Archive for the ‘reflexive’ Category

my parents, baby name trendsetters

volcano and I have made it to the third trimester, which I suppose means it’s time to get serious about preparing for her existence as an independent creature who needs, among other things, a place to sleep and a legal name. to my surprise, the hardest part of choosing a name for volcano wasn’t settling the question of her last name (spider and I each have our own, though they are similar enough that my suggestion to give volcano a mashup was half-serious). it was performance anxiety.

“I just don’t know how we can ever do a better job than your parents did,” spider said. “I mean, rabi [w]. it’s such a great name.”

I agree with him, of course. I love my weird, unfamiliar, arabic name. it’s not the rarity that makes me like it so much, but the fact that I’ve never met another rabi in my life probably makes it easier to feel like the name is perfectly mine. I don’t think my parents set out to give me a completely unique name, but they do seem to have been way ahead of their time as baby-namers. I’ve always been kind of fascinated by their accidental anticipation of the zeitgeist, but our recent delving into baby name data has thrown it into even clearer relief.

in 1981, my parents went to the hospital with two baby girl names that are so unusual you can’t find any real data about them, and gave me the one that caused so many disgusted reactions (“you named your baby girl after rabies?”) that they freaked out and decided to add something a little more normal and feminine. thirty years later, that name had climbed to the top of  the charts.


wolfram alpha estimates the following age distribution for people named audrey:


and the most common age is all of two years old, which means even the five-year-old audrey I knew might be able to claim she was an audrey before it was cool. I don’t identify as an audrey, but I’m still impressed with my how my parents were nearly a generation ahead of the trend. even moreso when you consider that, if I had been a boy, I would have been named jasper. for the first twenty five years of my life, whenever I mentioned my alternate-universe moniker, people would visibly cringe. “wow,” they would say, “you really dodged a bullet there.” even people who thought rabi was too boyish or foreign or just plain abnormal agreed that it was a huge win that I hadn’t been saddled with a name as hideous as jasper.

and then, three years ago, I heard someone in the next aisle of the grocery store tell her toddler, “jasper, don’t poke the peaches.” he, too, was a little ahead of the curve; most of the jaspers in the world are still two and under.


by the time my sister was born in 1984, my parents had either forgotten about jasper or remembered a conversation my father had with a friend he lived with in spain. according to the story, during a wine-soaked evening, the two men had agreed that dylan was a solid name for a baby boy, belonging as it did to both dylan thomas and bob dylan.

but my sister was a girl, so she didn’t get to be dylan. instead, she was given yet another name that is currently dominated by the two-year-old set. I think there’s a decent chance that supervising volcano’s future playdates will feel oddly reminiscent of the scene in my own 1980s childhood living room, just because of the names.

zoey_voyager        zoey_agedist

although they settled on it back in 1984, my parents didn’t get to use my brother’s name until 1991, so he’s not quite as far ahead of the curve. the most common age for people named dylan is a relatively mature nine years.

dylan_voyager                          dylan_agedist

it’s still kind of impressive, right?

the name we’ve chosen for volcano falls somewhere in between the total obscurity of rabi and the on-the-cusp trendiness of the other names my parents used. it’s a normal enough name that I won’t be surprised if volcano meets a few others in her lifetime, but I wouldn’t really care if it were in the top 100, because I like it. it’s a name I would be happy to have myself.

still, I smiled when I plugged my own name into wolfram alpha, after looking up those of my siblings. while it correctly figured out that those words were names of people, this is what it spit out in response to rabi:


if the internet had existed in 1981, I wonder if my parents would have willingly given me a name that I would share with an island of fiji? and a volcanic island at that! I guess I really don’t fall too far from the naming tree after all. (no, volcano’s name isn’t really going to be volcano. don’t think I wouldn’t do it, though.)

something new.

when I started online journaling, I was in tenth grade, literally and almost exactly half my lifetime ago. at the time, while I wasn’t foolish enough to try and hide my internet presence from my family or my school-friends, I certainly didn’t want them to follow me around online. nor did I particularly want my AOL friends to know me as a real-life human, which is why for several years there were probably more people calling me Kaz than rabi on a daily basis. it was never an alter-ego, exactly; rabi and kazzie were the same person, but the intersection of each girl’s friends would be such a tiny sliver on a venn diagram that I’m not even sure it would be visible. (at least not if the circles were scaled by population size.)

anyway, my little AOL journal became my little college weblog became my not-so-little blog. and then blogs became BLOGS, I became an adult, and my distaste for the word blog turned into a more general dislike for, well, blogging. I will spare you (and myself) the usual lamenting about how Things Have Changed on the Internet, because of-freaking-course they have, and yeah I miss my old community but I sure don’t miss listening to modem-dialing sounds or wondering if blogger was going to disappear completely and take my archive of posts with it. (I was a sophomore in college when pyra nearly self-destructed along with the rest of the dotcom bubble.) to me, reading sad posts about how things were better back when I started blogging feels the same as hearing people complain about how their favorite bands were better before they got a major label deal. listen to music you like: your old favorites might have gone a little too mainstream for your tastes, but there’s no shortage of awesome new independent bands out there. blog the way you want to blog: yeah, the corporate-sponsorship-monetization wave has been pretty disgusting, but the whole point of self-publishing is that you decide what you want to put out there.

the point of which is this: I want to put something here.

what, exactly? I think I want this website to evolve in the opposite direction that many do. I don’t want to build an audience or count pageviews. I don’t want to be a part of any particular movement or genre. what I do want is:

  • something that my family can read and know what I’m up to. while I once cringed at the thought of my mother reading my journal, now she’s my favorite fan. (can you tell I’m in my thirties?)
  • a record of my often-happy little brooklyn life, and the eventual growth of my own family.*
  • a place to write, if I want to write.

and… that’s all, really. storytelling is probably too ambitious for me anymore, and I’m too public with my name to write anything about my job. I still subscribe to the philosophy that everything I put here is something I should be comfortable sharing with my boss, my students, my students’ parents, my dissertation committee**, my hockey teammates, strangers on the subway, and anyone else on the planet. so possibly it’ll be a little bland, or boring, or unremarkable. I’m okay with that. I just want it to be something again.

and if you want to read it, all the better. but if you don’t, that’s okay with me.

* since I am newly married, and since I didn’t announce my impending marriage to pretty much anyone until about a month ahead of time, there has been speculation swirling within my family and my workplace about how pregnant I am. or maybe the speculation comes more from the fact that I haven’t made my desire to be a parent any kind of secret. while the stubborn side of me has come out in response and I actually at one point said, “now I want to never have a baby, just to prove them wrong!”… the truth is I am happily looking forward to building a family, one way or another. at this point though I’m still actively preventing that so if you are wanting cute baby photos there is an indeterminately long wait ahead of you.

** HA. I don’t even have a dissertation committee right now, that’s what a terrible PhD student I am. but my stubborn self is determined to get that sorted out one of these days.

five things that happened in august

1. I turned thirty years old.
2. I worked on my dissertation, but I still didn’t finish it.
3. four more students passed the standardized science test they need to graduate.
4. I went to new zealand.
5. my baby brother turned twenty years old.

vacation is over. summer isn’t, but it will be soon. do you want to see some pictures from the other side of the world?