My name is Leslie, pronounced “Less-lee.” Not “Lez-lee.”
It’s a simple nuance in pronunciation that my mother never anticipated would be the crux of the way kids chose to make fun of my name in junior high.
My mom figured my name was insult-proof. This was an actual consideration she had when she named me, not realizing that being called “LeZZZZZZZZZZZZbian” in grade eight would 1) be a thing 2) be a risk 3) be an issue. Hell, what if I was a lesbian? Imagine how much worse it would have been as I struggled being taunted like that if I wasn't ready to own my identity yet. To this fourteen-year-old trying to find her way in the world, it was the worst. THE WORST.
You see, people are assholes. Not just kids. People. Kids, in particular, are especially mean and seek out ways to make someone feel like crap. If you have a name, and you know, we all kinda do, some jerk kid is going to find a way to make fun of it.
I appreciate my mother’s efforts, though futile. I guess that’s why I don’t get people who actively choose names for their kids that will get them made fun of, with like, 100% certainty.
Don’t get me wrong – you want to name your baby Apple, you do you. But don’t kid yourself that your poor innocent child won't have their name mocked. It’s gonna happen. Own it, and don’t be pissed off when it happens. You pretty much literally asked for it.
So when news hit last week that some flight attendant from Southwest Airlines publicly mocked a little girl with the name Abcde, I totally felt for the kid. And, while it was super immature (which it was; I’m not saying it’s not), the flight attendant only did publicly what probably 90% of people who have met that kid have thought – what a ridiculous name.
Again, let me be clear, I do not care what you name your children. That flight attendant was awful for publicly shaming her. The kid is FIVE! But if you name your gorgeous girl the first five letters of the alphabet, which, pronounce it how you want, IS NOT A NAME, you need to expect some pushback.)
I feel bad for the little girl. What happened to her, to be so publicly mocked, to have to learn at five that people are jerks and that mom and dad gave her a name that will trigger similar responses her whole life, is hideous and awful. I don’t even want to think about what her grade eight year will be like. *shivers*
That flight attendant was an immature dummy who will probably lose her job over her lack of judgement. What she needed to do is what the rest of us more mature people do – acknowledge that it’s a stupid name, giggle inside, but leave the poor kid out of it. She didn’t pick her name!
At this point I’ll be shocked if she doesn’t change it once she's able. Because, even if mom thinks it’s cute and fun and a neat name, I find it hard to believe that we will see, in our life time, common acceptance of names that are so far out of the box that even the alphabet is all ‘wait a minute, you’re just parsing out a cluster of letters and calling it a name? You can’t do that!’
You can. You can do what you want. You may name your child Apple or Tarzan or Abcde or even Xyz. Go nuts. One person’s joke is another’s most perfect name ever.
But you kinda have to make a call. Give your child the name you think is neat and cool and awesome, but objectively strange, and you’ll have to prep your child to deal with the jerks of the world who will, with 100% certainty, make fun of it. That is a choice you are making for your child. Make it and own it, and don’t be shocked when a name that is really just a cluster of letters, ends up being the source of ridicule on social media.
I could have predicted that happening before the ink was dry on the birth certificate.