What’s In My Name?

Daily Writing Prompt: Say Your Name

“Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?

Photographers, show us YOU.” – The Daily Post 

Hello, My Name Is Janice.

I am not named after anyone – I think my parents just ran out of ideas for girl names by the time I came along.  Seeing as I was the fourth daughter, I can’t say I blame them.

Yup - Baby Janice.  That's me. (and my Mom)
Yup – Baby Janice. That’s me. (and my Mom)

When I was in grade school I did not know anyone else in the world with my name.  I never had to share my name with anyone else in class.  There were always a few Katherines, Jennifers and Susans- but I was always the only Janice.  I thought this was great because I would have not liked the added confusion of responding to someone only to find out they were actually talking to the other Janice.

As I became older, I began to think that my name was boring and un-popular.  By the time I was 13, I had yet to meet another Janice.  The last thing you want at the age of 13 is be boring and un-popular.  I began to imagine I had a different name.  Something romantic and cool.  I used to make up stories about myself where my name was Sadie, or Janie or Jasmine.

Janice is…well….it’s just Janice.  Not a name you can easily shorten.  Jennifer becomes Jenny. Katherine can be whittled down to Kate, Katie or Kathy.  I never had a catchy nickname that I went by.  None of my peers shortened my name to make it easier to say.  Not even to Jan – which was fine by me.  I knew at a very young age I did not like being called Jan.

The only person that ever gave me a nickname was my best friend.  She shortened it all the way down to J.  I would not have allowed anyone else to this.  In turn, I shortened her name to B.  To this day, decades later, we still call each other just J and just B.

When I made it to high school, I still did not meet any one else with my name.  I think there was one other girl, out of 1100 students, that shared my lonely moniker – but I never even figured out who she was.  In a sea of faces and identities, I don’t think I wanted to know her.

But this was high school.  It was cool to be different – to a certain extent, mind you.

It was also a time when the confines adolescence give way to the road that leads to adulthood.   A time when you are free to explore new styles and new music.  I spread my wings, embraced my individually and soared.

This was when I found another Janice I would have liked to have met.  She had a few things I could never reach though.  First, she was far cooler than I could ever imagine…except for the drug use.  Due to the drugs, she had also been dead for longer than I had been alive.  She also spelled her name different: Jan – I – S instead of my familiar Jan – I – C – E.

My introduction to Janis Joplin taught me a lot of things.  The fact that my name was actually cool enough to have variation in spelling was one of them.

My name started becoming less…obscure.  This was when people started asking me if I was named after Janis Joplin.  It made me wonder if they thought my parents were hippies or something.  I was pretty sure my parents had never – ever – been hippies.

The truth is, I could never figure out where my parents got my name from.  I have three older sisters.  I know that one of them is named after a Disney character (think Peter Pan, but not Tinkerbell or Nana) another is named after a Belafonte (Harry’s daughter).  Whenever I asked my Mom why they settled on “Janice” for me – I don’t think she actually gave me an answer.  I came to the conclusion that it had been pulled out of a hat.

My and my sisters. I’m the little one on the end, admiring my older sister’s name on her birthday cake.

You could say that as I travelled through my high school and college years, I grew into my name…if that makes sense.  My name continued to be distinct from the rest of my classmates, as was I.  At the drop of a hat, I would change my attitude, my hair colour and interests.  Instead of hanging out with one social group exclusively, I mingled with all of them easily.  I still secretly thought my name a little boring – but I forgot that I wanted it be something else.

Now that I am older, I actually meet other Janice’s all the time.  There’s a Janice in my family now.  She married my second cousin.  Even though there is a large age difference between us, I feel strong kin-ship towards her.

I work with a Janice too.  When I hear my name being uttered at the office, I have to pause to see if she will answer first.  Sometimes I’ll instinctively reply a with quick “Yes?”  and will be answered with a “No, the other Janice”.  It’s the situation I was glad to have avoided in grade school – but I get a kick out of it now.

As for variations on my name – there still aren’t any.  People still don’t see the need to shorten my name.  Adults are funny though.  We have to give each other permission to call someone by anything other than their given name.  It’s all in the introduction.  I always introduce myself as Janice.  Not J, or Jan.  If someone calls me Jan – I correct them.

And then there’s my husband.  He, like B, has shortened my name all way down to only its first letter.   He just started doing it one day.  It struck me as odd – but it also anchored him to that special place in my soul – right next to my oldest, dearest friend.

And besides – I call him D – so it works well.  We are J and D to each other.

And now I’m just me – just Janice.  As I creep towards my fortieth year, I am comfortable in my own skin.  I am happy to just…be.  I have learned to appreciate my name – it suits me just fine.  I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Oh, and Mom – please don’t feel the need to clarify or shed some light on the origins of my name and how it was you and Dad decided it was right for me.  I realised a long time ago it doesn’t really matter.

I kind of like living with the mystery…

🙂

There – that is what is in my name.

I don’t usually take part in the daily writing prompts put forth by folks at The Daily Post.  All I can say is that this one spoke to me and inspired me to write…a very big A-ha! moment.

Thanks, Daily Post!!

12 thoughts on “What’s In My Name?

  1. What fun! I always was partial to P names, but J’s are my second favorite. Glad your Mom came through with the reason behind your name. It wouldn’t be fair for your other sisters to have specifics and for yours to be pulled out of someone’s… hat 🙂

    Patty – who lives with two J’s

  2. I love this.. especially the pictures. Even though you don’t want/need to know why “Janice” and you probably won’t like to know the “why” … sister Shari had a friend Janice, I liked the name and another “why” if you had been a boy you would have been Jeffrey, wanted a baby “J”. Lv M….

  3. I too have a “J” name. The coolest names begin with J by the way. And although I am 4 years past age 40, I completely get what you are saying here. I have two sisters and have two daughters. Cool blog.

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