Having many roles in life, I have been called many things. I am reminded of a commercial that ran years ago and it used to annoy me. A man named Raymond J. Johnson would slur his words and introduce himself.
"My name is Raymond J. Johnson, Jr. Now you can call me Ray, or you can call me J, or you can call me Johnny, or you can call me Sonny, or you can call me Junie, or you can call me Junior; now you can call me Ray J, or you can call me RJ, or you can call me RJJ, or you can call me RJJ Jr." and ultimately ending with "…but you doesn't hasta call me Johnson!"
When I was little, my daddy nicknamed me ‘Termite’. My Mama always called me ‘Jenny’, and during the awkward age just before puberty, my sister’s friends called me ‘Godzilla’ (they were all mean boys).
My sister Angie, who was closest to my age, used to be my playmate but as she got older, she didn’t like hanging around me much. Her friends at that time were mainly boys who liked her because she was a better ball player than most of them!
I never had a middle name - Mama had just liked ‘Jennifer Jeffrey’ – she thought it had star power. I had another sister who also was not given a middle name. Mama just liked Jill Jeffrey and left it at that.
When something is out of the ordinary, children like validation. All they want is a reason why, or for something to make sense. I never knew why I didn’t have a middle name when all my friends did, so I could not satisfy any classmates who asked me why I didn’t have a middle name – as if something were wrong with me. I finally decided that I was old enough to make up one for myself and having a crush on Lee Majors, I informed my mother that my new middle name was “Lee”.
It worked well to tell my friends that my name was Jennifer Lee Jeffrey and gave me the sense of normalcy that a school-aged child craves among their peers. Then, of course, the teen years approached where I just wanted to be ‘different’ so I dropped my fake middle name and went back to Jennifer Jeffrey.
While growing up, I had come up with many names that I wanted to be called. When my tomboy sister whose softball teammates called her by our last name “Jeffrey” and some of them went to our church, they dubbed me “Lil’ Jeff”. I liked that okay for a while until I became the ‘tag-along’ and my sister didn’t want me around when her friends came over. I didn’t want to be ‘Lil’ anymore… I wanted to be like my big sister and get to hang out with her.
My parents were divorced and, after many years of emulating my older sisters, I knew that I needed my own niche in life. In living with Mama and my sisters, I would always be ‘the baby’. I wanted to go back to Kentucky to live with my father and be a Daddy’s girl.
I had always been ‘Mama’s baby’ and I needed to grow up. My daddy taught me many valuable things that formed my character today. I am glad I had that time with him before he died. Mama was from the country and she liked things simple, where Daddy was an over achiever excelling in everything he did and he was driven.
Mama didn’t raise me wrong - I got my compassionate heart from her. I got my artistic qualities and many of my talents from her. My dad taught me about formalities and class. He taught me vocabulary (that I seemed to have lost in the hills of Tennessee now) and how to entertain – or in a way, “network”. I learned to be an extrovert from my dad. My oldest sister who also lived in Kentucky was already grown, so now it was just me and my dad – I had him all to myself.
It was my time to step out and to develop the person I would become. When I entered my new class at school, we had another Jennifer already, so classmates wanted to call me something else. Oh the pressure of another name! I told them to call me ‘JJ’. My sister Jill was still in Tennessee with Mama, so even though she was called JJ at times - I could have it in Kentucky.
The next year, I went to high school and I finally liked my grown up name ‘Jennifer’. I didn’t want any more names or nicknames (but I still let Daddy call me Termite). When I moved back to Tennessee with Mama (a girl needs her Mama when she is becoming a woman) she still called me ‘Jenny’ and I tried so hard to move away from my baby name.
Now …I don’t even want to get into the marriage years with my different names, though I did keep my maiden name “Jeffrey” as my middle name - and I loved that. The best name though, is being called 'Mama'.
When computers became a household item, my son had taught me about blogging and having a website. My dream to becoming a published writer seemed to be getting closer. I wanted to just go by my given name “Jennifer Jeffrey” but I realized in the world-wide-web-world there was no such thing as a unique name. I quickly found out how many people had my name. Before I took off for New York, my son set me up with a website and I had to come up with a domain name.
What devastated me was that, another writer who already had gotten her start was living in California and had a website under Jennifer Jeffrey. I learned the power of grabbing a domain name and not letting it go. I shortened my name to what my adult friends were calling me ‘Jen’ and my writer name became ‘Jen Jeffrey’. That was also the name I had painted on my paintings. It had an artistic flair, so I loved being Jen Jeffrey.
To end this trifling tale…
“You can call me J or you can call me JJ. You can call me Jenny, Jennifer or Lil’ Jeff. You can call me Termite, or just Jen. But you doesn’t hasta to call me Godzilla.”