Thursday, August 18, 2011

The name game

I’ve only used my real name at a job once, and it was by accident.

It was a job at my college and I had to put my “legal” name on the application so they could make sure I was indeed enrolled, “in good standing” and hadn’t gotten an underage drinking ticket or anything.

I fully planned to tell people when I showed up on the first day, “you can just call me Jenny,” until I looked up in horror to find my legal name – all nine letters – stapled to the “motivation” bulletin board.

And my real name was on my ENGRAVED nametag.

And it was my password on the computer.
And my user name.

I didn’t tell anyone that I really preferred Jenny because I was too shy and I didn’t want to inconvenience the boss by literally changing everything associated with me, so for that entire year I went by Genevieve.

It was odd introducing myself to people as Genevieve, like if someone suddenly had to go by their middle name.

I just didn’t have the same confidence with Genevieve. I hesitated. I stuttered.

“Hi, I’m…Gen..uhhhhh…veeve…”

Before that job, the only people who called me Genevieve were the credit card people, and that didn’t give me positive associations with the name.

“Hi, I’m looking for Genevieve.”

It turns out the name Genevieve worked out well for me at the college job.

It was a job at the calling center and alumni and parents all mentioned that they liked my name and I’m pretty sure they donated more than they planned to because of it.

Also, when I saw people out at bars and didn’t recognize them as my co-workers, all they had to do was call me Genevieve and I would say, “Ahhhhhhh. Yea, calling alumni SUCKS!!!”

In middle school, I asked my parents if I could legally change my name from Genevieve to Jenny.

I thought about this long and hard, after cruel middle schoolers tried to force rhyme Genevieve with germ-uh-vieve...again...and I was embarrassed.

I hated that on the first day of school every year, in every class, dumb teachers would call me “Gwen-uh-vere” or “Geneva” and other people would giggle and I’d have to say, "it’s Genevieve, but call me Jenny."

My twin sister, Joy, never had a problem with name pronunciation. It wasn't fair.

My music teacher in 6th grade, who was French, insisted on calling me the French pronunciation of Genevieve, which, phonetically is, “Jean (like Jean Claude Van Damme)---vee---ev” and no, that didn’t get me any cool points with anyone.

“So…can I change it to Jenny?” I asked my parents. I didn’t see why they wouldn’t agree. They’re the ones that gave me the nickname Jenny after all.

“ABSOLUTELY NOT!” my mom yelled.

“But why??!” I protested, frowning. “No one even calls me that! HOW COME JOY GETS THE NORMAL NAME???”

My mom’s problem with it was that I was named after her mom. (Grandmother Genevieve went by Gene, which I considered to be a boy’s name.)

My dad, always the diplomat, made a compromise.

“Look,” he said. “When your grandmother passes away, then we’ll talk about it. But as long as she’s alive, you will honor her by keeping her name.”

She was 89 at the time, and I was 13.

“FINE!” I said, and huffed away.

My dad was onto something there. When my grandmother passed away two years ago, at the age of 100, I no longer wished to legally change my name. I was 26 and people stopped making fun of me.

Still, no one calls me Genevieve, despite the fact that my name is listed as Genevieve on Facebook.

(This is because I joined the site so long ago that you needed to be enrolled in college and your name had to match your college email address. And I never changed it.)

But now, I find myself needing to use Genevieve again.

It just so happens that at my new job there is another Jenny, someone way more important than me who gets calls all day long.

When I pick up the phone and say, “This is Jenny” people are all like, “OH, HEY GIIIRL!” and start telling me things that are meant for the OTHER Jenny and I’m way awkward when I laugh politely and say, “No…er...I’m not THAT Jenny, let me get her for you…”

…and then they get confused and my face gets red and something’s gotta change.

So, today, I’m going to be answering the phone as Genevieve. And I’ll try not to hesitate or hiccup when I say it.
(Or ask them for money for new college programs and a new dorm.)

But, I’ve got another backup plan.
If it doesn't work out, I'll use the name Joy.


1 comment:

  1. I went to elementary school with a Genevieve and I always loved the name! When I was a kid I kind of wanted a different name myself because Karen is so plain, I wanted to change my last name more though.

    Kids can be cruel, but I think that having different names "builds character" or at least I've told myself that over the years.


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