Holden, Isaac, and Sawyer. 

Those are three of the fastest-growing, most popular boy names in America this year. 

They’re also three names we could never name our son. 

Not that we’ll ever have a son. That ship sailed. And the Dick family name is sailing not far behind.

Noelle and Maddie will probably be married sometime in the next 10-20 years. And while they could keep their maiden name like their mom – because of course she did – they’re probably counting the minutes until they get to shed it. Maddie probably won’t make it that far, opting (clamoring?) for a more elegant stage name before her first Broadway audition. 

And that will be that. My dad had no brothers and one sister, who dumped Dick from her name 50 years ago. She had two daughters anyway. The branch was ending there one way or another.  

So, I’m destined to be the last Dick standing. I mean, I have a bunch of distant Dick cousins, but my immediate family’s name ends with me. It’s a strange thing to think about.

I suppose the whole concept of family crests is waning, a relic of a different time when things like land ownership, titles, and bloodlines mattered. We’ve become a mobile melting pot, untethered to homesteads or even hometowns – at least a lot of us anyway. 

As much as I adore Pittsburgh, it’s one of the more parochial places I’ve been. Half the people I graduated high school with never left and their politics show it. 

I used to resent the local blue bloods, who took over the family business and fancied themselves entrepreneurs – until I realized there are good and bad people among them, just like anyone else. But there’s no shortage of prominent Pittsburgh surnames and generational wealth, peppering the many country clubs and non-profit boards around town.

You can feel things changing. The explosion of tech here (thank you, Carnegie Mellon) brought new names, new ideas, and new culture. Meanwhile, the 150+ year-old downtown clubs, frequented by actual Carnegies and actual Mellons, struggle to attract young members, who’d rather wear hoodies than cufflinks.

Wealth is still king, don’t get me wrong. That will probably never change, not in Pittsburgh or anywhere else. But the power and advantage of names is slowly subsiding.

And that’s probably a good thing for equality and opportunity.

A Dickless world won’t be so bad. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:              

Putin ended COVID in the U.S. Not really, but he certainly took our mind off it. Americans haven’t felt this safe in public since last June, and that includes going to major indoor gatherings like sporting events or musicals. Unfortunately, two years of COVID fears were quickly replaced by Ukraine worries. Ninety-three percent of Americans are following news about the war and 95% are concerned about it. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. adults worry about the potential for cyberattacks on our population. Seventy-one percent worry about the impact of the war (and sanctions) on their personal finances. Sixty-three percent think their safety or the safety of their family might be at eventual risk. Our collective mental health can’t catch a break.        

Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine have created renewed interest in corporate activism. During the George Floyd crisis in the summer of 2020, we saw record consumer (and worker) emphasis on brand social consciousness. I’m not going to lie – I thought it was a turning point. But slowly, the importance of brand activism receded among most consumers, eventually falling below pre-2020 levels. This week, we’re back to record numbers again. People are expecting – if not demanding – that companies take action against Russia and have responded very favorably to the likes of Netflix and others for their moves. Support Ukraine however you can, folks. 

The online furniture retail market is scorching, if you can find what you’re looking for. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults say they plan to purchase new furniture in the next 12 months, with 11% of those people saying they’ll spend more than $3,000. Over 1 in 5 people have now tried augmented reality apps to shop for furniture. IKEA is still the #1 brand, but Ethan Allen isn’t far behind. The big problem, however, is that 65% of furniture shoppers have run into supply shortages. And the big, big problem (for retailers anyway) is that brand loyalty flies out the window when items are out of stock. People would rather buy somewhere else than wait more than two weeks for the product to show up. It varies by age, though. Young people are super impatient.

People are wearing makeup again, occasionally. Daily makeup usage has fallen a whopping 24% since February of 2020. The only saving face, I mean saving grace, for the beauty retail industry is that less frequent makeup wearing is on the rise. Skincare, on the other face, I mean other hand, is as popular as ever. Eighty-six percent of women aged 18+ say skincare is at least somewhat important in their life – especially among cat lovers. You might not be the least bit surprised that Instagram usage is closely connected to makeup. That and lots more on a topic I’m wholly unqualified to advise you on, here.

We might jinx everything with a two-year retrospective on COVID, but it’s awesome anyway. Hats off to CivicScientist Noah Brode for one of the coolest infographics I’ve seen in a minute. He chose a handful of data snapshots to follow our collective journey from ignorant bliss about St. Patrick’s Day 2020, to euphoria over vaccines, to ignorance about vaccines, and a few stops in between. What’s backfiring for Noah is I like it so much, I’m challenging our team to do something like it, but much more comprehensive – and they can blame him for it. We’ve asked hundreds of questions about COVID over the last two years. We could write a book about it. We should. 

More insights from the CivicScientists:

  • Delays in medical care during the pandemic will have lasting effects;
  • Comfort going to work is climbing;
  • I had no idea Jeopardy! was doing this well, especially among young adults, and why does Jeopardy! have an exclamation point? Are you supposed to yell it?

This week’s popular questions:

Answer Key: Local food; Outside; Dark; Never; A giant puddle in the corner. 

Hoping you’re well.


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