At 71, I can handle being considered old, even if I don’t often feel my age. It’s quite another thing to be deemed extinct.
I’m sorry, all fellow Lindas out there, but in sharing that most commonplace of forenames, we are officially as dead as the dodo.
Consistently one of the most popular girls’ names from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s (in the UK, Linda catapulted into the charts at number two in 1954 and went on to claim the top spot for years), today the name is one of the least popular.
No one, it turns out, would consider naming their daughter Linda now. Except in Latvia, where Linda is still inexplicably popular.
It’s the same story in the U.S., where Linda was even more in vogue, spending a decade as the nation’s favourite girl’s name from the late 1940s. Indeed, research suggests Linda is the most popular name the U.S. has ever seen.
Writer Linda Kelsey is reminded of Linda Ronstadt, once the most highly paid woman in rock ’n’ roll
Yet the Wall Street Journal recently reported that the national L.I.N.D.A. Club — going since the 1980s — may have to shut up shop, as it is struggling to find new members.
When it comes to age, there’s no hiding place for a woman called Linda. No matter how much tweaking a Linda has done to look younger, her name will mark her out as being of a certain age.
Were I to apply for a job, Linda would be what the recruiter’s mum, or just as likely their grandmother, is called, and who the recruiter will think of when the application goes in.
Recently I attended an evening class, where older ladies often outnumber any other demographic. We went round the room introducing ourselves.
Of 12 people, four were Lindas (we exchanged knowing looks and raised eyebrows), four were men, and the rest far too young to be Lindas.
I confess I’ve always disliked being a Linda. I spent much of my childhood being furious with my parents for their lack of imagination in calling my older sister Susan, and then me Linda. We didn’t even have middle names to use if we preferred.
Linda was just so ordinary. Being shy, I wanted a moniker that would get me noticed, as though having a different name would give me confidence.
I had friends called Annette and Vivian. How I envied them. I longed to be an Isabella. Or Jo, like the heroine in Little Women.
Best of all would have been George, after my favourite Famous Five character. Plucky George — not limp Linda, like the other Lindas I knew (and preferred not to befriend).
But since discovering my own extinction, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Linda and realising that we’re not ready to be written off.
Because the name Linda, in its heyday, represented far more than a dull choice. In fact, Linda represents a generation of women who reaped the benefits of post-war prosperity, better education, greater freedoms and optimism.
We Lindas achieved a lot, and many of us, despite rumours to the contrary, are still here.
The more I’ve thought about not being here, so to speak, the more I’ve felt the nostalgia — and pleasure — of growing up a Linda.
The rise of Linda Evangelista, born in 1965 when the name was already on the wane, gave Linda Kelsey hope that a new generation of Lindas would be named after the supermodel, but it was not to be
It has got me thinking about lucky Linda, aged seven, who was allowed to walk to school on her own. In my woolly scarf, grey blazer and with my brown leather satchel on my back, I skipped along, feeling the freedom of the open road (or so the suburban London streets seemed to me).
I’d not even heard of stranger danger. Neither had my parents.
And privileged Lindas like me had proper supper with our parents. Grabbed microwaved meals and takeaways, with everyone choosing their own time to eat, were not yet on the table.
Fussiness over food wasn’t an option. Meals were fun, my dad teasing us or teaching us stuff, not a can’t eat/won’t eat battleground as they so often are for the Lilys, Florences and Mias of today.
And when my parents took off on their annual two-week holiday without the kids, leaving the grandparents in charge, they didn’t once try to contact us (calls from the Continent being too expensive and unreliable).
Today it would be a non-stop stream of annoying WhatsApp messages. For the parents of Lindas like me, the assumption was that all would be well, and it mostly was. Helicopter parenting hadn’t been invented yet.
Being a Linda, in my case, meant passing my 11-plus, going to a good grammar school then getting into university, the first member of my family to do so.
It meant being of the generation to take work seriously, becoming Linda the career girl. For me, that included becoming editor of Cosmopolitan rather than Linda the housewife.
Lindas of the day might marry for love, but divorce was an option if it didn’t work out — easier and less shameful than it would have been for our mums.
The Linda generation benefited from the Pill, legalised abortion and sexual freedoms that our mothers, Mary, Dorothy and Joan, never knew.
Relationships for Lindas were complicated. But I reckon Lindas were lucky not to have to negotiate judgmental social media in their vulnerable teens and dodgy dating app hook-ups later on.
And now, as Lindas enter their 60s and 70s, they can look back on lives well led and look forward to engaged lives for years to come.
When I think of celebrated Lindas, I can only conjure one Nobel prize winner. Linda Buck won it for physiology in 2004. But I can find some achieving women.
Loose Women’s Lindas are legendary: Lynda Bellingham, sadly deceased, Linda Robson and Linda Nolan to name but three.
I think of singer Linda Ronstadt, once the most highly paid woman in rock ’n’ roll, and I can’t resist a shout out for Linda Evans, Krystle Carrington in Dynasty.
Even Page 3 girl Linda Lusardi and porn star Linda Lovelace prove — if nothing else — that we Lindas are far from cookie-cutter copies of one another.
American actress Linda Evans played Krystle Carrington in Dynasty from 1981-1989
The rise of Linda Evangelista, born in 1965 when the name was already on the wane, gave me hope that a new generation of Lindas would be named after the supermodel, thus helping the name Linda become more stylish. But it was not to be.
According to Pamela Redmond, founder of the Nameberry baby names site, a whole century needs to go by for a name that’s gone out of fashion to come back in.
Linda McCartney (nee Eastman) deserves a special nod. Not because she married a Beatle and launched a veggie range, but because a man called Frank Lawrence wrote a song, Linda, named for the child Linda Eastman whose dad was his lawyer.
The song was a 1946 smash hit and is said to be responsible for the name Linda (‘pretty’ in Spanish) being so popular in the English-speaking world.
Yet the Linda who tops my bill is someone who spells her name with a ‘y’: Lynda Susan Weinman.
A former web design teacher and educational video pioneer who in 2015 sold her online learning platform to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion. How modern is that?
Linda, extinct? Not on my watch.