Names are interesting. And confusing.

I met a woman in Iowa who has five brothers and one sister. 

Her five brothers are named after Biblical characters whose names begin with J.

James, John, Jesse, Jude, and Joshua.

Her sister's name is Anne. It was their grandmother's name.

The woman who I met is named Amanda. When she was born, her parents hadn't chosen a name, so they asked a random woman in an adjacent hospital room what they had just named their new baby. The new mother said, "Amy," so Amanda's parents named her Amy, too.

But because they also thought that Amy sounded like a nickname and was not professional enough for a possible future CEO, they named her Amanda but called her Amy.

Because this all makes sense.  

When Amanda/Amy went to kindergarten, there was already an Amy in the class, so the teacher told her that she needed to be called Amanda at school.

I once had three Matthews in my class (not including me) and three Julias in my class, but apparently this teacher couldn’t keep two Amys straight.

So Amanda/Amy was Amy at home and Amanda at school, which led to people occasionally thinking Amy and Amanda were two different people.

Remember: Amanda/Amy's parents named their sons in a very specific Biblical/alphabetical way. And they named her sister after a deceased grandparent. But Amanda/Amy, who was third born, received a name based upon the name of another random baby who happened to be born around the same time. 

Then she got another name, too, because that first name wasn't good quite enough but also somehow good enough, too.

Parents name babies in the strangest ways sometimes.

My wife almost didn’t have a name. Her parents originally named her Jordan, but the doctor told them that Jordan was a boy’s name, so they abandoned their choice. Then they hemmed and hawed about a new name for so long that the hospital threatened to put “Girl” on the birth certificate.

They finally settled on Elysha, which was the name of my father-in-law’s secretary. Apparently they didn’t love the secretary but liked the name a lot. They wrote all the various spellings of Elysha on the back of an envelope and then chose one.

My wife’s name would be Jordan today if the doctor hadn’t opened his big mouth.

Elysha and I took were slightly more purposeful in the naming of our children.

Our daughter is named Clara Susan. Clara is the character in one of my wife’s favorite children’s books, The Van Gogh Cafe, and Susan was my mother’s name.

Our son is named Charles Wallace, which is also the name of the character from A Wrinkle in Time, a book that my wife and I love. We also love the poet Wallace Stevens, who lived and worked in Hartford, CT, so Wallace was an added bonus.

As for me? I was originally going to be named Bartholomew, but my mother claimed to have “saved me” from my father’s terrible choice by telling the nurses that I was Matthew before he even had a chance to meet me.

Choosing a name without your husband’s consent. Also a strange way to name a baby.

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The Name Game

My daughter, Clara, turned seven on Monday. Tomorrow we host a birthday party for friends and family. 

I was telling Clara stories about the day she was born, and this story came to mind, which I wrote about at the time (to Clara) and thought I would share here.

It's a testament to my wife's ability to remain cool under pressure.

During labor, many people were in and out of our room. Nurses and doctors surrounded the bed, constantly introducing themselves and stating their positions.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Smith, the attending on tonight.”

“Hello, I’m Doctor Jones. I’ll be administering your epidural.”

“I’m Doctor Andrews. I’m here to turn down your epidural.”

“I’m Doc Simpson. I’m here to look at your vagina.”

Most remarkably, your mom seemed to keep track of all these people amidst all the contractions and pushing. At one point a doctor introduced herself to us, consulted with another doctor, checked in with a couple nurses, and then turned to leave just as your mother began pushing again. But before she did, she took a moment to look up and say goodbye to the doctor, addressing her by her name.

Katherine, our nurse, turned to me and said, “How can she possibly remember all these people’s names?”

A few minutes later, Katherine asked a nurse to arrange for "Petey" to come down to our room. Considering every other person in the room had been introduced either with their title of doctor or by their first name in the case of the two female nurses, the thought of some guy named Pete, who apparently insisted on being called by his first name, coming to the room alarmed your mother.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “Whose Petey?”

“Not Petey, a person,” Katherine explained. “Pediatrics. They’ll need to be here at the delivery.”

Half naked, contracting and pushing, your mother was still on the top of her game.

Cruelest joke of 2015 involved a beautiful new baby and Bill Cosby

One of the best ideas that I heard in all of 2015 was this:

When a friend of mine gave birth to her first child, one of her friends sent her a gift.

It was a book. This book:

Possibly one of the cruelest jokes ever.

I plan to spend 2016 desperately seeking opportunities to send other Bill Cosby titles to my friends and family. I was tempted to add it to my 2016 list of goals, but I decided that it was trite and ultimately unproductive.

