Well, it's finally happened. The year 2005 was the first year since 1984 that "Lauren" was not one of the top twenty baby names in the U.S. I'm relieved, I suppose, but the damage has been done. It's funny because when I was a child, I was the only Lauren in every school I went to, without fail. And I attended nine different schools. People had difficulty remembering it and spelling it, so very often I was called Laura, Laureen, or Lorna. Few people complemented me on the name, either; it was just too unusual. For my birth year, 1958, there were lots of Lindas, Susans, Karens, and Barbaras. Only weird people gave their kids weird names.
Then in college there was a girl whose name was "Lauryn," like Lauryn Hill. Her mother had wanted her to be named Lauren, and the father wanted her to be named Katharine, so they "compromised" with "Lauryn." Not much of a compromise. Anyway, she was in my History of the English Language class, and having another student with my name was unsettling. I couldn't be completely sure, sometimes, who people were talking to. It used to be so easy.
Then the field was blown wide open in the 1980s. Vice President Bush's granddaughter was named Lauren and then it seemed that every few weeks in a supermarket I could hear a mother calling out, "Lauren, don't touch that!" "Come here this minute, Lauren!" It was years before I stopped jumping at these commands. Around this time people started telling me I had a beautiful name, and thus began a decade or so when I really loved my name because people loved my name. They were learning how to spell it, too, and now I hardly ever have to spell it for people.
Another thing has happened, though. Now it's not interesting to meet a Lauren. No spark of recognition, no conversation of "How did your parents come to name you Lauren?" No instantaneous bond forming. My name isn't special any more. Sure, it's a fine name, but, like Caitlyn and Jessica it's been beaten to death. My mother was looking for an unusual name on purpose, and she just happened to like the way it sounded. She got the idea, of course, from Lauren Bacall, but would get her knickers all in a twist every time my Dad would say, as a joke, that I was named "after" Lauren Bacall. "I did not name my daughter after a movie star," she would say, getting all snobby and huffy, the full Katharine Hepburn act.
Anyway, this means also that a number of people have both my first and last name. Thank goodness my middle name is so weird that only dead people have it.