Written by Maeve Higgins

Voices

What’s In A Name

Got an uncommon name? Maeve Higgins sympathises. From baby-less baby yoga to unforgivable wedding hats, the writer ponders the unbearable lightness of being called Maeve.

Claire Jones on Maeves

Illustrated by Claire Jones

Has this ever happened to you? You live in the downstairs apartment of a house and a little girl who lives upstairs has the same name as you? Unlikely if your name is Jebediah Oppenheimer. Also unlikely, you’d think, if you live in New York, this crazy-in–a-good-way melting pot of a city, and your name is Maeve. Well, it’s happened to me. It’s happening to me right now. Upstairs Maeve has upset her little sister and is being yelled at by their mother. “You know she hates when you do that Maeve, why do you have to always do that?”

At this point in my life, the disembodied voice of a critical mother is unhelpful. I work from home. This means being alone most of the time, writing in my room and trying to maintain some belief that I’m doing the right, normal thing and am not a mad woman who is alone most of the time, writing in her room. That delicate equilibrium that I can’t put my finger on at the best of times is prone to getting overthrown by random screams of “Maeve – look what you’ve done – what a mess! You’re a disaster! Say sorry to everyone!”

Maeve is an Irish name meaning “comedy legend with a cute butt’. It is an unusual name in America. When I introduce myself I sometimes have to explain the pronunciation. I tell people “It sounds like Steve, except instead of a ‘st’ sound, it’s a “ma” sound and instead of an ‘eve’ it’s an ‘ave”. That’s a great little conversation starter for cocktail parties and mother and baby yoga classes. It distracts people from the fact that I’m drinking three cocktails at once and also that I don’t have a baby with me, I just find that class a lot easier.

My neighbour has been calling me Mauve for the past three months. I don’t have the heart to correct her because I don’t know her name and I regularly steal her Internet. I don’t like Mauve. Mauve is a dull purple colour I would only wear to take a passive aggressive stance at my son’s wedding to a woman I didn’t much like. I would be that unhelpfully dull blob in all of the photos, my unsmiling face peeping out from beneath a large off-lilac hat, letting everybody know just how I feel about this debacle – my poor boy.

I don’t know what to do about Upstairs Maeve. I am sort of proud of her for getting into trouble so often. I was too meek as a child. That said, the regular shrieks of our shared name aren’t doing my nerves any good. Maybe we should form a club or a two-person gang, or have our own comedy drama TV series that really explores what it’s like to be a Maeve in the world, and how to improve our experience as Maeves. Working title: Be Maeve Yourself. I’m contacting the networks at once – it sounds like a hit!

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Written by Maeve Higgins

Maeve Higgins - Maeve is a writer and comedian based in Brooklyn. She writes for The Irish Times and her book 'We Have A Good Time, Don't We?' was a bestseller in her native Ireland. @maevehiggins