When it comes to cultural differences, my husband and I do very well. We don't have arguments that are fundamentally based on a world view and experience that are different from each other. Rather, we talk things through and find our common ground.
You see, M is white.
And I? Am not.
|Our first two babies were much easier to name.|
I wrote about this extensively once upon a time, for the blog of a Muslim mother I used to correspond with online. I'm not going to rehash all the same issues, but I'll refer you to a perfect example.
For M, a lot of the names I come up with are strange; they are names he is completely unfamiliar with. Whereas I have actual people that I know (or have known) and can associate with names like these:
Aviva, Talia, Mara, Nava, Simcha, Zohara, Chani, Revital, Hadassah, Freyda, Noa...
Dov, Ari, Tzvitka, Chaniel, Naftali, Lev, Yona, Chaim, Misha, Eitan
|This is what a Rifka looks like|
Whereas when he suggests a perfectly white-American name- like, Kaylee- my internal response is, "But that's so... white."
There are other baby naming traditions that don't carry between Jews and goyim. For example, who you can and cannot name a baby after.
In Jewish culture, it's a pretty big insult to name a baby after a living relative. You name babies for dead relatives, as an honorific and sort of in the hope of passing along some of the beloved departed's traits. You don't see a lot of Jewish Juniors. Of course, in M's culture, you name babies after living people all the time. M's middle name is his own father's name. Nothing unusual for him, for me it would be inviting the worst of all possible outcomes- replacing the father with the son. I could never name a child for my husband.
|My great-grandma- big Bubbe|
The tradition of passing along family names made coming up with SI and DD remarkably easy. We had both lost loved ones throughout our lives, and nobody had yet been named for our departed grandmothers and family friends.
SI is named, first, for my great-grandmother. She died when I was about fourteen, and she was one of my favorite people in the whole world.
SI's middle name comes from my mother's best friend, who was murdered by her boyfriend when I was a child. I have no real memories of the woman, but my memories of my mother grieving will stay with me for my whole life. As important to me as my great-grandmother was, I have no doubt that Irene was more important to my mother. And as I have a lifelong best friend of my own, I know how utterly devastated I would be if I found out something so horrific had happened to her. In honor of the woman who had been my mother's best friend for most of her life, we gave her name to our daughter.
DD is named for both my grandmother and M's grandmother. They actually died within the same year, my grandmother from colon cancer and M's grandmother from pulmonary fibrosis. They were both wonderful women who were much loved, and M and I each remember our grandmother well. As an added bonus, it was M's grandma's idea to give all of her children the initials "DD," so naming DD... well... DD, was an added honorific to her.
The debate is endless.
I suggest Hadassah, he counters with Scarlett. I suggest Aviva, he counters with Angela. I suggest Naama, he says... what?
It is, without a doubt, his least favorite recurring conversation. He would rather talk about life insurance, or scheduling his next prostate exam. He hates having this conversation with me. I, likewise, hate having it with him. But I can't stop. Not until we're absolutely sure we can agree on a name. It's a compulsion I can't shake.
For the time being, we're agreed on something. Tentatively. I'm not going to give it away, but it does include an old name from each of our families. One of M's great-great-aunts (or was it great-great-great grandmother?), and one of my great-great-aunts.
|My mother's best friend|
M has said that, when we were first dating seriously, he had considered me "white." Now, he says he knows better.
And we're still learning to get through these cultural differences. While I'm learning to take things in stride that would be utterly bizarre to my Jewish community, M is learning to take things in stride that are completely foreign to him.
I am a very Americanized Jew. I am not a terribly religious Jew. I have blue eyes and pale skin, I speak English extremely well and barely any Hebrew, I cook meat and dairy together for my husband and I am a kosher-by-default vegetarian. But I am still a Jew. And, as far as I and my community is concerned, any child of mine will also be- essentially- Jewish. At least, they will have the opportunity to identify as Jewish, the implications of which are something that almost nobody who isn't born to a Jewish family can fully understand. They will have the option of being accepted by the community at large as being Jewish.
So if Baby X is a Chani, or a Dov, that won't raise many eyebrows with the Yelenas and Avramis. But it will for the Lindsays and Williams... which is to say, for M's family.
|Baby X, last we saw probably-her|
I love M. And I believe with 100% of my soul that these are not irreconcilable differences.
But holy cow...
Naming a baby is hard.