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Would You Name Your Baby Riesling?

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?"

The first response was, simply, "Yes."

Next: "Fine if you move to Hollywood."

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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 that crazy.

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 societal judgment.

"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 great employee."

While OP acknowledged not all industries are so welcoming of nontraditional names, she was still surprised by the vehemence conveyed by the 100+ replies.

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.

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In 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.

*Name changed to protect privacy, but pseudonym is very evocative of original name.

Image via Zazzle.com

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