Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's in a Name?

I may have had identity issues as a child.  Okay fine, I definitely had identity issues.  For a shy kid who did everything possible to stay out of the spotlight (like refusing to speak in school and suppressing coughs and sneezes in public) I became strangely bold with my elementary teachers when I decided to change my name. 

First of all, I have the most generic 80's name.  Look up the most popular name in's mine.  Pair it with the most generic middle name....boom!  mine too.  Add a crazy generic Welsh last name.  Then throw in an introverted kid with an overactive imagination and 4 new elementary schools in a 10 month span of time.  Identity Issues! 

To differentiate between all the girls who shared my first name in school, teachers numbered us.  How demoralizing is that?  Generic 1, Generic 2, etc.  I was always Generic 1 (Jessica 1).  Some Generic's who were lucky enough to have different middle names than the rest us (most us were Lynn) opted out of the numbered system. 

The first time I decided that I wanted to be called by a different name, publicly, I was in 2nd grade.  I was in my third school and thought art class was the perfect place to try it out.  I told my art teacher, "My parents changed my name.  My name is now Lynn."  My teacher, bless her, didn't miss a beat.  "Okay, Lynn.  I will need a note from your mother."  So, my mom wrote a note that stated something to the effect that I would now be going by Lynn.  My mom is super cool, she never even questioned me.  I do wish, however, that she would have said something like, "Pick a cooler name!  Weirdo!" but she didn't.

I realized Lynn was not the right name for me when my teacher actually started using it and I didn't respond.  She finally walked over to me, "Lynn....I have been calling on you.  Are you paying attention?"  This shy girl also did not enjoy being in trouble so I immediately changed my name back to Jessica 1.  Sigh.

Jay / Jay Lynn
In 3rd grade, in my fourth school, my new best friend, who recognized that I was a tomboy called me Jay.  That caught on with our circle of friends on the playground for most of the year. Sometimes my middle name was added, Jay Lynn.  It all came to a screeching halt when Mean Girl came by one day and said, "Jay?  Like Jay Leno?"  I liked Jay Leno--shhh don't tell my parents!  I used to sneak out of my room at night and watch Jay Leno when I was 8.  "I guess," I shrugged.  Mean Girl cackled before jumping on her broomstick, "Ha ha!  Jay Leno has a HUGE chin and YOU have a HUGE nose! ahahahaha!"  Rest In Peace super awesome nickname and self-esteem.

My Name is ShadowCat
So I grew up loving comic books.  My brothers and our neighborhood friends would spend hours outside reliving comic book storylines.  Our favorite?  XMen.  I was usually Rogue or Jean Grey but my favorite character to play was ShadowCat.  She was a lesser known XMen character but I didn't care.  ShadowCat could walk through walls...anything solid, really.  She was crazy awesome.  I sort of got lost in the character and went through a tiny phase when even outside of playing XMen I preferred that my brothers and neighborhood friends call me ShadowCat.  Don't judge me, I was also about 8 years old.  You would want to be called ShadowCat too if your name was Jessica Lynn Generic!

How Many Ways Can You Spell Jessica?
Throughout the rest of my childhood I would just shorten my name and change the spelling halfway through a school year.  In 5th grade I decided a better way to spell Jessica was Jeccika.  I also told my classmates that it was the Russian spelling and they thought I was cool.  When that got old I went by Jessi which changed to Jessy, Jesi, and Jessey.....and yes, Jecci.

By 7th grade I was just Jessi 1.  The nickname Jessi had caught on with the other Jessica's so we went back to being numbered. 

Kalypsa Dove
Yes, friends, I made my parents call me Kalypsa Dove.  I went through a hippie phase that lasted a few years.  Probably late junior high through, and I hate to admit this, early high school I randomly forced my mom to call me Kalypsa.  Keep in mind it was also kind of funny and it turned into a sort of game for me to annoy my parents with. I wasn't completely serious about it like I was when I was a kid.

This was not a name that I chose.  My senior year of high school I had been "Jessi" for a solid 4 years.  The first week of school a friend of a friend, who joined our lunch table, said that I looked more like a Christina than a Jessi and that he would be referring to me as Christina going forward.  To this day, I still respond to Christina.

On my 16th birthday, my great grandfather, who grew up in Israel kissed me on both cheeks and said, "Did you know your Hebrew name is Yiskah?"  Then he kissed me square on the mouth and said, "My beautiful Yiskah."  I am proud of that name to this day and feel like it's part of my identity.

Call me whatever you want!
I go by Jess now for the most part. A co-worker initiated this nickname and I later realized it had an advantage in the business world.  Since Jess is a unisex name, I was able to get my foot in the door with some people who asssumed I was a guy until they actually spoke to me on the phone or met me.  I became so comfortable with the name that it's how I introduce myself to everyone.  I have yet to work with another Jess so I'm safe for now.

When I visit my parents and friends down south I am still Jessi and Jessilyn.  At work I am Jess.  At church I am called by whatever people became most familiar with at different stages of my life....Jessica, Jessi, Jess and sometimes I am still remembered as Jay. 

Although I realize I was probably a weird or eccentric kid, it makes for good stories. 

I'm still sort of in search of the perfect name.  My new goal is to marry someone with a cool last name and if I never marry I will change my current Generic last name to something I deem awesome.  Watch out!  I have a few in mind and am also open to suggestions!


  1. Amanda or Emily. Those are the names we had whittled the list down to by the 9th month. As common as Jessica. When I first found out I was going to have a daughter I wanted your name to be "Jessica". The meaning behind the name is very important to me and according to the baby name book "Jessica" means "God is gracious". I was set in my heart on this name for you but was convinced by others that it would be confusing for the other Jesse at church. So reluctantly I pushed the name aside. After you had been "Baby Girl Harris" for two days the pressure was on to decide on your name. Neither side was giving on the Amanda, Emily name war. Then your name came back to me -"Jessica". It was to be. God has been so gracious towards me with the gift of such a wonderful daughter. I couldn't have called you anything else.

  2. I'm grateful I wasn't named Emily or Amanda! I like my name now; just not back then.