But I'm still doing it.  

Used copies, of course. Most of his books are out of print, and I wouldn't want to financially support Cosby. 

Wigs for bald, baby girls are a thing now. Stupid parents have been around forever.

There are wigs for babies now.

Designed for parents (mothers) who are tired of listening to strangers refer to their bald, baby girls with masculine pronouns, Baby Bangs seeks to make baby girls look more like baby girls.


… the website reads, undoubtedly capturing the frustration and outrage of bald baby girls everywhere. 


Even as a novelist who tends to write character-driven stories, it’s difficult for me to imagine the level of self-centeredness, image obsession and lack of self worth required to strap a wig onto your baby girl so people on the street would no longer mistake her for a boy.

I ask myself:

What kind of mother or father would be feel hurt, threatened, disappointed, upset or even outraged by some wobbly old lady or store clerk mistaking their baby girl for a baby boy?

The horrifying kind. The wretched kind. The disgusting kind.

The kind that only dresses their child in designer clothing. The kind that believes that their child's outward appearance has some bearing on how others perceive them. The kind that thinks of their baby daughter as an accessory akin to a handbag.

I’m sure that the purchasers of Baby Bangs would argue that this is not the case and to mount a strong defense on their behalf, but this defense would be coming from someone who just strapped a wig to their baby’s head, so any credibility they may have enjoyed has already been destroyed.

As Baby Bang should be as well.

The post partum tummy is not a taboo in Actual Town, USA.

Tom Sykes of The Daily Beast reports on Kate Middleton’s busting of what he refers to as one of the last taboos of pregnancy:

Kate Middleton stood up for new mums everywhere when she walked out of hospital yesterday, completely unembarrassed by her post-partum tummy.

This thoroughly modern royal was apparently determined to lend a helping hand to women everywhere who have just given birth, and shatter one of the last taboos of pregnancy: the post-baby belly.


I’m sorry, Tom, but this is not a taboo. It never was a taboo.

Two days after giving birth, the only people who expect a woman’s baby belly to be gone are lunatic celebrities and former reality show contestants who follow up their deliveries with plastic surgery and stylist consultations.

Skyes claims that even though it takes at least two to three weeks for the uterus to return to anything like its pre-pregnancy shape after giving birth, “this fact is little acknowledged in modern Western society.”

What modern Western society is Sykes talking about?

Does he think that the city limits of Hollywood, California qualify as a modern Western society?

In Actual Town, USA, this fact is acknowledged by all. My four year-old would acknowledge this fact is asked. My dog would acknowledge it if she could speak.

No one expects a woman’s baby belly to be gone when she walks out of the hospital.

No mother expects her baby belly to be gone when she walks out of the hospital. 

If she does, she should turn around, walk right back into the hospital and admit herself  into the psyche ward.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t read celebrity gossip magazines or watch nonsense news shows that report on celebrity births as if they were real news, but I have yet to meet a single woman who has expected her baby belly to be gone 48 hours after giving birth. Nor have a met a woman who has attempted to conceal her baby belly in any way.

Skyes goes on to lament:

Sadly too many celebrities often have ultra fast tummy tucks or strap themselves down to emerge in tiny size 6 jeans, leaving everyone else feeling inadequate.

While it might be true that celebrities follow their deliveries with plastic surgery (let’s call it what it is), I hardly think that “everyone else” is “feeling inadequate” as a result of this inhumane, unrealistic, artificial, unnecessary, self-obsessed response to pregnancy.

When a woman sees a celebrity walk out of the hospital wearing size 6 jeans, does she think, “That self confident, highly motivated actress probably did about a nine thousand sit-ups and spent the last 14 hours doing bikram yoga in order to look that good.”

Or does she think, “That narcissistic, image-obsessed megalomaniac probably spent more time under the plastic surgeon’s knife than she did with her new baby.”

I know which one I think.

I suspect that most people living in an actual modern Western society think the same.

Another fan of Charlie’s feet

My wife thinks our son’s tiny feet are cute as hell.

She is not alone. Most women, and especially mothers, are surprisingly obsessed with baby feet. Charlie’s feet are often the first things that women ask to see when they meet my son for the first time. Women, including some I did not know, have even professed a disturbing desire to devour my son’s feet on more than one occasion. 

While I find Charlie’s feet perfectly acceptable, I do not find them uncommonly cute in any way.

They’re feet.

However, our cat seems to be siding with the ladies when it comes to Charlie’s feet.