Her name is Genevieve.
For short, we call her Evie. Originally we opted for Vivie, but we liked how Evie was part of the word Genevieve. Plus, I think she’s more of an Evie than a Genevieve. Then again, if we first named her Carol she’d probably be more of a Carol than anything today.
Anyway, her name is Genevieve.
The first nickname came to me immediately. We were in the delivery room, maybe three minutes after her birth, and we began remarking about the red hair she was already showing. She was born November 4, thus it was fall and Halloween wasn’t far in the rear view. “Pumpkin!” I said. Everyone embraced it. She was “Pumpkin” and she was Evie.
But her name is Genevieve.
There are sparsely used nicknames, like “Pumpkin Pie,” which Sarah began calling her as a variation of the original nickname. Then she added “Sweet Pea” to the mix, though if you come anywhere near her diaper pail you’ll know her pee is never, ever sweet. I stick with “You” or “Lady” or “Woman,” because she already acts much older than her nine months of life, but primarily I call her “Pumpkin.” Sometimes Evie.
But most of the time I call her Genevieve, because that is her name.
People on the street seem to prefer “Red” because her hair is scolding orange, but nobody has orange hair, just some variation of red. Anyway, “Red” always felt like the name some half-wit guy from the Greatest Generation calls a “feisty” redheaded woman who won’t simply kneel for his pleasure. I don’t like “Red.”
Lately, however, I’ve been hearing a new name given to Genevieve: “Princess.”
I also don’t like “Princess.”
Searching for gifts in Estes Park, Colorado, a month ago, I noticed in a store a book titled “Princesses Can Be Pirates Too.” The book, by Christi Zellerhoff, has its heart in the right place: Girls can do whatever boys can do, or — to be more specific — girls can do whatever boys are traditionally expected by society to do. They can play with action figures and throw footballs, and they can get dirty and fly fighter planes. And they certainly can be pirates.
But I couldn’t get past the first word in the title. Why are they princesses to begin with? It assumes that all girls are princesses by title, but what if they want to be princes? What if they don’t want anything to do with royal designation?
The semantics of the word “princess” — or even the assumption tied to the title — wasn’t my true hangup.
I loathe the photos of middle-aged men brandishing guns in front of their teenage daughters on prom night. I loathe the t-shirts exclaiming what Daddy will do if a boy comes near his daughter. I loathe the alpha-male mentality that the father must protect his daughter from all county dwellers, as if this settled and stoic Man’s Man is the ultimate grown-up and has dug a moat around his Man Cave Castle to ward off boy knights. I loathe that young women are treated as prizes, because when you spend years acting like Mr. Protector with your rifle blocking any suitors, you’re telling the world that my precious daughter is a prize, not a woman, not her own person with a name and ownership of her life, but a prize. My prize.
Boys are dumb. I was one of them, and yeah, I was dumb. But girls are dumb, too. In fact, all children are dumb at one point or another, and they make mistakes and stumble and drool until, magically in their thirties, they can form sentences and exhibit moments of responsibility. We let them fall because we want them to learn. And Genevieve will learn. She won’t be barricaded by the girth of my barrel. She won’t be shoved into some pretty little package fit for a parade.
That’s not to say she won’t be a “princess.” She can be whatever the heck she wants to be, whether it’s a princess, a pirate, a frog, an architect, a hockey player, a game show host, or a floor lamp. If she wants to change it up every day, so be it. I’ll embrace everything she desires with open arms and the guidance necessary, long as she cares. But I won’t force her into a role. I won’t tell the world my definition of her. She’ll make her up her own definitions, and we’re there to support them. If she longs to be a princess, then I’ll lower the drawbridge.
I just don’t want her to do things because everyone says a name. Sure, I suppose I run the risk of forcing her into a career of pumpkin carving, but calling her princess repeatedly only reinforces that she’s on the fast track to wearing ball gowns and tiaras. Or maybe not — maybe she can be like Princess Jasmine, but then again, Jasmine’s whole purpose in “Aladdin” is to be the girl that the boy gets.
Maybe you can see my problem here.
I’ve been watchful of labels. I don’t want Genevieve to fall into some label that defines her before she gets to define herself. And I certainly don’t want me to define her. So I’m openly rejecting “Princess.” I think I’d also be rejecting people calling her “Scout” or even “Nasty Woman.” I’m progressive. I hope Genevieve chooses progressive politics. But all I can do is hope; I can’t force her into something she doesn’t want.
For now, what she wants is to walk, to get her hands on everything, and to be happy a lot. That’s enough for me. The time will come when she’ll want to be a pirate, a princess, or something entirely different. And whatever she chooses, wherever she goes, I’ll embrace it and help her and call her whatever name she wants.
But today? Her name is Genevieve.
This article was syndicated from Medium.