Discussing baby names is a seemingly harmless pastime for women in their early twenties. Who hasn't congregated around a box of Franzia while picking out names for their hypothetical children with a husband they don't have? Thankfully, years pass and our preferences change (there was a time in my life where I actually thought that the name Bianca was a frontrunner), but some names stick with us.
Being single for a significant amount of time in your twenties can take its toll, especially when everyone you know from high school and their cousin is getting married and popping kids out like Tic-Tacs. For some, baby names become a hopeful guide for the life that you drunkenly mapped out for yourself during a Sex and the City marathon in college.
Now that I'm rounding 30, I'm facing a cold, harsh reality: baby names are easier to steal than hotel toiletries. I've had three of my prospective baby names ripped off in the past five years.
The first was by my younger sister during what I thought was a lighthearted chat on the subject. Ever since I was old enough to get my hands on birth control pills, I have wanted to name my future daughters Grace and Stella. I had mentioned it several times, but apparently I should have gotten it tattooed on my forehead. My youngest sister insisted that both names were already on her list and my pathetic attempt to highjack them would not fly.
Call me old-fashioned, but based on age alone, I should have had my lawyer send her a cease and desist letter. In a state of panic, I made a fool's bargain with her to let me take Stella and give her Grace. I should have told her to go take a flying leap, but I had to act fast. She's the silent assassin of baby names. No one is safe.
Not long after that, my friend became pregnant, and we discussed baby names at length. She told me three ideas that she had for her soon-to-be daughter, and I told her Stella was my go-to after being robbed blind by my own flesh and blood. We laughed and moved onto another conversation.
A few months later, I called her to catch up and she told me she had settled on a name: Stella. After nearly driving my car into the front window of CVS, I said, "That's the name you picked? My baby name?"
She played it cool and told me she didn't remember ever hearing me say that I wanted to name my baby Stella, which I later learned is code for "You're not pregnant, so take a seat."
Truth be told, her daughter Stella is absolutely beautiful and her name definitely suits her. Be that as it may, I still refer to her mother as the "Baby Name Bandit" on occasion. It's a fitting alias, and the public should be on alert.
I figured since both of my favorite baby names had already been looted, it was time to come up with an unusual pick. I had always thought the name Brooklyn was cool, yet pretty, and I knew neither of my sisters would ever want it. The Stella/Grace phase was a thing of the past. Who cares if I didn't have a boyfriend (and not many prospects on the horizon)? I had my hypothetical baby name and I figured the father would show up sometime before I turned 30 (spoiler alert, he hasn't).
My cousin, who also shares my disdain for baby-name poachers, called me to let me know that another member of my extended family had picked out a name for her unborn daughter, and with that, Brooklyn was officially taken off the market, which meant I was three for three. Does anyone in this town give birth to boys?
After dishing with my mother about my latest figurative kick in the ovaries (she was a fan of Brooklyn as well), she gave me the: "Don't you think you ought to get yourself a man first before you start crying about baby names?" lecture. While I realize that this issue may appear petty and desperate, I dug in my heels.
Most women I know don't usually find themselves in the exact place they envisioned back in college. I thought by 29 that I would have my dream job, a husband, and at least three kids. My current single status, mediocre job, and one-bedroom apartment is a stark contrast to the wine-hazed dream life I conjured up in my college dorm room. However, there is something to be said for moving at your own pace, and I'm very proud of myself for not marrying any of the douchebags I dated when I was younger.
Yet I can't help but feel a slight pang of heartache when I hear one of my baby names mentioned in conversation, or worse, in a really tacky photo shoot involving oversized bows on Instagram.