My Name Is "Jennifer." All Eight Letters, Please.
“Do you go by Jennifer or Jen?” asked a fellow blogger also named Jennifer. I felt immediate relief and kinship with this woman I had just met. After all, only another Jennifer would understand how loaded and important this simple question could be.
If you’re asking yourself why, you’re not part of the Jennifer Club. It’s probably never occurred to you to even think about it. But as a woman who is often called the wrong name, calling someone by the right name is a serious hot button with me.
On more occasions that I can possibly count, I’ve introduced myself as Jennifer only to have the person say, "Nice to meet you, Jen” right back. The problem is, I’m not a Jen, Jenn or Jenna. In fact, I have never once referred to myself as Jen or even written that name in reference to myself. But somehow, our culture has decided that it is okay to shorten or automatically nickname Jennifers in particular.
I’m not one to get my panties in a bunch. Normally, I politely say, “Actually, it’s Jennifer,” or “Would you mind calling me Jennifer?” But I’m always surprised that the person acts offended, as if they weren’t the one who called me by the wrong name.
When I meet a Deborah, I don’t called her Debbie. If I’m introduced to a Cheryl, I don’t say, “So Cher. What are you up to today?” If I run into Elizabeth, I don’t call out to her as Liza. I’m guessing you don’t, either. But the name Jennifer is so generic it seems people don’t think it matters what they call you. But it does.
Growing up, everyone called me Jenny. I liked being a Jenny. It suited me. When I was little, my best friend was … a Jenny! We moved right before eigth grade, and I took the opportunity to get people to call me Jennifer. It fit me better by age 12. Today, Jenny suits me for family and close friends, which is why I named this blog The Jenny Evolution. I wanted this cyber space to be a community where I could share what I was all about and invite others to join me in the journey of evolving.
In my twenties, two of my closest friends were named Jennifer. But one girl was a Jen, one was a Jenny and then there was me, the Jennifer. It always made me laugh when we were out and had to introduce ourselves.
Please don’t think I’m being prissy or snarky. I’m just asking folks to pay attention to people’s names and respect that. I don’t butcher your name or arbitrarily call you something else. Please afford me the same courtesy. And if you meet me on the street, you can call me Jenny. After all, you are a part of my inner circle and a member of my Jenny Evolution.
IS IT A SURPRISE TO YOU THAT MANY JENNIFERS ARE PARTICULAR ABOUT THEIR NAMES?