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Last month, surfing through my
favorite neighborhood parenting forum, I came across a thread titled "Riesling."
The discussion was blowing up. It had thousands of views—far more popular than
the typical "Recommend a good painter" or "Sell me your Little People." My
interest was piqued. After all, I have a famously poor palate and happen to
love Riesling (the sweeter the better). So I clicked, eager to see why so many
of my Chicago mom peers had something pressing to say about sugary German wine.
Here's what I saw:
"I want to name DD #2 Riesling.
This is crazy or no?"
From there, the thread devolved
into a systematic takedown of Riesling as a potential name. Some people tried
to be constructive in their criticism, highlighting the potential Resume
Factor. Some attempted to be helpful by suggesting the original poster (OP) name
her unborn child Reese or Reese Lynn and save Riesling for a puppy. One
recommended "The Park Test": When considering names, imagine frantically
screaming it out in a crowded park. Do you sound like a scared mom who
momentarily lost sight of her kid … or a crazy homeless person?
Others were more blunt, deeming Riesling
trashy or "classy stripper"-esque. They posited that others might judge her to
be from a lower socio-economic group, or assume her mother never graduated high
school. OP argued (in a calm, non-reactive manner, I might add) that she didn't
see how Riesling was all that different from other nontraditional hybrid names like Brynnleigh, Christabelle, and Adalynne—all
of which are real names belonging to girls she knows. Finally, someone defended
OP, noting that in such a diverse, multicultural hub as Chicago—home of
(highly successful) folks named Barack, Kanye and Oprah—Riesling wasn't all
We all judge based on names, don't we? I met a woman named Gumdrop* ... I couldn't stop myself from feeling silly every time I called her by her name.
Intrigued, I reached out to the
OP via private message, and she agreed to speak with me. As it turns out, she's
15 weeks along with her second pregnancy and doesn't even know the gender yet.
She and her husband currently have a daughter with a conventional name; this
time around, her husband has a strong preference for a certain boy's name so
they agreed if it's a boy, they'll use Dad's choice, but if it's a girl, Mom
gets to pick.
"I've just always thought Riesling
is such a pretty word," said OP, a 33-year-old district manager for a popular nationwide
restaurant chain. I asked if she was shocked that her post evoked such a
visceral response, opening up a heated discussion about race, politics and
"People were so strongly opinionated, like I'd be destroying
her life, she said. "I guess they made a lot of assumptions—that I'm a
certain ethnicity, a certain income group, that people wouldn't want to hire
her. But I do a lot of hiring in my job and I'll interview anyone. Their name
doesn't matter, nor does their income background or even their education. To
me, it's a non-issue. I have an employee named Precious* and she's a
While OP acknowledged not all industries are so welcoming of
nontraditional names, she was still surprised by the vehemence conveyed by the
We all judge based on names, don't we? I met a woman named
Gumdrop* at my gym a few years ago. An attorney. Named Gumdrop. She was
friendly, intelligent and confident. But I couldn't stop myself from feeling
silly every time I called her by her name. And yes, if I'm being totally honest, I was a
tiny bit shocked that Gumdrop's firm originally offered her an interview,
considering the resume factor of having the same first name as a popular candy.
the end, the emotional response convinced OP that, should baby number two be a
girl, her name will not be synonymous with German's national beverage. They
might go with Ries-Lynn, though, or Reese as a middle name. And her husband's
favorite drink, Guinness, is not in the running.
to protect privacy, but pseudonym is very evocative of original name.