Saturday, April 25, 2009

Identity Crisis

A few years ago I asked my parents what they were thinking when they named me "Jennifer" in 1972, at the height of the "Jennifer" name craze.

We thought it was unique, they said.  We thought the name was beautiful, they said.  

And, apparently, so did everyone else.  

Growing up in Iowa, I was among 5 Jennifers in my elementary school class.  There were 8 of us in the grade.  Most of us were called "Jennifer," only one was a "Jenny." To distinguish us from each other, the teachers used our last initial when we were addressed.  For most of my K - 12 experience, I was "Jennifer K."

When I reached 11th grade, I had enough.  I wanted something different, something more.  I rebelled against my name, not changing it, mind you, but I started telling people it was spelled with one "n," -- "Jenifer."  Unique, right?

Everyone screwed it up.  It didn't really catch on.  It was a written change, but nothing else.  I was still Jennifer, regardless of the ditching of a consonant.   

When I graduated from high school, I spent many weeks thinking about how I could be something different in college.  A different name.  A different person.  Escaping from the millions of other people that shared my name.  I considered going by my middle name.  I considered going by a shortened version of my middle name.  I considered going by a single letter.  

I hadn't really made up my mind about my new name identity when a new college friend introduced me to someone else as "Jen."  And, my new life was born.

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