Friday, November 02, 2007

Identity: Names

Like many other bloggers, I think about issues of identity and self-image pretty often. My primary identity has changed over the years. I plan to discuss my time as a student and my thoughts about motherhood and identity in the future. Today, I'd like to talk about my given name: Jennifer.

It was a twist of fate that led my parents to name me Jennifer. My father wasn't sure about the name my mother had picked (he came aroundn to it four years later when my sister was born), and somehow they settled on Jennifer. I was born in 1970, the start of the height of Jennifer's popularity among the American baby-naming public.

While my mother liked Jennifer, she was vehemently against Jenny, and I swear I remember being instructed not to let anyone call me Jenny. My family and friends used Jennifer or Jen, and sometimes silly things like my dad's made up Furry-nej, and my aunt's Jammer. I took my mother's lessons to heart and have never been called Jenny. Oh wait, there was a boy in first grade who tried to call me Jenny. I told him that my name was Jennifer and to please call me that. When he wouldn't listen, I told the teacher. I was stunned at her indifference. She told me it was an acceptable nickname for Jennifer and that it was too bad if I didn't like it. I was aghast- I am Jennifer!

I'm sure I always had at least one other Jennifer in my class, and many times more than that. In third or fourth grade there were three of us, and two of us were Jennifer M. At that point we had to use our full last names. And so my identity shifted, I became, in my mind, "Jennifer M_____."

When I got married I never seriously considered changing my last name. Yes, for feminist reasons, but even more that I'd been called Jennifer M____ for so long that it is just who I am. I can't imagine being Jennifer E. I don't know her. I did toy with changing my name after my son was born--I wanted us all to clearly be the same family. As time passed though, and my husband asked if I was still considering it, I realized the answer was no, and that I needed to stay Jennifer M.

I am Jennifer. Hear me roar.

This post is dedicated to the NaBloPoMo group "The Circle of Jens," 91 members and counting.

24 comments:

Jenn said...

You tell 'em, Jennifer! I've always been adamantly against being a Jenny as well, though I allow children and ESL speakers to call me that (I know, weird exceptions). My middle initial is 'E' and my husband insists that my nickname should be "Jenn a Furry _" (the the blank being my last name). I'm rather against that, too.

I went to undergrad with a Jennifer who went by the nickname "Ifer". Original, but I'd rather make fun of her than give her much credit.

It's been great to see how many Jennifers are blogging for NaBloPoMo! Thanks for sharing.

nyjlm said...

LOL, Jenn. Actually I have "Jenny" exceptions too. One was my childhood dentist. He was allowed to use Jenny. And once in a very little while, my grandma would call me Jenny (my dad's mom).

btw, I mean no offense to anyone who uses Jenny, my mother indoctrinated me against it at a very young age!

Jensational said...

All of the other Jens in my life were always so full of hate for Jenny that I always adopted it by default since I didn't really care. Now I'm Jenny and there's no turning back. Along the "ifer" route, a guy I worked with used to try to call me Nifer.

Jennie said...

Too funny. I was a Jenny from birth (although Jennifer is my given name). Then, on the first day of kindergarten, there were four other Jennifers in my class. I was the third to arrive that morning, and the teacher informed me that the first girl would go by Jennifer, the second by Jenny, and I would be Jennie. And so it has been ever since. Lol...what was it with those teachers?

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

I far prefer to be called Jennifer, but since I grew up being called Jenny, it's hard to get everyone to change. I always introduce myself as Jennifer, my husband introduces me as Jenny...this usually ends up confusing people since they aren't sure what they are supposed to call me.

Thanks for sharing your post!

Jen said...

I wasn't a "Jenny" either - with the single exception of my Grandpa. I couldn't tell him no!

And I still live, surrounded by Jen's, Jenny's, and Jennifer's... and then some. I am "Jen B", a good friend is "Jen B", and a co-worker (just around the corner from my office) is ALSO "Jen B". Freaky!

Jenn in Holland said...

hehe, born in '66 here at the very beginning of the Jennifer madness! And I have been called all incarnations of the name over the years, though in my old age now it has settled happily into Jenn. That second 'n' is important to me. I grew up as Jenny and that is the certain indicator that someone "knew me when" if they are using the diminutive nickname for me.
It's great to be part of the circle of Jen's. It's a great crowd to belong to for sure!

mommymae said...

i'm jenny. my grandma called me jennie, but i didn't feel that girly with the 'ie' on the end so i made it jenny with a 'y.' my maiden name was long and i went with jenny g. in a grade school of 8 jennifers. my sister's name was 2nd on the list with 7 jessicas. anyhoo - even though i'm married to a k., jenny g. i will always be.

Jenni said...

Heck yeah! :)

I've always been a Jenni. With an i, thankyouverymuch. And if people call "Jennifer" to get my attention, I'll most likely respond with "what-a-fer?".

I think Jennifer is a beautiful name, but I guess it sounds a little pretty and grown-up for the rough-and-tumble tomboy I was.

Jen said...

I love all of the Jennifers (and variations of) doing NaBloPoMo!!

I'm actually going through the "would I change my last name when I get married" decision now. I went to school with *many* Jennifers and I've always been JennieCardew (one word) to all of my friends so they could distinguish me from the other Jennifers. No one calls me Jennie very much anymore (I'm "Jen", I hate "Jennifer" - reminds me of being in trouble... Jennifer Ann!!), but I'm "JennieCardew" very often still :)

I don't think I can shed my maiden last name because it's really become part of me, it's the distinction ;)

Jen said...

