Thursday, December 18, 2008
I have two daughters, Charlotte Grace and Eleanor Julie. When I was in high school I felt I would be different--pretty and thin and confident--if my name were Lydia or Alicia instead of Erin. Erin is short and dull and boring, which is how I often felt. It isn't even decidedly feminine. I wanted to be grand and sexy and gorgeous. Danielle! Victoria!
I named my second daughter Eleanor. While I was pregnant, I mentioned this name to very few, preferring to tell them her name was Ella. More than once people violently attacked the name Eleanor, comparing it to Agnes, Beulah, Gertrude. And yet, my little girl is Eleanor Julie Hayes.
Let me defend myself. I feel the name Eleanor is lovely, feminine, classic, strong. Maybe a tiny bit dowdy is all. I think Charlotte is one of the most beautiful names in the world, but she is called "Chuckie" by her aunts. Chuckie is worse than Gertrude, for sure. But I named Eleanor so, for the nickname, Ella.
Ella is clearly feminine, clearly confident and smart. She is the 15 year old I used to pick up from school who was all these things, as well as happy and clever and cute. She wasn't weight obsessed and she didn't waste her time crying over dumb boys. She was athletic and joked with her parents. She was kind. She ate burgers. She ran.
Eleanor Julie can choose who she is, and she can change her name accordingly. She may always be my Ella-Bell, but she may chose to be no-nonsense Eleanor, or sweet Ellie, or tomboy Els, or sexy Elle. She may be complicated Nora, independent Leah, old fashioned Nellie or Nell. She may scrap the whole thing and be Julie, after her Grandma. So when I named my daughter Eleanor, I had her well-being in mind. I want her to choose for herself who she is, and not use her name as an excuse to be anything. Or not be.
And yet, when Grandma calls her Eleanor, I stop her. Her name is ELLA, I say. ELLA.