3.25.2008

Baby questions

The question people most often ask when they find out I'm pregnant is, "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?" My clever answer--which I'd prepared to use at Guy and Tina's if anyone had asked me--was, "We don't know, but we hope it's a banjo player."

The second most often-asked question is, "What are you going to do about the last name?" As readers of Baxter Sez know, I'm uneasy with the practice of always giving the kids the husband's last name. And yet we're all very well aware of how cumbersome the last name Biffle-Piepmeier would be for a child. My mom had to make up a song for me to learn to spell just Piepmeier when I was a kid, and adding the Biffle on top of that seems like too much. So we're thinking about alternating names. That, of course, will require that we have more than one child, which we're not sure that we're going to do. But it's the option we're leaning toward at this point.

Biffle told his parents this weekend that the baby might not have the last name "Biffle." Biffle's parents are fairly fundamentalist, conservative Southerners who aren't the kind of people who question assumptions. Most of our life choices baffle them--their typical response is to roll their eyes and say, "Well, whatever." But this conversation was different. They stopped talking completely. For a long time.

Finally Biffle's dad said, "Well, may I ask why?" Biffle said something to the effect of, why would it be fair for the baby to be named Biffle when he and I have different last names? That was followed by more silence. The conversation never fully recovered. Clearly it hadn't ever occurred to his parents that this was even an option in the world--of course their son's child would have their last name. They probably never thought our feminism (which I suspect they think of as my feminism) would go this far, or take such an ugly turn.

I'm glad Biffle told them this now, so they'll have time to get used to the idea. Sometimes it's tough challenging patriarchal traditions.

14 comments:

Robin said...

You can make up a last name or combine yours. I vote for Biffmeier.

Anonymous said...
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Kevin O'Mara said...

I completely seriously think you should just give your child a different last name. You get to give them a first name, middle name - why not last name?

Just pick something that sounds good.

I vote Tesla, Curie, Galilei, Pascal, Lovelace, or something like that. You know, SCIENCE. There's nothing better than scientific banjo.

Curtis said...

My niece and nephew are both Matthewses, though as you know my sister's "last name is Young and always will be Young." Her middle name is my mother's maiden name, Anderson, and she toyed with being called Andy for a while. I'm not sure why the kids have their dad's name. If you use either name someone's gonna be left out. I say pick some completely different last name that you like and go with that! My personal choices would be Ono or Artaud. heheheh Maybe you should pick a word you both like, and ALL of you should adopt it. Like you could be Alison, Walter and Baby Flameretardant. Or just dispense with last names all together. It's certainly served Cher well.

But there's something to be said for family names, no matter which family is used. All three of my names are family names- first name is my mother's grandfather, middle name is my father's mother's maiden name. And I really like having that connection.

Bookninja said...

You could always give the kid some name you both like, and both change your names in solidarity (perhaps a grandmother's maiden name). Or, first name of Biffle or Piepmeier, last name of the other with some middle name you both like (and would use). Or you could let the kid choose when they are older. Any "name branding" you do is imposed regardless of the name's gender context. Or, in a magnanimous gesture, you may grant the child the last name of McCullough. No, no, it's ok you don't have to thank me - doing good deeds is thanks enough.

Alexandrialeigh said...

I love this solution! If my husband and I ever decide to have children, we'll have to figure this one out, too. I'm not sure "Acerni-Coyne" is much better than "Biffle-Piepmeier" (at least as far as spelling is concerned). But it does warm my heart to think of our last names joined in our children's names.

And, that would be a great way to ensure the Acerni name makes it past my generation, since my parents only had girls.

The Mom said...

I like Biffle Piepmeier or Piepmeier Biffle - none of you kids had any trouble learning to spell Piepmeier with my little "sing-song", and Biffle isn't hard to spell. I was all for that when you were talking about it at the wedding.

Of course, if you want to go with a grandparent's last name, Treat is a good one, with the connection to the Declaration of Independence!

mary said...

i am still voting for Awesome...Baby Awesome.

Fudge Pie said...

Go with the last name Badass. That way you can tell people "Our child is a Badass." or "Check out Walter and Alison's kid. He/She is definitely a Badass."

Of course, you just stick with Banjo Biffle. Call 'em BB for short.

Regenia said...

I liked the sound of Bifflemeier in the comments the other day. There is a certain whimsy in it....

Anyway, our kids have John's last name, bless them.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost, the decision you make regarding your child's last name should only be made in the child's best interest. Remember, whatever you decide will saddle your child with a blessing or a burden if you don't. FWIW, I suspect you both are fully aware that when you go against tradition (i.e., not giving your child the father's last name), you are potentially setting your child up for ridicule from his peer group; noisy questions from a host of other folks (eg., neighbors, teachers, business associates, casual acquaintances,etc.), perhaps causing your child unnecessary discomfort by not being "like all the other kids" by giving him or her a hyphenated name or a hybrid one. At the risk of alienating and upsetting you, I would suggest that you are considering making a huge blunder to use your child's name to make a statement regarding YOUR prejudices. Your child has absolutely no say in this matter so why not go with the flow. There is no question that technically, s/he will someday be able to petition the appropriate legal authorities to correct a decision you make at birth but that's something the child can do irrespective of what you name him or her. My vote is for giving the child a break and letting it have the father's name and not forcing it to participate in your battle with the status quo. Ask yourselves if you're being fair and/or being selfish. If you do, you will make the right decision.

Anonymous said...

That last anon comment has me laughing. Clearly that poster has never read this blog. It seems clear to me that everything Alison does is making a statement and that a long unusual surname will be one of many such statements in the Biffle/Piepmeier adventure in parenthood.

Nonetheless, I hope you go for a short, easy-to-spell first name.

Kevin O'Mara said...

That long anonymous comment blows my mind and wants to make me say, "YOU ARE WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA" but you know, I don't know for sure that it's them.

Still the mindset of, "You should give your child [the father's name / short easy name] because there might be BULLIES or DIFFICULTY!" is the same mindset that brings us, "You should drive your child to school, not let them walk, because there could be ANGRY DOGS or PEDOPHILES!" and "You shouldn't let your child walk around barefoot and eat dirt because there could be BROKEN GLASS and RINGWORM!"

This kind of over-protectionist parenting is raising a generation of coddled infants that will never be able to stand up on their own and figure things out for themselves.

Or maybe that's just my opinion. I have a lot of opinions.

I say you give the kid the last name Burgerking.

Anonymous said...

Response to Kevin from "long anonymous":

What is it about the below sentence (the one that opened my previous post) that I failed to communicate or you failed to understand?

"First and foremost, the decision you make regarding your child's last name should only be made in the child's best interest."