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What’s in a Name (Kink)?

Is it a fetish or coincidence when everyone you date has the same name—or shares a name with your mom or sister?

Once, I got a new dude follower on Twitter, and when I looked at his account, I noticed something creepy yet comical: He only followed women named Tracy. Numbering in the dozens. Sometimes they were called Tracie or Tracey, but always some variation within. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but nothing says you’ve made the list of a legit stalker like finding yourself in some man’s collection of female types.

I searched my brain thinking for any other examples of such total weirdness, everything from the irritating but slightly more innocuous (I’d known men who only dated women with long brown hair), to the full-on psychotic (some serial killers only choose victims with long dark hair, parted down the middle).

But my guy wasn’t, it seems, after a “look.” He was after a name. The Tracy/ie/eys were all varying ages of lady with varying hair colors and faces. It didn’t seem like a fetish, per se, like that dude who only follows women on Twitter with sprained ankles, because his juice is checking in to see how they’re doing and offering medical advice. It seemed more like a name kink. Though that’s not an official term, it appears that some people have such preferences. On Urban Dictionary, “name fetish” is defined as a “name that turns you on, or a name you are extremely fond of, or a name you admire and want everything to have.” It uses “name kink” to describe the act of being turned on by someone saying your own name in a seductive manner.

Then there are the people who feel that having multiple people with the same name pass in and out of your life is a form of coincidence called synchronicity or the law of attraction, and it has to mean something.

Being into one specific name because you associate it with serendipity is definitely sort of a thing. A few years ago, British woman Jennifer Savin discovered that research shows men named Daniel are particularly giving, loyal husbands. So she set out to date every Daniel she could on a quest for true love. Along the way, she found research explaining that, similarly to how we’re drawn to people with similar facial features to us, we also like names like ours. Her unusual last name, she was sure, made her drawn to men with unusual surnames as well.

Some people take that a step further, and date someone with their exact same name. There are certainly some weirdly narcissistic crossed wires that come up, such as the jokes from friends, family and coworkers about how “you must be in love with yourself.” But double-dipping on a name of someone from your past or inner circle tends to incite guilt and awkwardness, not lust. Far more common are people who take to forums to get a gut check on whether a name that’s too similar to someone else’s in their life, or from their past, is way too creepy to work out. This is typically a fear centered around a girlfriend or boyfriend having the same name as someone you’re related to and would never, presumably, want to bone.

A common example online that troubles a lot of people is a girlfriend having the same name as your sister:

There is this pretty damn fine girl in one of my classes so I started to talk to her. We hit it off pretty well and then she told me her name. I still talk to her just as much as before but now it kinda feels weird to me to get serious with her since she has the same name as my sister. I mean like, imagine in bed or other romantic stuff like that. I think that overtime I’ll get use to it but hell it’ll take me some time.

“I gotta agree with u man,” someone replied. “That shit can get wacked.” Someone else suggested that it if all works out, he could just call her a nickname, “babe” or “honey.”

A similar issue is a woman with the same name as the mother, or any female relative. “I wondered about that sometimes,” a commenter asks. “What if you are banging and want to call her name out?”

But the one that puzzles the most is dating someone with the same name as an ex. On Quora, a man wanted to know whether exactly that scenario would be okay. A commenter answers that in his case, it was fine. His new girlfriend laughed when he informed her that she had the same name as his ex-wife. But he admits it’s both “foolish not to date a woman I like because of her name,” but also “awkward at times, especially when people confuse the two, or when I am afraid they will.”

It’s basically what you might call a crossed-wires theory of fucking someone: You don’t want anyone to think you’re secretly getting off on the name of your sister, mother or brother’s girlfriend (even if you are), or someone you might still be pining for. This might be why someone over at Babe.net argues that dating someone with the same name as your ex is the sort of thing only a complete psycho would do:

Not only would you constantly be reminded of your ex every time you say their name but you’d constantly be comparing them. Does new Mark make his eggs the same way as old Mark? Does Sasha go down on you the same way ex-Sasha did? Why does new Charley spell his name differently than old Charlie? You’d be in a constant state of confused comparison.

But ending up with someone randomly who happens to have the same name as an ex is hardly the same as seeking out multiple people with the same name. Such examples are much harder to find. On a Yelp forum, one woman says she’s gone on seven dates with men named John, and then doubles or triples of other men (two Joshuas, two Jacobs, two Nicks, two Mikes). I had an aunt who married three different Mikes, for the record, but because each died before the new Mike stepped in, there was no confusion about which was which. Commenters on these forums rightly point out, however, that these are incredibly common names, after all, so they’re probably mere coincidences more than anything else.

Still, the name kink freaks are out there. Earlier this year, for example, a fake Instagram account for lisajames419419 was discovered to only follow men named Paul Williams. When confronted by one of the many Pauls, lisajames419419 blocked him and began unfollowing the other Pauls.

The mystery was never solved.

That’s pretty much what happened in my case. When I confronted my Tracy kinkster and asked what he wanted with Tracy/ie/eys, he swore that he was just looking for a friend. It’s possible. After all, Tracy is an incredibly common name for boys and girls from the mid-to-late 1970s. “Okay my dear I was searching for an old friend of mine and I unearthed your profile, and thought you seemed worth talking to, so I added you,” he said. “Hope you don’t mind?” Then he added, “Once again, it’s really my pleasure to meet you. Are you married and do you have children?”

“So why do you follow so many Traceys?” I asked again.

“I was looking for an old friend okay?” he reiterated.

He started immediately adding numerous other women on Twitter with non-Tracy names. Anyone, probably, to look like less of a weirdo. Now he follows more than 1,200 people — every single one a woman, as far as I can tell. But against numbers stacked that high, his Tracy quotient, at only 17 of us, is surely a coincidence.