Earlier today, “news” — I use the term loosely because I understand it is not on par with peace in the Middle East, but still, it makes headlines — broke that a celebrity couple had a baby and named it something that you might or might not name your own child. Something you might call “weird,” though the beaming new parents clearly don’t. This happened a few weeks ago, too, and a few months before, and a few months before that, and even a few years ago. In fact, this happens quite regularly, and I’m making a point to not name names, because you could point blindly to literally any year, and I’m pretty sure you could find a celebri-baby name which some people find distasteful. This leads one to believe that maybe celebrities are growing really irresponsible in the naming of their children, and that they should consult us, the people, before they let the ink dry on those birth certificates.
Or, it might mean that they don’t owe it to us to name their children something that we the people find unobtrusive and “acceptable,” because, guess what? We don’t owe that to each other, either.
I mean, honestly, you could name your kid Chimichanga, and the only person you would have to seriously answer to regarding that choice would be poor lil’ Chimichanga herself. (I think that’d be a girl’s name. Maybe it’s a boy’s name. I don’t know.)
You see, it’s simple, really: that kid in your little one’s class with the name you find so unpleasant? Is not your kid. You do not have to take them home, feed them, and tuck them in at night. You do not have to fill in that odious name on a doctor’s form or a field trip slip, nor do you have to order a baby nameplate or a birthday cake, asking that name to be scrawled ever so neatly in icing. Unless that child is your child’s very best friend, chances are you will have little contact with the poor kid, beyond seeing their name pop up on a class roster every now and then. Your life will be largely unaffected.
There are, of course, notable examples, like the Neo-Nazi family in New Jersey that gave their three children names mired in years of intolerance. Calling your son Adolf Hitler might not exactly be endearing to a lot of people, but technically, there’s no law in New Jersey that says you can’t. There is, however, one in Sweden, which people have been trying to protest for years, and similar laws exist in Spain, Portugal, and New Zealand.
A lot of celebrities, however, do not live in these countries. A lot of celebrities then get unlimited freedom when it comes to naming their kids something a handful of other people might find out of the norm. And because celebrities are the people who often oversaturate our news cycle, we hear about them. A lot. We know when they start dating, when they break up, when they get back together, when they seem to have a bump that was most likely just a big sandwich, when they’re not pregnant, when they actually are pregnant, when it seems like they’ve been pregnant for.ev.er, and when the child finally enters the world. We then follow the kid’s every footsteps, and all but guarantee that their life is going to be anything but normal – whether or not they have a normal name.
Because sure, tons of celebrity kids have normal names. For every one that makes the public raise their eyebrows, there are three more that make us say, awww! and wait with bated breath for the (very pricey) pictures that show adoring, doting pretty people fawning over a pretty baby. We eat this up. The world spins madly on, and we have kids of our own and name them whatever names we want to name them and no magazine comes knocking because we’re not famous so nobody cares, really.
But celebrities are famous, so people care. And to be a celebrity today means being a bit of a reality star, no matter if reality television is your claim to fame. You deal with paparazzi and tabloids and fans who stalk your every move. You garner tons of followers on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, and field questions and comments and nasty epithets and emoji flung at you from every which way. You, of course, do not have to sign up for these social media platforms, and you can hide away in your house or in a city where paparazzi don’t care enough to visit. You can leave all of this to your publicist.
If you do that, though, you won’t be as famous as some of your counterparts, and so instead, you have to gamely let The People into your lives a little. The People — we — want to come along for the ride, to taste that fame and fortune and those good looks and clothes and vacations. We want to know what it is like to be a celebrity. And so when you, a celebrity, name your child something we the people wouldn’t, we feel betrayed. As if maybe we’ll never be famous after all. Because we’re not that eccentric.
Oh, but we are. We really, really are. I grew up in a neighborhood with at least two little girls named Rainbow — but then again, I grew up in an eccentric neighborhood — and there were a few kids in class with names that always made a teacher’s eyebrows raise a few centimeters. Naming a kid something you would not personally name your child is nothing new. People have been doing it for as long as they’ve been naming kids.
When we cry and moan that these parents are irresponsible and scarring these children for life and setting them up for failure and ruin, are we really being so benevolent and magnanimous as to think of the life someone else will be living in 20 years? If two consenting adults agreed to have a baby and put thought in how they would raise that child, I’d deeply hope that they also put thought into something as changeable as a name. (Then again, some people don’t think about having a child until it happens, and even then they do not prepare, so there’s always rogues. This is the price you pay with a free society. But I digress.)
You’ll have to trust that these people — whoever they are, famous or otherwise — know what they’re getting into. The name they picked is the name they’ll have to coo when they’re deeply in love with their new baby. That is the name they’ll have to say sternly when they’re grounding the kid. That is the name they thought was a good fit for their baby — not yours. Unless you are a nanny working in Hollywood, the chances that you’ll ever have to interact with that child and their name are slim. In large part, that baby’s name does not matter to you unless you say it does. You do not have to change those diapers, or pay for those Play-Skool toys or college tuition, or even the therapy bills in case that name does, in fact, scar the poor kid for life. Why don’t you have to pay for these things? Because that is not your child.
And so you don’t need to pass judgment on something that is as changeable as a name. After all, even people with everyday ordinary names change theirs all the time. If one of those celebrity babies decides they want to change their name when they grow up, I’m sure they’ll be able to figure out the paperwork. And if they want to run with that rockstar lifestyle and release a perfume and a cookbook and slap their name all over some endorsement deal, well, they can do that, too.
Because it’s a free country, after all. And anyway, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.