When you are planning a wedding, it’s all about your past. Yes, it’s also about your future with your partner, but really it’s a celebration of the time spent with your chosen partner, the love that’s grown between you, and toasting the partnership that you’ve cultivated.
And since weddings are inherently past-driven, it is guaranteed that you will think about your exes. It’s just natural. And not even in a “What might have been?” way, but more as a reflection on how this wedding is a culmination of all of the lessons learned in your romantic life up until this point. But there is a downside to all of this philosophical introspection. It is called “The Facebook.” (I can hear about half of you out there reading this saying out loud, “Oooohh, I know where this is going…” It’s like a horror movie; even if you don’t know how it’s going to happen, you know it ain’t gonna be pretty.)
I was on The Facebook earlier this week and happened to see a post about my ex-boyfriend, who I dated long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away (read: college). We don’t speak, but we have a couple mutual friends, so it’s not uncommon to see him pop up every so often. So, I saw a photo of him and noticed, hey, there’s a baby in it. Now, I know what you’re thinking—”Oh, God, no!”—but I already know for a fact that he a) is married; b) has a son; and c) still wears high-waisted pants like a ’90s sitcom dad. Good for him, on all counts.
“Oh, that’s nice,” I thought, “He’s had another baby!” Owning my stalkerish impulses, I clicked on the album. (“Don’t open that door! Don’t go up those stairs! Idiot!!!”) I scrolled through the photos, stopping on one of a dark-haired, pink little bundle in a car seat. “Aww, a baby girl!” (“Turn back!”) And then I read the caption: (“Don’t do it!!!“) “Sophia Rose*___, born on ___. Welcome to the world!”
No way. The air sucked right out of me. No way. He did not just name his baby girl that name. (“AHHHHH!!!!!!”) He stole my name. Not my actual name, mind you. The name that I picked out for my daughter. But not my real daughter—my Someday Baby.
That name belonged to my hypothetical, non-existent daughter that would someday be in my life. The one who would have green eyes, love Bruce Springsteen, and go to Barnard. The one I told my friends about when we sat around the college bar after studying for exams, drinking $5 martinis, sharing our hopes for a future that was light years away. And always wrapped in the guise of an annoyingly repetitive question, “You know what would be a great name for a baby?” The years just solidified my conviction that this was, in fact, a great name. Except that great name now belonged to an actual, real baby that was his—and not mine.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I had the urge to Facebook message him—no, pick up the phone and call him so that I could yell at him. Of course, I knew that I could not actually call up this guy so I could yell at him for a baby name. That’s just crazy. You know what’s not crazy? Texting your fiancé that your ex-boyfriend stole your baby name. Totally not crazy. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: So, guess who popped up on Facebook today? My ex. With a new baby. It’s a girl. Named Sophia ROSE.
Him: Whoa!!! What are/were the odds?
Me: I am so mad, I can’t even stand it—he had to go and ruin that name!
Him: Well, you certainly can be angry, but it is a very popular name lately, so if we like it and have occasion to use it later, nobody’s going to think it odd.
Me: I will know! I WILL KNOW! He’s ruined it for our baby!
Him: I’m sorry it’s ruined your day—but it won’t spoil the baby, I promise.
Me: NO! This is wrong! It’s not fair, I demand restitution!
I have to give props to my fiancé for handling my (slight?) meltdown so coolly. He immediately recognized and validated my feelings, while also making it clear that I was being a total lunatic. From the way that I was acting, you would think that my ex took a time machine into the future, Terminator-style, and axe-murdered my first-born daughter (bastard!).
Now, practically speaking, I know that there is about a 0.00002% chance of my ex actually remembering that I liked this name. We haven’t spoken in years. In that time, there have been other romantic interests and partners, law schools, and new cities and people. The chances of him remembering this are slim to “Yeah, right.”
And it is, in fact, just a name. As my fiancé pointed out, it’s a popular one (#1 on the “Hot Baby Names List of 2011”). And even though it is uber creepy that he picked, not one, but both names that I adored, my friend Becky pointed out, “Hey, it’s so popular, this could be the universe’s way of telling you to pick another name.” My own first name is insanely popular for my generation, to the extent that when I was younger you could yell it on the playground and about ten different little heads would turn and their voices would chorus back at you, à la Children of the Corn, “Ye-e-es?” I didn’t want that for our kid.
But—it was my name. Even if it wasn’t unique, I picked it independently—and now I felt like I couldn’t use it because my ex-boyfriend already used it! In the subsequent days, as I complained to each of my friends, every indignant declaration involved putting my hand melodramatically across my face and declaring, “He stole MY NAME!” This wasn’t about our previous relationship—I didn’t want him back, I didn’t want his life, I didn’t want his Sophia Rose. I wanted my Sophia Rose. And that’s when I realized it: it wasn’t about my ex—and it wasn’t about my fiancé either. It was about me.
Over time, this idea, this Someday Baby had taken on a misty form—faint but tangible—that represented my hopes and dreams for my future family. Naming my Someday Baby in my mind was an unspoken promise to myself to live out those dreams and contemplate my expectations for being a future mother and parenting partner.
But taking it upon myself to assign this name—any name—to our kids just wasn’t fair to my fiancé. Kids are a testament to a family’s love and commitment, and the decision to name them should be a family’s decision. When I’m truly honest with myself, I know deep down that Sophia Rose wasn’t automatically the endgame. If and when we find ourselves expecting our Someday Baby, my fiancé and I will take the time to think of names that we want to honor our children. Maybe it will be the names I picked out so long ago, but odds are, it also could also be some crazy Dutch or Shakespearean name. But it’s a decision that we’ll make together.
Or if we’re broke, we’ll auction off the naming rights on eBay. (I kid.) (Maybe.)
So, in the end, it’s not about the name (duh). It’s about me letting go of the fantasy and meeting the reality, face-to-face, like a grown-up. It’s about looking back on my ex as a person, as an event, as a link in the chain that led up to finding my guy, a very puzzled but patient man. I don’t know if there’s an exact name for that, but I do know how it feels: it feels right.
*My fiancé pointed out that, even though it’s really popular, it’s probably not a good idea to put the real baby’s name on the internetz because, as I said, this post is about me. So names have been changed to protect the innocent and the adorable!