My dearest peeps,
After nearly two years of being Mama JJ, I’ve had enough. I’m mama to my kids, and my initials are JJ, but I’m not Mama JJ. I’m Jennifer Jo.
There, I said it.
Hi. My name is Jennifer Jo.
It’s nice to meet you. And you are—?
The last name is not coming out any time soon, but it’s not that much a part of my identity; it’s my husband’s name after all, just a little addition to my real name. So for now, I’ll just bippity-bop along with Jennifer Jo.
It’s feels so good to say that. I had no idea!
I’ve always liked my name. Never mind that my parents were totally uncreative—the year I was born the top girl name was Jennifer and the top boy name was Michael. But in all fairness, I don’t think they knew that till after they named me. Besides, it was rather comforting to be named the same thing as all my other classmates; it was the only thing I had in common with them, and without the popular name stamp, I would’ve been a total social misfit.
And anyway, my parents gave me a really cool middle name: Jo, as in Little Women Jo. You know, the writer girl whose manuscript met a fire-y grate, I mean fate. (As of yet, I’ve never burned documents, only deleted them. I once got so angry over one that I threw—and broke—a chair. But I don’t want to talk about that right now.)
I wasn’t ever really called “Jennifer Jo.” It’s always been “Jennifer.” But there have been variations on the theme:
Jenny (my grandma)
Jen (a handful of friends)
Yenisfair (the Nicaraguans)
Hot Little Thang (Mr. Handsome)
Mama, Jen, Mama!, JENNIFER! (my kids when they’re trying to get my attention)
But most everyone calls me just plain old Jennifer.
(Mr. Handsome doesn’t actually call me “Hot Little Thang,” and with good reason. First, I’m not a Thang. Second, I’m not little [I used to be almost 5′ 9″ but I recently discovered I’m shrinking and am now closer to 5′ 8″ so by the time I’m eighty I just may qualify for some small adjectives]. Third, I’m not hot, body temperature-wise. In fact, whenever I climb into bed at night, Mr. Handsome yells YOU’RE AN ICE CUBE! and then I press my icy-cold hand on his toasty, tender tummy just to make him cry.)
I never had any nicknames when I was growing up. My parents were pretty strict about calling me and my brothers by our full, three-syllable-long names. “We gave you a name we like. Why would we want to shorten it?” they asked. My dad did call me “Ginger” every now and then, and my highschool friends called me “The Oatmeal Child” because of my healthy lunches, naivete, and creamy complexion. My mom sometimes calls me “Jefinner.” I’m not sure why.
As for the meaning of my name, it’s quite boring. It means fair one, white wave, white cheek, and white spirit. I’ve certainly got the white bit down—I’m about as white as they come without being albino. But wouldn’t it have been so much more interesting if my name meant “runs at the mouth” or “word slayer” or “lover of sweet things” or “sieve head”—something that speaks to my personality, not what I look like? But I guess there’s nothing I can do about it. My cheeks are white and my name is Jennifer.
It has been, and will continue to be, a pleasure.
About one year ago: thick, creamy homemade yogurt