My husband and I recently read an obituary for an elderly local resident we didn’t know at all. What fascinated us were the names of his surviving relatives: siblings Lloyd and Dorothy, children Linda, Susan and Brian, grandchildren Ryan and Jennifer, and great grandchildren Morgan, Sierra and Brinsley.
Reading that century’s worth of given names, it suddenly struck me, that while I might heed Jane Fonda’s advice, and work hard (and even successfully) at creating the illusion of youthfulness, the jig is up the moment I introduce myself. “Hello, I’m Patricia/Janet/Marilyn/Barbara/Carol/Nancy” I say, and I am immediately identified as someone born in the 1940’s. I am a pensioner, a retiree, an almost- old person. I might as well have my birth date tattooed on my forehead.
It's not all bad, however. Awareness of first name fashion has its advantages, especially as a social shortcut when meeting strangers. When I am introduced to one of the Pat/Barb/Jan/Nan cohort, I already know that we have a lifetime in common, and we can get down to the important stuff, the business of what makes us unique. They probably feel the same when they meet me.
And it’s a bit late to start calling ourselves Britney or Denver or Cheyenne anyway.