It never occurred to me when I was a kid, that one day my bouncy, youthful name, Jennifer, would go the way of Myrtle or Agatha. That eventually, girls from younger generations with names like Sophie and Isabelle would think of my name like I once thought of Gladys and Ruby: Old and outdated.
Back then it was hard to imagine that all the young-at-heart Jennifers would one day wrinkle and turn gray. But, that is exactly what is happening. And, there’s so darn many of us.
According to the Social Security Administration, in 1938, Jennifer was the 987th most popular girls name in the United States. By 1944, it had climbed to 262.
We can blame this on Jennifer Jones. In 1943, the Tulsa-born actress won an Oscar, and from that point on, the name steadily grew in popularity.
It finally reached #1 in 1970 with the tragic romance, Love Story. Remember the quote from the beautiful and dying Jennifer Cavilleri? “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
That was the game changer for Jennifer. It held onto that #1 slot for 14 years — until 1985.
Two years ago, a commentary in the Boston Globe highlighted the rise and fall of the name. Writer Jennifer Graham wrote about how Jennifer stopped appearing in the bridal section and started popping up in the obituaries (of all places).
As a first-wave Jennifer, I never gave the popularity of my name much thought until my little boy came home from Kindergarten and said there were a lot of Jennifer Moms in his class – five to be exact. And then I checked on Facebook and discovered I’m friends with 15 Jennifers, two Jennies, two Jens and one Jenna.
|To All The Jennifers I’ve Loved Before|
There are a lot popular Hollywood actresses named Jennifer right now. Connelly, Garner, Gray, Lopez, Love-Hewitt, Aniston, Beals, Hudson and my personal favorite, Jennifer Jason Leigh. It’s easy to see, the world is cluttered with, and Oklahoma is no exception.
There’s the Jennifer at Liquid Fish and the Jennifer at Allied Arts. The Jennifer with the Paseo and the Jennifer with the Parks Department. There’s the Jennifer I saw yesterday at Pumpkinville and the Jennifer I saw at church on Sunday.
And, maybe it’s just me, but they all seem magnificently approachable; wholesome and honest; pretty, not gorgeous; Nice, not sleazy. The Urban Dictionary describes the average Jennifer as someone who is there for you through thick and thin. Not a fair-weather friend, but strong and supportive.
But, I’m not sure I believe in stereotypes.
But, here’s what I do believe in. Something the writer Willa Cather said. “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”
I wish I’d known this during the years I thought the Dorises and Bettys were too old to understand what it meant to fall in love or have my heart-broken. When I was young it seemed like the little old lady who used blue rinse on her white hair so it turn yellow, was born with the sun already passed its zenith. I know differently now.
And, I hope the Ashley, Emilys and Madisons will see things differently than I did. There is nothing new under that sun, and chances are, there’s a Jennifer who has seen it all or at least knows one who has.