Today is my birthday and I'm in my hometown of New York, so I am thinking of my childhood, especially the first name I was saddled with. When I was growing up, there were plenty of grandmothers named Bella--mine, for instance. (I've since learned that it's an old family tradition to be named after grandparents, as were my father and his sister, who suggested my name). But there were no other kids. I didn't even meet anyone named Bella till I was eight: a young Welsh woman at a party in London.
The girls I knew all had names like Suzie or Kathy or Linda or Debbie. I asked my mother countless times why she didn't give me one of those names. She countered that Bella meant "beautiful," and she thought I was the most beautiful baby in the world. Obviously the drugs she'd been given during childbirth affected her perception; plus she was terribly nearsighted. For not only did I look like my father, but my head was misshapen and pointed from the forceps that all obstetricians insisted on using then (unneccessarily in my case; I was born so fast that all he really should have had to do was catch). My only consolation for the endless puns and jokes about "Bella" that I was already being blasted with by the tender age of five--I've heard them all since then, trust me--was to name my dog Suzie.
Then a few years ago, I started running across dogs named Bella; there were four in Charlottesville, VA, alone, from an ugly little mutt to an enormous Great Dane. Last week I met another Bella dog in Denver. All of them are glossy black, so at least they share my fashion sense.
I'd seen grandparents' names like Jake, Max, Hannah and Sophie start with dogs, then make the jump to children. So I predicted that Bella would be next. And I was right: After not even breaking the top thousand since 1931, Bella went from #748 in the list of most popular baby names in 2000 to #181 in 2006. Isabella was #4 in 2006. So there are A LOT of Bellas (or, sadly, Izzies) starting to run around.
Bella has jumped to business too. Bed Bath & Beyond had a Bella bedding line; there are also Bella Notte and Baby Bella linens. Last night I walked by a downtown flooring store with Bellawood products and had dinner at Bella Cucina on upper Lexington Ave. Today on Columbus Ave. I passed Bella Luna restaurant and made dinner reservations for Saturday at nearby Isabella's.
P.S. And now there's Bella the movie, winner of the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.