The most common response I get when I tell someone my daughter’s name is, “Oh, that’s different.”
My daughter’s name is Holden. We named her after the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield. Yes, Holden Caulfield is a boy.
I like to joke that The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books and is one of the only books my husband has ever read. Before I was even pregnant, when the topic of baby names came up, we discussed the name Holden for our child, regardless of gender. My husband was not initially on board with a boy’s name for a girl, but I was persistent.
One of the coolest girls I knew in college was named Ryan. She was a hot, funny chick with a “boy’s” name. It takes a certain confidence to own a masculine name and flip it on its head, and she had it.
I loved the idea of catching someone off guard with just a name. I envisioned my future daughter going in for a job interview; the interviewer expecting a man, based on the name on her resume. She’d show up, flash the winning smile she got from her mama and nail it.
Our parents weren’t too fond of the name at the start, particularly my mother-in-law. My cousin, Jessie (female), recounted the horrors of being raised a girl with a gender-ambiguous name. But I was resolute.
We decided on Holden Eveleen for a girl. Eveleen was my grandmother’s name. I let my husband choose the middle name if we were to have a boy. He chose Cash. Holden Cash. Say it out loud and let it sink in.
Holden Eveleen was born on June 7, 2012. In the first year of her life, I’ve had to deal with gender confusion over her name several times, particularly at the doctor’s office, where the receptionists assume she is a boy because of her name. It doesn’t upset me; I don’t jump to correct people. I did get Holden’s ears pierced when she was six months old, so that has helped a bit. The fact that she was essentially bald for 11 months, however, has not helped.
I recently read an old post over on You Can’t Call It “It”! that has me a bit alarmed. A 1,669-word lament by a woman named Tyson, the post describes receiving mail addressed to “Mr.”, being considered a draft dodger for not enlisting in the selective service and confusion from wedding vendors and reverends who were hesitant about a “same sex” wedding.
Plunging the dagger even further in my heart, there’s even an eHow article called “How to Deal With Being a Girl With a Boy’s Name.” If being a girl with a boy’s name is stressing you out, learn to cope with a few simple strategies.
- Do an online search for your name or look in baby name books. Look to see if your name truly is a boy’s name.
- Have a sense of humor. It eases your stress and makes you more lovable.
- Feminize your name by changing the spelling. Add a few letters or alter a few letters to give your boyish name a girlie look and sound.
- If you are truly stressed out by your boyish name, rename yourself. Use your middle name if it is more feminine and makes you more comfortable. Have your name legally changed if you honestly believe it improves your quality of life.
I love my little girl and her boyish name. I’m excited to present her with The Catcher in the Rye in high school so she can learn where her moniker came from. I look forward to her meeting the handsome, well-read boy in college who appreciates her literary namesake (and her parents’ wit). I can’t wait for that job interview when she shatters misconceptions based solely on the name at the top of her resume. But I can’t help but wonder if Holden will be thanking me or cursing me later in life.
If she truly hates her name, I suppose she can go by “Holdy,” the nickname we stumbled upon (hey – number 3 on the list!), or by her middle name, Eveleen (number 4!). I guess if worst comes to worst, I’ll try to remember number 2 when she wants to legally change her name, and maintain my sense of humor so that I can be more lovable.