What We Call Ourselves (Part 1)
It's the first or second week of freshman year. My new friends and I are at a college-sponsored freshman mixer, complete with dancing. Magic fills the air. It could be from the twinkly white fairy lights strung around the stone patio. More likely it's from the cosmic longing for love that can only be generated by amassing a group of lonely and slightly scared 18-year-olds. It feels like anything could happen here under the dark night sky.
We've been meeting new people for days now. I'm tired of introducing myself, mostly because nobody remembers my name. "Hi, I'm Jenn," I've said several dozen times. And always, always, they -- the boys especially -- forget. They remember everyone else but me. Allyson? No problem. Melissa? Check. Erin? Gotcha. Sara? Howdy. ...And you are?
Fed up with feeling invisible, I decide that the problem must be my name. I'm not a wallflower. In fact, sometimes I cringe at my own outspoken nature. I know I'm not the hottest girl in the dorm, but I'm pretty sure I'm not hideously ugly. (If I were, maybe people would remember my name. As in: You know, Jenn, the lady troll.) I realize that I'm fairly normal looking; a bit plain, I suppose. This, coupled with my all-too-common name, makes me forgettable.
Being named Jennifer is a curse that links me to thousands upon thousands of American girls born between 1970 and 1984, which turned out to be the extended high season for baby Jennifers. (The name spent 14 years at the very top of the charts.) If only I had a more interesting name, I reason, maybe then the boys will remember me.
So on the night of the mixer, I make a spur of the moment decision. I figure I need a new "hook;" a new "handle," as it were. Something that keeps me close enough to my roots that I remember my new name, but something with just enough zing to make me stand out in the beige sea of Jens and Jennifers. (Incidentally, I go by Jenn with two n's, but nobody asks you to spell it in conversation.) The round-the-circle introductions get to me and I blurt out, "Hi, my name's Jenna."
And my friend immediately blurts back: "It is?!?"
I don't remember what I said next, but I never introduce myself as Jenna to anyone ever again.
Fourteen years later, there is only one boy who calls me Jenna. My husband didn't go to college with me, but he always knows who I am.