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Starshine Roshell, Meet Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii

You’ll never meet a child named Sex Fruit in New Zealand. Nor will you make the acquaintance of Fat Boy, Stallion or Cinderella Beauty Blossom.

The nation’s government blocked all of these names, and earlier this year allowed a 9-year-old girl to change her name from the one her parents gave her:

Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii.

“It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap,” said the ruling judge.

I don’t disagree that the name is absurd, but … disability? The story sparked comments on countless blogs, where readers lashed out at parents who “cruelly” saddle their offspring with offbeat names.

But I have to tell you: It’s not as bad as everyone thinks.

With the exception of Talula, few names are sillier than mine. It comes from the song “Good Morning, Starshine” from the 1960s musical Hair, in which my dad starred. Between you and me, it’s a stupid song, but it was an important moment in our nation’s culture and my family’s history.

People mistakenly assume I was teased mercilessly as a child. The fact is kids are immature about everything; they’ll make fun of a Jack (in the box) or a (plain) Jane just as gladly as they’ll poke fun at a Tiger or Venus. And being fairly new to the world, children don’t assume Apple is any weirder than Elizabeth — at least Apple’s a word they’ve heard before.

Adults sometimes react rudely to my name, but I’ve learned it’s more a reflection of their own discomfort and (how to put this?) narrow life experience than a “disability” on my part.

That said, we oddly-named folks do have some issues. I flat-out refuse to spell my name for anyone. It’s irrational, but if I have to overcome airhead stereotypes and smile politely when people call me Skylight, I have little patience left for strangers who can’t sound out a simple compound word.

My friend Skye and I both have trouble remembering other people’s names because, during introductions, we’re so focused on explaining our own that we forget to concentrate on theirs.

Still, we all love our unique names. “A little ribbing from your peers builds character,” insists my friend Seraphim.

We tend to grow into the names our parents give us, like my friend Happy, the grinningest guy I know, with a sense of humor to match. “Fortunately,” he says, “I was never confused with the other six dwarves.”

The worst part about a quirky name is you can’t find it pre-printed on those mini-license plates they sell at tourist shops. And the best part is the foregone conclusion that you’re special.

“My name lead to the early realization that there is nobody like me,” says my colleague Starre. “And that’s pretty awesome.”

Most of us think it’s such a blessing, we want our kids to share it. “I would hesitate before giving a child a ‘normal’ name,” says my girlfriend Arcadia, whose daughter is Luna. “I don’t want to perpetuate mediocrity.”

Neither did my friend Linda. “As a child,” she says, “I had an artistic soul and always hated how bland and common my name was.” She named her son Chance and says he doesn’t get teased — but then his buddies are Trip, Doc and Blade.

Who knows how those names would fare in New Zealand, or Sweden, where moms and dads have landed in court for calling their kids Lego, Ikea and Metallica. Last year, Venezuela considered adopting a list of 100 “acceptable” names that parents could legally choose from.

My atypically tagged friends and I are glad the United States has no law preventing parents from calling junior whatever they want.

“If they want to name him X, they can name him X,” says the woman who answers the phone at Santa Barbara County Health Statistics.

Sounds good to me. At least he wouldn’t have to spell it.

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Published inColumnsParenting
My columns are collected in three lovely books, which make a SPLENDID gift for wives, friends, book clubs, hostesses, and anyone who likes to laugh!
Keep Your Skirt On
Wife on the Edge
Broad Assumptions
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