Jenilee Jubilee; A Confession
My real name is not Jenilee Jubilee. From the start, I never really liked my given middle name. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a perfectly lovely name, it just never felt like it fit me. In seventh grade, however, something happened that dramatically moved me. After one memorable, epic afternoon, I made the immediate decision to change my middle name forever. Not in the legal way, just in the “lie anytime anyone asks you” way. For fifteen years I’ve kept this secret and now I’m going to share it with you.
The place: Lake Villa Middle School, a bleak, public junior-high in northern Illinois, housing 500 miscreants during the worst 3 years of most of their lives. If not the worst, then definitely the most awkward.
Me: Age 13. Stuck in a phase somewhere between Blossom meets Goth Girl; you know, black baggy jeans w/ astrology patches on them, white keds with neon puffy-painted skulls, Kool-aide-dyed hair, heavy eye-liner that was clumsily added on the bus, and sometimes to top it all off, there may have been a stupid hat with a flower on it. In summary… totally hot.
To say that I wasn’t yet comfortable in my own skin would be an extreme understatement. I was constantly adapting myself to look like whoever I thought was cool that day. More often than not, I would just end up with a decoupage sort of train-wreck.
Like most seventh graders, I preferred to fly under the radar because being noticed at that age, usually meant being embarrassed. Somebody probably should have told me that mixing JNCOs with neon floral bodysuits was probably not the best way to go unnoticed, but I digress…
It was a seemingly ordinary afternoon. I was in Mrs. Brown’s science class, arriving early because, yes, I was a total kiss-ass. As the other students started filing in, the teacher and I were chatting when somehow we got on the subject of names. Stephanie, one of the most popular girls in school (and therefore my nemesis) was going on and on about how lovely her full name was. She had some bull shit fluffy princess middle name like Audriana or Gwenevere. This triggered the whole gaggle of popular girls into a tizzy about who had the prettiest name. Mrs. Brown, trying to be nice by including me in the conversation said,
“With a first name like Jenilee you must have a beautiful middle name.”
I just shook my head and said, “No” hoping she would change the subject, but of course she didn’t. Instead she turned it into an even bigger attention-gaining game.
“Come on, what is it?” she prodded, “Why don’t you write it down on your paper then turn it over so you can’t cheat and we’ll all try to guess.”
At this point everyone in the class was staring at me. I tried to act nonchalant, twirling my grape colored pony tail as I wrote down my real middle name. I flipped the page over, lowered my head and said,
“Mrs. Brown, I’d really rather not play.”
Trying to make me feel better, she replied, “It can’t be any more horrible than mine. I swear, my middle name is the absolute most boring name in the history of the world.”
The gaggle of girls shouted out, “What is it? What is it?!”
She made a disgusted face and answered flatly, “Jean.”
A couple of the princess girls added their own “ewe” or gagging noise in agreement.
The blood rushed to my cheeks. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes because, well, I was 13 and if I wasn’t crying about something it usually meant I was asleep.
Stephanie Audriana-Gwenevere took one look at my face then snatched the piece of paper out of my hands. Her laughter erupted like an evil duplicitous geyser. The note was then passed around the room as everyone joined in the chorus of shouts and sneering as they read my middle name. I think the only person not laughing, looking possibly even more embarrassed than me, was Mrs. Brown when she realized what she had inadvertently done. She took the paper and saw one little word scribbled on the page:
And in that moment Jenilee Jubilee was born.