Names

Jennifer Lynn Sekella

When I was born, in 1972, Jennifer was the number one girl’s name in America.  This stands to reason as I went to school with Jenny Hoobler, Jenny O’Connell, Jen Milazzo… and that’s just in my class in the small Catholic schools we attended.  Jenny Hoobler and I even had the same first and middle name – Jennifer Lynn.

In truth, I hated my name growing up – I’m not in love with it now.  It’s so ordinary.  So common.  My sister’s name – Jillian – was so much cooler and harkened back to my mother’s being British.

As a girl I was Jenny.  When I got to high school, I wanted my first name to at least look different from the others, so I went by Jenni – please note the very big change there.  I was an “artist” at the time – doing cartoons in the school newspaper and yearbook, painting a few murals around school – they were all signed Jenni Sekella.  One of my best friends in high school and during the time I was in college, Sandi Pace, and I had a couple of nicknames for one another.  One set were based on a Far Side cartoon with two steer blowing up a cow doll (like men might blow up a woman doll) and one of them was Vern – I don’t recall the other.  The other was – I’d call her Sandi Beach and she… I have no freaking clue where she got this – would call me “Turkey Facial.”  So bizarre.  But, it was our thing.

Now, when I went to college, I went to Jen.  Then, I graduated from college and lived in Mobile as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year – – – oh my word, the way that they pronounced Jen sounded like Jan Brady.  So, I went to Jennifer (Jan-i-fur).  I was also sometimes called “Miss New York (Yawk).”  My friend Tara, from Nantucket, called me Jennifleur – she knew that my Grandmother had been a French teacher forever.

I moved back to upstate New York and eventually got engaged – and I opted to keep my last name.  You see, I had dreamt of someday becoming an English professor of American Literature and I had always dreamt of being Dr. Sekella.  Not Dr. Scalise, or Dr. Mrs. Scalise – Dr. Jennifer Sekella.  My ex and I worked at the same place at that time and no one there seemed surprised that I didn’t change my name, though I’m sure my mother-in-law had an opinion on it.  Luckily, she (for once) kept it to herself.

When I got divorced, one of the bank tellers at my new credit union made a comment about my last name.  I explained that I didn’t have to worry about it because I’d never changed it.  “Oh, you must have known it wouldn’t last,” she said casually, like she was throwing out a piece of trash.  It annoyed me then – still annoys me now.

I’ve learned that my dad’s paternal family name was actually at one time Sekellavitch, Sekellavic – or something to that effect – as we’re Ukrainian.

Now that I tutor, my students usually call me Miss Jen – which is truly sweet.  I didn’t want it at first, but a friend insisted on it as a matter of respect for the kids’ elders – and I like it.  My nephew, once upon a time, called me Auntie Jen and I loved loved loved that (as I have no children), but he’s 22, so that’s not going to recur anytime soon.  My sister’s step-daughter is more likely to call me Jenny rather than Auntie Jen, though I try.  😉

At this point in my life – my simple name is easier.  I live back in the town of my youth and share my name with some of those girls with whom I went to school and are still here or have returned, like me.  For my daytime students (also tutees) who are always coming and going, it’s easier for them to say Ms. Jen than it is to try to wrestle with Ms. Sekella – but we’ll see.  I don’t have much say in how things are run there.

So, for now, I’m “Just Jen” – and I guess I can deal with it.  😉

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