The Fiction of Owen Thomas

Dear Miss Tinkles

Dear Miss Tinkles

Kassidy’s Mom

Dear Miss Tinkles:

My husband and I are expecting our first child. We do not yet know the gender and are resolved to wait until he or she is born. We have, however, decided on a name, Kassidy, which we think works equally well for a boy or a girl. The problem is that my mother-in-law – a candid and determined woman, to put it kindly—insists that we select a family name; specifically, Hector, after her father if it is a boy, and Helga, after her aunt, if it is a girl. My husband and I really do not like these names. They are not good names for children. We have told her so, but she is relentless and insists that she will use the family names no matter what we put on the birth certificate. Since we will be relying on my mother-in-law heavily for childcare (both of us work), her unwillingness to honor the name we have selected is very troubling. My husband, Eggbert, is not great at standing up to his mom. What do you think we should do to convince her? Help! Sincerely, Kassidy’s Mom.


Dear Kassidy’s Mom:

First, congratulations.  Second, Kassidy is a perfectly good name.

Third, despite her obstinacy, your mother-in-law knows that Kassidy is a perfectly good name. Your problem is that she has nothing really to lose in this argument. Her worst-case scenario is that you name her grandchild Kassidy, which, while hopelessly trendy and lacking imagination, still packs plenty of pretension. If you want to change her mind, you need to change her options. Don’t give her the luxury of having Kassidy on the birth certificate as a foregone conclusion. You must force her to choose between Kassidy and something less mellifluous.

Like Chunk.  

Or Sputum.

But this will take some planning.

You and your husband need to make a pact that when little Kassidy is born, you will never call him or her Kassidy in your mother-in-law’s presence. You must make her believe that you have jettisoned the name Kassidy in favor of something else. Like Dirge or Skulk or Cudgel. It will help if you enlist the nurses at the hospital so that they can coo in your mother-in-law’s presence things like: Aww, sweet little Herpie! What a beautiful boy, you are! Or How’s my little Rectal today?! If you can get a friend or relative to bring over a cake with the words Happy Birthday Skids! , (or whatever name you choose) that would be ideal.

Then, after your mother-in-law is convinced that her grandchild’s legal name is actually going to be Dreck or Minion or Bunker, you and your husband need to stage an argument. In this staged argument, your husband will seem to have fallen back in favor of naming your child Kassidy, but you will seem to still be adamantly in favor of Grog or whatever. When a stalemate has been firmly established, your husband should turn to his mother and say: What do you think, Mom? Should it be Kassidy or Syphilis?

Now, trust me on this, she will say Kassidy.   To which you can reply, in a huff: “You two call this child what ever you want, I’m calling her Scat,” or whatever. I promise you that your mother-in-law will be working overtime from then on to call your beautiful child Kassidy.

There is a word of caution, however, to go along with this advice. This method has been tried many times before and has horribly backfired. The danger is that the decoy name will actually start to appeal to one of you and will stick. Forever. Examples abound. Mitt Romney’s mother had originally preferred the name Steve. She had suggested Mitt only as a way of manipulating George Romney into agreeing to her real preference.  George decided he kind of liked the way Mitt sounded. The rest is history.

Or consider Newt Gingrich. His grandmother wanted his parents to name him Robert, but Newt’s parents really wanted to name him Wart. So they tried to fool her into thinking they were going to go with Newt, expecting that she would drop her demand for Robert and concede to Wart. Tragic miscalculation. One look at the little guy and Grandma Gingrich agreed to the name Newt, then went out and bought a dog and named him Robert.

Michael Jackson wanted to name his second born Prince Indigo. Flustered, the surrogate mother blurted out the first thing she could think of as an alternative: Blanket. But, to her horrified surprise, Michael was cool with that. Similar fates befell Michael’s brother, Tito, and his nephew, the son of Jermain Jackson, who ended up with the name Jermagesty.  

None of the Kardashians could ever have predicted that Kim and Kanye would name their daughter Northwest. Kanye had always been pushing for Southeast, or at one point even agreeing to go with either Thatta Way or simply Up. Anything but Steve. But the first time he tossed out Northwest as an option, Kim knew that was her baby name. Similarly, Frank Zappa was hoping for Alice, Mark and Pat and ended up with Moon Unit, Dweezil and Diva Muffin.

So please understand, Kassidy’s Mother, that these tactics can get out of hand in a hurry and cause lasting damage. Nevertheless, if done properly, you can rest assured that little Kassidy will one day be beaten up on the playground for his/her chosen name and not for some name his grandmother picked out.

Good luck! Tink.


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