They say that in your lifetime you will hear your name spoken approximately 10 million times, and by "they," I mean the statisticians I just made up in order to sound factual. Let's just agree it's a lot of times. A name can affect your whole life, so I am fascinated by the choices Americans make in naming their children, and by "fascinated," I mean judgmental.
Noah is currently the #1 boy's name, which makes sense, given the current popularity of animal rights activism. Then you realize that Jesus is only at #128! Granted, as a name, your Noah does not carry the same expectations as your Jesus. That's all to the good. But naming your kid Noah does not automatically cause the universe to create more zookeeper jobs. Think, people.
Liam is #2. Just six years ago it was #49. Six years aligns exactly with the rise of One Direction and pop heartthrob Liam Payne. There is no other explanation for such a jump in popularity, unless perhaps young mothers admire Liam Neeson's ability to repeatedly retrieve his kidnapped wives and daughters in movies. Maybe that's it. Yeah, that's probably it.
Harper broke into the top 10 girl names last year, an inexplicably dramatic rise, up from #887 in just a dozen years. Neil Patrick Harris jumped on the Harper bandwagon, as did soccer star David Beckham. TV uber-producer Shonda Rimes birthed a Harper, a Beckett and an Emerson. (Where is little Vonnegut? Baby Thoreau?) I hope all three kids end up being math majors out of sheer spite. I mean, I like baseball, but I didn't name my son Jeter Waters.
We have apparently reached Peak Joshua. He's dropped to #33 after having seemingly unstoppable legs. A decade ago, you could not swing a Jacob on a Little League field without hitting a Joshua. Believe me, I tried. Mason is the new Joshua, thanks to the last-name-as-first-name fad which began in the early 2000's with the Madison-ization of America.
Now there are little Kennedys and Reagans and Lennons everywhere. Where's good ol' Joe? Not even in the top 20. I went to school with Bud and Pete. They were just Bud and Pete, not a nod to someone else once famous or powerful. Seems like parents today are trying too hard to give their kid an early advantage. Then again, I'm from a generation that played cowboys and Indians un-ironically, so what do I know?
To capitalize on this election year, toy companies are rushing new products into production. Here are just a few:
This action figure comes dressed in desert camo and equipped with a
rifle, a satchel of sensitive government documents, and a deep, abiding
love of conspiracy theories. Optional accessories: private email server,
passable buck. (Pesky Congressional subcommittee not included.)
Baby's First Protest Sign.
Whether you are raising little Noah or Emma to "fight the power" or
teaching them to urge unshaven strangers to "get a job," WeeSpeech Inc.
has you covered. All signs are made of BPA-free foam and are
chew-resistant. Custom slogans, including most popular emojis,
Lil Trumpeter. Doll
comes complete with hair styling gel, business suit, and cardboard big
city skyline. Lil Trumpeter is fully posable (use your imagination!) and
says what's on its mind, thanks to a computer chip in its backside.
Optional accessories: private jet, generic-patriotic-slogan ball cap,
Lil Devastated Party Chairman figure.
Hungry Hungry Hillary.
Game includes several loose marbles, four investigation-launchers, and
four lifelike, and I mean crazy lifelike, Hillary heads. The object of
the game is to fire the most marbles ("subpoenas") into Hillary's mouth
before Bill can eat them. (Please note: This game never has an end.)
Detractors accuse both presidential front-runners of being major liars.
Like, world class. We're talking Lance Armstrong territory. Yet they
are both monumentally rich and successful. Be like them, kids! Attach
the monitor's electrodes to your index finders and learn the tricks of
the trade. (Doublespeak phrase book sold separately.)
Heal the Bern!
Like the traditional Operation game, but with a twist! Players must use
tweezers to remove items from a comically undressed Bernie Sanders.
Items include: small donors, random podium sparrows and the weight of an
entire young generation.
Zany Rascals Also-Rans Dollhouse.
Do you already miss the cavalcade of kooky that was this year's field
of hopefuls? Well, now you can enjoy them for years to come. Set Martin
O'Malley up with Ted Cruz in the kitchen working together "across the
aisle" to make a salad. Pose Chris Christie and Ben Carson on the patio
hashing out tax reform over steaks and a brew. ("Buzzkill Jeb" Copter
and Malibu Carly Camaro not included.)
fall's election is a "teachable moment" for our children, who will
learn, as we once learned, that our democracy is only worth what we are
willing to spend on it.
I am turning 55 this week, and my lust for senior-discounted scrambled
eggs cannot be contained. Last week I could not afford the pancakes, the
bacon and the eggs, but this week, and for the rest of my life, it's
"the works" for me. I might even get the cut-rate toast. You used to
have to wait until 65 to live this large, and by then you were usually
Top 10 things I am looking forward to about being a senior:
10) Throwing freshmen in the dumpster again. Hey, I look like a harmless
old fogie. Who's going to stop me from going on campus? "I'm a senior.
It's what we do," I will yell at the police.
9) Water aerobics. Not doing them, just knowing that girls I went to high school with are out there somewhere doing them.
8) No longer having to dress as sharp. (My wife is laughing.)
7) Finally having the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (that
the Eagles will never play my birthday party), to change the things I
can (suspenders are slimming, right?) and the wisdom to know I will
truly never have a shot at Claire Danes.
6) My head can finally spend the energy it is no longer using on growing hair to remember the names of people I know that I know.
5) Twenty-four sweet hours a day to blog about my ailments.
4) Ravages of time will seem less pronounced thanks to failing vision.
3) Compulsive need to keep up with the Joneses, thanks to fixed income,
will be downgraded to a vague desire to keep up with the hijinks of that
Kelly Ripa on that morning show.
2) With age comes perspective, and 10% off most donuts.
1) The deference and respect our society automatically confers on people of my advanced years, especially on the roadway.
My friends who have already attained senior status seem to be split
about accepting discounts. Some ask for them openly, while others, when
offered them based on their appearance, are offended.
What the cashier says: "Would you like to take advantage of our 10% senior discount?"
What my friends hear: "Do you realize how few days of life you have left on this Earth?"
The husband of one of my friends accuses her of just wanting him for his
10% discount. I say hey, there are worse reasons for staying together.
Truth be told, we humans are, none of us, bargains.