News & Politics

If Your Name Is Jennifer, You Might Be “Old”


Well, this is upsetting. Depending on what your name is, of course. According to Boston Globe writer Jennifer Graham, the name Jennifer — once so vibrant and youthful, the queen (rather, princess; queens are named, like, Elizabeth) of the popular kids — may actually denote that you’re getting up there in the years. This particular Jennifer, apparently, had an awkward interchange with the worst waitress ever, also named Jennifer, who had no idea someone as elderly as her customer (a veritably ancient 48!) might bear her own name.

Via the Globe, this happened:

“Wow!” she chirped. “I never met anyone your age named Jennifer before!”

Beyond the fact that people do not chirp, and if this girl-woman did chirp, she is more annoying than we ever could have imagined, this is worrisome. Is a whole generation of Jennifers aging before our cataract-riddled eyes?

If you’re not old enough to recall (in which case your name is probably something other than Jennifer, like Connor or Myrtle or Bella), from the ’60s through the ’80s, Jennifer-naming went CRAZY. Girls had to go by their last names in my elementary school classes, there were so many of us! It was like the George Foreman of names, if you happened to be a member of the George Foreman family.

This Boston-based writer-Jennifer goes on to describe her survey of the “Jennifer” scene via the obits. First she found one. And then she went on to find more! This was distressing to her, partly because, apparently,

The promise of the Jennifers, after all, was immortality. The idea that a Jennifer could wrinkle or die — or, even more shockingly, die in droves — betrays our culture’s highest values: youth, beauty, and sex with people who look like children.

Luckily (or not), with a bit more reading, Graham found that most of the deceased Jennifers were “young” and had died unexpectedly or of cancer, which is not, when you think about it, actually better than dying as a Jennifer at a ripe old age. As for sex with people who look like children — ew.

In any case, since what’s old is always new again, and since retro names are hot, we predict a rebirth in the popularity of “Jennifer,” just in time for our 7th 32nd birthday. Place your bets now. It’s practically VINTAGE!

Full disclosure: I am a “Jennifer” (by birth), but that in no way means I’m old. We prefer “mature.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2011

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