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Scarlett Nation » Names » A Boy Named Sue

A Boy Named Sue

My name is Steve Doran. Or, to give you my fill title, actually my name is Steve Jacqueline Doran-Steve-Yeah-Like-The-Boys-Name.

My entire life has had this particular footnote. I still have to carefully explain to every bank/government agency/business that I’m not trying to commit fraud, just access my own account. I was given a peg in the boys’ corridor at school, I was allocated a room with the boys whenever I went on a school trip, my post is always addressed to Mr Stephen Doran – and where the PH appears from I’ve no idea. I’m still trying to find a way of putting ‘I’m a girl, by the way’ into e-mails so that when the person does eventually call me we can skip the awkward exchange at the beginning.

And I wouldn’t change any of this for the world.

As another baby Beckham enters the world I brace myself for the smug outpouring of scorn on a name that will be considered ‘ridiculous’, and the frankly equally ridiculous assertion that the child will be bullied at school (because little Harper will of course be attending the local comprehensive, where her name will be the only thing separating her from the other kids). But we’ll put this to one side for a minute and pretend the kid isn’t famous. We’ll pretend it’s the woman from work of the bloke from up the road who has just presented little Gypsy or Hero or Brailey. Before you put on the fixed grin and think of how the poor child will be bullied, consider the following:

Giving your child an ‘ordinary’ name is not guarantee that they won’t be bullied – indeed, it’s no guarantee that they won’t be bullied for their name. I have a friend who was born in 1986, and at the time everyone thought Jordan was a lovely name for a girl. Suffice to say, it has nevertheless lead to some teasing since. No matter what you name your child, there may always be a corrupt politician, an embarrassing celebrity, a porn star or a doomed cruise liner that years later ruins it for you. This is without the obvious observation that kids will find reasons to pick on other kids, and if it’s not their name it’ll be their religion, their teeth, their ginger hair – the answer to this is not to try to make your kid bully proof but to teach them how to deal with bullies. If you’re looking for a way to do this, try giving them an unusual name.

As inconvenient as all of the above has been at times, it has been the making of me. There are people, even now that I’m an adult, who’ll grin and deliver what they think is a great one-liner. I’m sure to someone who has never met a girl named Steve, coming up with something off of the top of their head; it probably is a great one liner. But I’ve been called Steve my whole life and I’ve always heard it before, always thought up a response – I always win that round. There are few things as good for building a child’s confidence and highlighting the repetitive nature of bullying than giving them the opportunity to win day after day.
And it goes further. I’ve always been good at small talk, because no matter how awkward the situation and no matter how shy the other person, I’ve always got a topic of conversation in my top pocket. I got used to saying my name proud and clear, to quickly do away with any doubts that I’d been misheard. People remember me, because I’m the girl named Steve, and it’s been a direct benefit in terms of employment and opportunities my whole life.

This is not a one way street, either. My name has made me, but by the same token, I have made my name. My boyfriend’s brother told him once that he had moved in with someone named Steve, and without thinking, my boyfriend asked him “you have a girlfriend now?” To my close friends, especially those who don’t happen to know another Steve, my name is now female, or at the very least unisex. We have a certain idea of who should have what name, or what names are found in which fields, but it’s only ever based on expectation, which is in turn based on experience. Of course my friends didn’t expect Steve to be a girl until they knew one, but after a while nothing is unusual. You will often find people asking ‘yeah, but can you imagine a Prime Minister called Storm?” until there is a Prime Minister called Storm, at which point it becomes a perfectly reasonable name for a Prime Minister, like that Prime Minister called Storm that time, you remember. People say ‘LouLou is fine for a baby, but what about when she grows up?’ well, when she grows up she’ll be called LouLou, and that will have always been her name. If there had never been a Coco Chanel, it would have been ‘what, Coco like the clown?’ but now it’s Coco like Chanel, in spite of the fact that it’s the exact same name.

A thought to end on: If you think of a name as being ugly or ridiculous and then meet a beautiful or amazing person called that, they are more likely to change your opinion of that name than their name is likely to change your opinion of them.

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Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation.

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  • Janvier

    My name is Janvier-It’s-French-For-January, and I approve this post.

  • Amanda

    I’m 17 weeks pregnant with my first child and I like some “original” names. Naming a baby has been the hardest thing I’ve tried to do. Your article made my day. Thanks for sharing!

  • Spillingbuckets

    I worked with a woman named Steve (went by Stevie) – I thought it fit her very well.  I kind of like Steve on a girl.

    I’ve also met a girl named Pierce, and can’t quite wrap my head around that one as well for some reason.

  • Simon Alvey

    As this post’s first representative from the boring name camp, I also approve this message. I think the thing about consistently facing, and facing down, bullying is a fair one – to some degree I have had some experience of this. However for this to work it needs to be in addition to ensuring that children are made, as both of us were, self-confidence.

  • Degielski

    The only problem with your essay is you’re assuming everyone will rise to challenges or difficulties the same way you do.  Some gals would love to be named Steve or the like, others would cry in frustration every time they were called mister, and perhaps run to change it legally the moment they turned 18.  It’s not just the name, it’s the individual behind it.   I’d still prefer to not to give my child a difficult name (though that goes for super popular, common ones as well)