop second-guessing myself about her name. Even as I write this post I am thinking, “What happened to Evelyn? Evelyn was great.”

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