When I start a conversation with, “My friend Jennifer…,” my husband immediately stops me and asks, “which one?” This is because I am acquainted with no fewer than 22different Jennifers, and without some sort of clarification the ensuing conversation will be lost on him.
The movie Love Story came out in 1970, with the beautiful and tragic main character named Jenny, played by Ali MacGraw. This Oscar-nominated actress and film spurred a revolution. I was born in 1972, which was the third year of the 15-year run of Jennifer being the most popular baby name for girls. I met at least one new Jennifer every single year of school and continue to do so even now. Generation X could easily be called the Jen-eration.
Every event of significance in my formative years has involved a Jennifer. School classes, gymnastics team, cheerleading squad, choir, roommates, one of my bridesmaids, and coworkers at just about every job I’ve ever had all included at least one Jen. I’m not comfortable if I don’t have a Jen to go to at any particular time. When I start a new job, if there’s a Jennifer, that’s automatically the first person I gravitate to, I suppose because of the familiarity. If I ever had a daughter, I could name her Jennifer and honor a couple dozen friends all at once.
I can remember wishing I’d been named Jennifer so I would fit in better. My mom tried to explain to me that while she thought it was a pretty name, she had named me otherwise in the hopes of me standing apart from the crowd. By no means did she give me a trendy name; in fact, it’s traditional with a Biblical origin. But that didn’t sit well with me at age 8. I wanted to be in the club. Being a Jennifer was like knowing the secret handshake, there was automatic inclusion. Between first and sixth grades I never met another girl with my same first name. There were only 3 of us in my graduating class of over 600. But how many Jennifers? I can name 11 right off the bat and 5 more who moved away before graduation.
A musician named Mike Doughty wrote a song called “27 Jennifers,” with the line, “I went to school with 27 Jennifers, 16 Jenns, 10 Jennies….” Yeah, no kidding, man. There was a time I could differentiate my Jennifers by their surname initials, but that quickly became outdated when I realized I knew 3 Jen Bs, 3 Jen Ms, and 2 Jenny Ms. I knew who I was talking about, why couldn’t everybody just figure it out? No, no, too easy to accidentally start rumors about the wrong person, I learned that one the hard way. Incidentally, in all my years and in all my acquaintances, never once have I met someone in my demographic who was a real-live Jen X.
We laugh nowadays about all the little old ladies with their antiquated names like Beulah and Agatha. Fifty years from now, teenagers will be laughing at Granny Jennifer and all her Jen friends meeting up to play shuffleboard at the retirement center. Those girls will have trendy names we’ve probably never even heard of yet, possibly spurred on by a movie character yet to be written. But think how easy it will be to find a friend then; we’ll only have to wander down the halls of Shady Palms Living calling out “Jennifer?” and chances are, 5 new friends will call back, “right here!” We’ll all be half-demented, nobody will know the difference.