What a great post! I started out as "Jenny" in grade school and junior high. I went by "Jennifer" starting in high school when my family moved. And then somewhere along the way in my adult life, I gradually morphed into "Jen".

(I am so diggin' all the Jen-love! Woo!)

MadJenny said...

Great post!

I too was adamantly anti-Jenny from a young age, and mostly insisted on Jennifer S_____, as there were 6 of us in our French immersion class, 2 of which were S people. By high school I was Jenn S. (also insisting on the second "n" - Jen with one 'n' is like Anne without an 'e'). My siblings call me Jenno. My coworkers call me Jennifer. To a very very few I am Jenny.
I suppose you could say the different incarnations of my name represent different aspects of who I am.

My blogging name is my pirate name, and I never thought it would stick. I just typed it in because I wanted to play with blogger, and it was the first thing I could think of. So in the blogiverse I am Jenny, and I am shocked to find that I'm ok with that.

Jenijen said...

I'm a 1970 Jen too! I was Jeni for a looooong time, but am now a Jen/Jenifer. Jenny rocks, though. I have nothing at all against it :)

My dad wanted to call me Penelope, and Jenifer was the only name they agreed on.

thanks for the post!
xoxo

Jen said...

Love it!

I have had so many iterations in my life: Jen to family and close friends, Jenny from 4th to 8th grades, J.J. and Jamie variously in high school (which had nothing to do with my real name)and since then mostly Jennifer, at least in work contexts.

In fourth grade, not only was there another Jennifer R., but we were both Jennifer Ann R. Our last names were different but only by two letters. We loved it.

When I was 16 I went to camp with 14 girls. SEVEN of us were named Jennifer. I kid you not. We started giving out alternate names at random.

But for me, if it's going to be Jen, there is only one N. My father in law and some neighbors keep spelling it Jenn and it drives me mad!

Misty said...

I feel insignificant and unwelcome posting here as my name is NOT anywhere close to a Jen/Jenny/Jennifer post...

But I know exactly what you mean. I am the opposite. the common name for animals, but not so much for people... I hated it for some long, but one day it was who I was...

I do have a daughter. (Genny.) Her name is Gennica, (Gen-nic-a) A lot of people mispronounce it, though beats me how... Anyway she loves Genny, and we get the same Jen/Jenny/Jennifers in all of her classes...

Jenny Dagle said...

I so identify! In fact, I wrote my own Jen-ifesto almost exactly one year ago. I struggled with changing my last name for the very same reasons you gave, but I did want to have the same last name as my children, so I named my blog after my former self.

I have similar name rules, except I go by Jenny everywhere but the doctor's office, where they call me Jennifer.

Jennifer said...

My parents are like yours, they never, ever, ever, have called me "Jenny." Teachers inevitably did, with 3 Jenny's per class. Oh, and math teachers, always so kooky would call me J cubed, due to my first, middle, and last names all beginning with J. (What cruel, cruel parents I have!)

Jen said...

I had so much to say on this topic that I wrote about it myself!

Thanks for letting me steal. Even though I didn't ask.

Great job.

http://discombobulationstation.typepad.com/motivation_station/

la_florecita said...

This is too fun!

I'm a 1978 Jennifer, #1 most popular baby name that year. Very creative parents I have. Jennifer Marie, even. I was called Jennifer all my life until 6th or 7th grade when I decided to be "Jenny." But I'm not really a Jenny so that didn't last too long and I was back to Jennifer.

In college, somehow, mysteriously, everyone who met me called me "Jen." And it stuck. Now Jennifer feels too formal, but my family still uses it.

And I've been Jen S at several of my jobs where there were other Jens: Jen G, Jen M, Jen R. At my current job there's a Jennifer, a Jenny and me. Works out well.

Jenn said...

heheh - nicely done :)

I'm a 1974 Jennifer, though my parents swear they didn't know it was a popular name. I was a Jenny up until I could loudly enough declare that I wanted to be a Jenn. Yeah... my big ol' scary teenaged rebellion ... My mother and a few relatives still call me Jenny, but those are the only ones who are do.

Jenn said...

I am a Jenn (with 2 N's please!) I have always been a Jenn, and there have been only 3 people in my life who called me Jenny - my uncle George, and 2 boys that I had crushes on...somehow it wasn't so grating from them!

I had the fortune to go to highschool with someone with the exact same first AND last name as me - luckily we were a year apart, but we became know as Jennifer J(10) and Jennifer J(11), the numbers changing with our respective grades. I was certainly glad when she graduated, and I got to be just me again, without the number!

I tried changing my last name for a while when I got married, but it just didn't feel like me...

Mamma said...

People always want to call me Jennifer, but I'm an Amie (Amy). Maybe because I was born in 1970 as well.

The way you feel about not being Jenny is the way I feel about not being an Amie who spells her name with a "y."

Found you via NaBloPoMo. Glad I did.

shisomama said...

how funny to see all these comments from other jennifers. i love the strong, empowered tone of your latest posts. keep it up!

Jen said...

Excellent post! I'm the reverse of you - I was christened Jenny because my mum didn't like the name Jennifer! Personally I like it and I wish she'd just gone ahead and added the "ifer" so I wouldn't have to try and explain my name to total stranger who like to assume!

~ Another Jen (from the Circle!)