I was at the 7-Eleven reading the headlines of the papers, which I do almost every morning when I saw People magazine with its cover story lamenting "Ashley's" love life. Who was Ashley, and how did she become a one-name celebrity without my knowledge?

I am getting old. Back in my day, you could count the one-named celebrities on one hand. I knew them. Madonna, Cher and the long-haired guy named Fabio. But Ashley? The name Ashley isn't distinct enough for a one-name persona.

Ashley used to be a male name. The actor Leslie Howard played Ashley in "Gone with the Wind." Now every third girl in my daughter's class is named Ashley. Leslie is not an overly macho name either, but for some reason, there are not many Leslies in my daughters class.

My wife Laura and I didn't do much better in name originality. We recently looked up our kids names and they are 18th, and 25th for most popular name for the years they were born.

My parents were worse. Of the five boys growing up, only one name is not in the Top Ten for our age group. We were even worse with the pet names. We had a black dog named Black, and a white dog named White. We even got a fancy Hungarian breed, a Vizsla. We called it Vizsla.

I normally go by Thomas because someone had to be. In school, I had three Toms in every class. My company, M Communications, at one point had three Toms out of seven people.

Therefore, when Laura and I were expecting, I wanted to go a little off the path. My grandmother was named Winifred. So I wanted to name one of the girls Winifred. Laura vetoed that. She felt that the bullies would tease too much with Winifred.

I had a favorite uncle named Richard. He went by Dick. One night when Laura was in a good mood, I suggested that name to her. Her mood quickly changed.

"You can't name a kid Dick. Why don't we beat the kid up every morning and steal his lunch money before he gets on the bus?"

"Uncle Dick is a good man, and he doesn't strike me as a man who would have gotten his lunch money stolen."

"It was a different time. Can you imagine it now?"

"Richard?"

"No."

"Middle name?"

"No."

We ended up having girls. I wanted Rita as a first name for our firstborn, named after my two aunts. I finally secured it as a middle name.

I am worried about my brand new nephew. His name is not on any top ten lists in this country. He was adopted from Ethiopia. He is a three-year-old named Asfaw. The name makes him a target for teasing in school, but on the plus side if he makes it through middle school, it is unique enough that he could be a one-name celebrity.

My mother-in-law has a one-word celebrity name. My niece, the first grandchild, could not say "grandmother" 19 years ago so she called her grandma "Gaga." My mother-in-law was the first Gaga by quite a few years. Now when we read the fronts of magazines and see the latest of what the pretender Gaga is doing, it makes us laugh. Our favorite headline was, Gaga: "I don't like to wear clothes." We bought that magazine and saved it for grandma.

My wife and I look at our daughters now and can't imagine them as having any other names. Even if the names are the 18th and 25th most common names. They are unique young women. On our one block, there is another Julia. There are no other Carolines. However, my wife Laura can count three Lauras on the street.

But, I am the only Tom and there are no dogs named Vizsla.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: tlawlor@mcommunications.com