Today is my daughter’s fifteenth birthday. I thought it a fitting occasion to post this piece I wrote for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in 2016. It didn’t win, but it was a Final Round Qualifier in the Global Humor category and received a very nice comment from one of the judges: “Excellent story in the Bombeck tradition. Light and funny with great structure and writing.” Quite flattering, especially considering the panel of judges was made up of several accomplished writers, along with Nancy Cartwright, the award-winning actress better known as the voice of Bart Simpson. I can’t be sure she is the one who made that comment about my piece, but let’s just say it was her. I was pretty over the moon about it at the time, so it’s kind of weird that I never celebrated it publicly. Chalk one up to humility for a change. And I never shared the piece elsewhere; I had almost forgotten about it entirely. But I came across it the other day as I was taking advantage of my COVID-19 “social distancing” by doing some Spring cleaning on my neglected little blog here. And since my daughter is the topic of the piece, I figured her birthday is the perfect time to share it. So here it is (and preemptive apologies to anyone named Brandy)…
“How about Brandy?”
I stared at this man with whom I had taken vows to not only love and cherish, but to bring forth children. And he wanted to name our unborn daughter Brandy. One would think a three year courtship would have been adequate time for such a character flaw to come to light.
“Let me get this straight.” I chose my words carefully. “You, the man who already has our fetus on a waiting list for a nunnery in North Dakota, wants to throw the name Brandy into the ring? When have you ever encountered a Sr. Brandy who wasn’t using the moniker under false pretenses while wearing a habit from a plastic bag with the word ‘sexy’ on the front?”
It was an unlikely choice for someone who was already establishing himself as an overprotective father. He maintained he simply liked the name because of the song by the band Looking Glass. I could hardly argue with his taste in 1970’s pop music. But I was also quick to point out that even the seemingly innocent musical narrative, punctuated by breezy doo-doo-un-doodoos, is about a girl who hangs out with sailors.
Simply stated, his name choice just did not match the image of the girl he wanted his future daughter to become.
Now, I’m not one to say a person’s destiny is super-glued to something as superficial as the name on her birth certificate. But…
…when our daughter, at the age of three, announced she held hands with her friend Adam and decided she would “most certainly fall in love with him someday,” making my husband drop his fork and demand to know who this Adam kid was, could I have given him a gentle reminder he was the one who chose the name Brandy?
…when she was five years old and begged her father to watch her slide down the fireman’s pole on the playground because, in her words, she had “really good pole moves,” would it have been wrong to ask him if he still stood behind calling her Brandy?
These questions will forever go unanswered. We will never know what kind of a daughter Brandy would have grown up to be. It turns out paying homage to a fun karaoke song didn’t outweigh the risks of a name with less-than-virginal connotations.
However, I am happy to report that a tween daughter named Grace finds high school an acceptable age to begin dating, college the right time for a first kiss, and marriage an option only after two people really know each other. Like, what the person’s favorite band is. If it’s Looking Glass, she may want to think twice.
*Edit: a fifteen-year-old daughter named Grace has since amended her feelings for what is acceptable concerning dating, kissing, and marriage, but thankfully they are still palatable to her mother. Her father is still holding out hope for the nunnery.