Part of my summer job right now entails going through files of all the applicants from this past year and extracting the names of siblings. Part of the information I must enter in the computer, along with name, address, phone number, and year of high school graduation, is the gender. You wouldn't think this would be difficult.
Well, it is difficult. After all, I want to do this job well. I don't want to enter the wrong gender for a potential future applicant. I want to get these things right! But with the modern customs of naming being such as they are, things aren't so cut-and-dry anymore.
For example, there are certain long-established customs of naming, and one of them is this: Jessie is a girl, and Jesse is a boy. So when I come across someone named Jesse Ann, what am I supposed to assume - that his parents gave him a girl's middle name, or that her parents didn't know these basic rules of naming babies?
And what about those people who indicate names of siblings only by nicknames? "Kim" suddenly complicates my life, because gosh, should I put "Kimberly," or "Kimberlie," or "Kimberlee," or just "Kim" in the name field?
And then, of course, there's the matter of gender. Once upon a time, you could assume certain things. "John" is a boy. "Michael" is a boy. "Lauren" is a girl. "Ashley" is a girl. "Jeremy" is a boy.
My friends, this is no longer the case.
Which is worse: to leave the gender field blank in the system, or to mislabel a potential applicant?
Interestingly enough, this job is having a curious effect on me in terms of my understanding of family size. You see, I used to like big families. Then I got this job where I had to enter information about every applicant's siblings, and oh by the way, the computer system is so outdated that you must re-enter complete information like address and phone number for each entry.
These days, I exult when I see an application that says "only child." I don't pity the child. I bless them. And when I see "homeschooled" on an application, I turn the page with trepidation - yes, my fears are validated. Six siblings. Nine siblings. Eleven siblings. Worst of all, the applicant hasn't abided by the directions and entered the year of graduation -- just the age. "Lydia, 2 1/2." So I have to calculate these things, taking the matter of unknown birth date into consideration, taking a guess, and hoping I get it right.
And so, you see, if I never have any children, or maybe only one, I blame it on this job.
Meanwhile, my sister and some of her friends are all hoping to double the world's population single-handedly, and maybe even trying to beat one another to this wonderful calling, and inside my mind I am now screaming at them, "DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT IN TWENTY YEARS YOU WILL BE MAKING SOMEONE'S LIFE MORE DIFFICULT?!"