Just Drop It / by Courtney Mehlhaff

Every so often, I'm an unwilling participant in the phenomenon that I refer to as the Unisex Name Drop. What is this intriguingly named yet undeniably real event? Here's an example:

I'm ready to pay for something at a store or a restaurant, and the cashier looks down at my credit card and cannot resist commenting that he or she has a family member or a friend or an ex named Courtney. Of course, the Courtney they know is a guy, which makes them chuckle good-naturedly while they relate this story.

I realize that the person is probably just trying to make small talk while waiting for me to sign a receipt, but I'm absolutely baffled regarding how I'm expected to respond. There's nowhere to go from "I know a man with that name." I usually end up forcing a polite smile and saying something like, "Yeah? That's interesting."

But you know what? It's really not. People who have unisex names (even rarely used ones like mine) are fully aware that there are human beings of the opposite gender running around with the same moniker. And when you bring it up, it's awkward. There's nothing relevant to say because it's a completely irrelevant comment.

Unless, like me, they're sometimes mistaken for the opposite gender by myopic people who can't understand that some women have short hair and are 5'10". In that case, it's a bit of an insult, since you seem to be comparing us to your nephew or your male cousin or your brother's best friend.

If you're ever tempted to broach this topic with a complete stranger, may I suggest using any one of the following phrases instead: 1) "That's a nice name." 2) "Have a nice day." 3) Nothing at all.

I once asked a friend what he thought I should say in these scenarios, and he gave me the most hilarious quip I could have wished for. I have it in reserve as my standard response.

CLERK:  "Huh. I have a nephew named Courtney."

ME:  "Yeah, I know. I'm named after him."

Take that, name droppers.