My fellow Rhody Blogger Carla at All of Me Now is launching a fantastic new weekly project called “Mom Before Mom.” Her goal? To recognize and honor the women we were before we became moms, to give our children a glimpse into our previous lives, and to share the stories and experiences that helped make us who we are.
I realize it’s true: my kids only know me as the person I am today, the one who kisses boo-boos, changes diapers, makes lunches, gives cuddles and cleans messes. But that’s only part of who I am. I did a lot of living – and learning – in my first 30 years before that beautiful, red-faced little boy was placed in my arms for the first time.
So I am thrilled to participate in this project.
Our first prompt was: How did you get your name? Did you always love it? Have you ever wanted to change it?
My name is Jessica. Just like 143,478 other girls born in the 1970s. (Surprisingly, Jessica is behind: Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, Kimberly, Lisa, Angela, Heather, Stephanie and Nicole.)
My mom wanted to name me Erica, but my dad nixed it because it reminded him of the vixen Erica Kane on the now-defunct soap opera “All My Children.” (Hmm, not sure I could see myself as an Erica. Good call, Dad.)
My middle name is Lynn, after my grandmother (which means the world to me), but happens to be one of the more generic middle names of my generation (see Lee, Ann, Marie, etc).
By some miracle, I went through all of my elementary school years as the only Jessica in my grade. How the heck did that happen? Of course, that didn’t stop me from wishing my name was something more glitzy like Tiffany or Ashley or Amber.
But then came junior high, where I met a slew of other Jessicas, and so began my foray into being known as “Jessica C.”, forever defined by the first initial of my last name.
It was around that time that I had the unfortunate idea to re-brand myself as “Jessi.” Yes, I was going through a slight obsession with The Baby-Sitters Club books, and while most people called me “Jess,” I thought “Jessi” would be different and exotic.
And don’t forget the heart as the dot above the “i.” (I blame it on the chemicals from the awful perm I had, along with the trauma of balancing three-inch bangs on top of my head. Don’t judge, it was 1990.)
Thankfully, I came to my senses before I started high school and went back to being called Jess. Just in time to realize that not only were there more Jessicas in my high school, but there was literally another Jessica with the same last name (no relation).
She was two years older than me and apparently liked to “bunk” class, as the cool kids called it. I remember being beckoned to the vice principal’s office (to a chorus of somber “Oooooohs” from my classmates), where he questioned me like a drill sergeant, asking why I skipped a bunch of classes I had never heard of and was never enrolled in.
The quiet, honors student in me was horrified – even though I know he wasn’t talking about me. After about ten minutes of being lectured, I quietly pointed out that he had the wrong Jessica. To this day, I’m not sure if he ever apologized.
And then somehow, despite the fact that we were in different grades, this other Jessica and I ended up in the same French class, which really threw my French teacher (a teetotaler who had also taught my mother decades earlier) for a loop.
Once the other “me” graduated, I went back to being Jessica C., or Jess C., since pretty much everyone was calling me Jess by then. But when I finished college and entered the workforce, I didn’t know what to call myself. Jess seemed too informal, Jessica seemed too pretentious.
In the end, it seemed my name matched my workplace. So I went from being “Jessica” at the magazine in Manhattan to “Jess” and then to “JC” (which my former manager started calling me – and I kind of liked!) when I was in Boston. When I was in Baltimore, it was back to “Jess” then “Jessica” in Washington, DC and back to “Jess” again in Rhode Island.
Although I’m honestly indifferent about my name, I will say that having an insanely popular name influenced what I chose for my own children. I refused to name them anything that was in the top 10 list the year they were born. I figured at least I could increase their odds of being the only ones in their class with their names. Trust me, it’s pretty annoying always having to use your last name to distinguish yourself. Thankfully, Dr. G., who also has a super common name, agreed.
So that’s my name story! What’s yours? Link it up with mine at All Of You. And be sure to check out next week’s “Mom Before Mom” installment!