Janie and I have been spending the last 6 years debating what our kids’ names will be and whether or not we will change our last names in some fashion to seal the family deal. Will she take my last name? Will I take hers (no – YAWN – boring!)? Will we pick a new one? She rejected my suggestion of the last name Mansfield (after my favorite short story author, Katherine) because apparently there’s something weird about having the same name as a dead celebrity. For a couple of years now, we have been mulling over the name Somerset, after a favorite author of Janie’s dad, W. Somerset Maugham. Honestly, I’d prefer to be known as the Somerset-Maugham’s because that’s a perfect fit for two gay ladies with children.
When we first broached the subject of having kids “one day,” Janie’s mom told me that if we didn’t name our potential daughter Saqqara then she would never forgive me. Janie was keen on the name Saqqara back then, too. It’s one of her favorite places in the world, something about a spiritual awakening and ponies on Christmas. I don’t remember the whole story because I don’t usually listen when Janie talks about things as boring as that time she found enlightenment while riding horseback around the Pyramids at twilight. Well, since Janie’s parents decided not to take me to Greece with them this year, I have a perfect excuse to toss that name out the window. With it I’m crumpling up and kicking out the notion of naming a son or daughter Jor-El because her mom has a Superman obsession I only just found out about. Talk to me after you invite me to travel with you to Tahiti and we’ll see what kind of forgiveness I can scrape up. That’s what I say.
We’ve pretty much settled on some good, unique but not crazy names for the kids I can’t have because my ovaries are shriveled up like raisins. Our last sticking point is this crazy idea I had a few months ago that, should we have a son, we could name him Hero. Everyone has been up in arms about this choice from the moment it escaped my lips. Janie thinks it’s dumb. My mom thinks it’s a sandwich. Others think it’s Japanese. Does no one understand that a hero is a person who “in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good”? Oh man, I only wish my name meant something so cool. All my name means is “Linden tree by the sea” or, in German, translates as lentil.
When I was really young I had an unnatural obsession with the name Angel. Maybe it was my Catholic upbringing and my budding mind in the midst of a religious education that started the fascination. I can’t remember. I don’t feel like it was directly related to the idea of angels, though. I didn’t have a correlating obsession with angel figurines or paste my walls with posters of fat little cherubs. All I had to spruce up my living space were some Smurf dolls and a hermit crab.
For a while I tried to insist that my family refer to me as Angel. I was taking on the task of changing my name and I was sure everyone would just follow along. Just call me Angel! I would insist. My parents’ and siblings’ wanton dismissals were infuriating. I refused to answer unless someone called me Angel and since no one called me that, I spent a lot of time in my room, thinking about why I was there. I’m here because you won’t call me Angel! My name is not LINSEY, it’s ANGEL! It became quite clear after spending the majority of my play time locked in my room for refusing to take out the trash because Angel takes out the trash and Angel isn’t being asked to do it, Linsey is and I don’t know her, that this Angel thing wasn’t going to happen.
That’s why, when I was six years old and my mom had just brought home a puppy, I suggested we call him Angel. Of course, no one listened and they decided to name him Brandy Alexander instead because why name a dog Angel, in deference to the good Lord above, when you could name him after liquor? After a short burst of hysteria – I WANT TO NAME HIM ANGEL!!! AAAGGGhHHHHH!!!!– my father gently suggested to me that we give him a second middle name and that it could be Angel. I was satisfied. When other family members or my parent’s friends came to see our new puppy and asked what we’d decided to call him, I’d proudly tell them that his name was Brandy Alexander Angel. I happily volunteered the information to my friends, too – Well, I wanted to call him Angel, but they decided to call him Brandy instead but then they said he could use it as a middle name so my dog’s name is Brandy Alexander ANGEL, and with that I’d showcase him like he was a prize on the Price Is Right.
After Brandy Alexander Angel died during my first year of college, I came across his papers. It listed his parents, two show dogs, and in bold type, the name my parents had chosen for him: BRANDY ALEXANDER. No god damn Angel. For 13 years I was mercilessly lied to, told that my dog was given the second middle name Angel and no, nothing but lies. From then on my memories of that dog have been besmirched by the cruelty of two parents who looked their six year old daughter in the eye and told her an untruth. Amid all the chaos of these stunning revelations spinning in my brain, I realized something very important. When my child wants to name her dog Angel, I will not break the sacred bonds of parent and small child by lying to her face. Oh no. I’ll give it to her straight: YOU ARE GOD DAMN INSANE. THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY WE WILL NAME THAT DOG ANGEL.