Category: Jill Barnett
As a style-conscious four-year-old who knew that lime green bellbottoms and patchwork Holly Hobby skirts were cutting edge chic, I had recently grown tired of my boring shoulder-length locks. Unable to think of any glamorous looks aside from a pageboy, life took a seemingly fortuitous turn one day when my mom took me to Friendly’s for a five-star grilled cheese sandwich and fries. Our server’s name was Claire, and in addition to having a name I absolutely loved, she sported my dream hairstyle at the time: a ponytail in the back with feathered chunks of hair resembling earmuffs on the sides, likely held in place with a jug or so of glistening Aqua Net.
After returning home from lunch, I did what any logical preschooler in need of a classy coiffure would have done: I found a pair of scissors, crawled up onto my bathroom counter so I could be closer to the mirror, and tried my best to recreate the glory of Claire’s ravishing 70’s hairdo. Becoming a hairstylist clearly wasn’t in my future, however, because I somehow managed to give myself a raging reverse mullet, complete with a multitude of stray vertical tufts.
In a panic, my mom quickly took me to the hairdresser, who was thankfully able to even out the ends, but for a good three months, my hair resembled a cross between Austin Powers and Friar Tuck. To this day, while I love the name Claire, I sadly know I can’t bestow it upon a future daughter because it’s too connected to my childhood hair trauma, and because I’ve long since referred to my unfortunate bowl cut as “The Claire.”
And while Claire was the first gorgeous name I realized I could no longer use due to a negative association, it unfortunately wasn’t the last. Please join me in paying tribute to some of my favorite names that have committed the dreaded crime of guilt by association:
ALICE: As I was paying my bill at a diner, a customer approached the woman named Alice who was working behind the cash register, politely saying, “Exuse me, ma’am. My turkey sandwich doesn’t taste right. I think it’s spoiled.” Not missing a beat, the woman, who had used self-tanner to the point of resembling an Oompa Loompa, grabbed the man’s sandwich from his plate, took a huge bite out of it, and said with a snarl and a mouth filled with food, “It tastes fine to me!” Clearly hoping to be named Employee of the Month, the woman returned the sandwich to the customer as he stood in disbelief, and then promptly shooed him on his way.
Guest blogger JILL BARNETT gives out Olympic medals. No, not for the sports, silly; for the names. But before we begin, an Olympic name trivia note: Roughly 20 percent of the U.S. men’s ice hockey team is named Ryan. Why? We’re guessing the inspiration might have been the hockey-playing heartthrob played by Ryan O’Neal in Love Story.
When I was in second grade, I had figured out two things: that the Rubik’s Cube could be easily solved by simply peeling off the colored stickers and reaffixing them onto the correct squares, and that I was destined to roller skate in the Olympics. Granted, there was no artistic roller skating event, but I was confident that if just one member of the International Olympic Committee could see me doing my best Xanadu routine while wearing my new unicorn-embossed roller skates with fuzzy pink pom-poms, he or she would recognize the need to include it in future Olympiads.
Being firmly grounded in reality, however, I soon realized that my gold medal dreams would more likely be realized by transferring my exemplary roller skating skills (I could skate backwards and forwards, and when I needed to stop, I’d gracefully dive into the grass) onto the ice. I would become a figure skater–the next Dorothy Hamill–and after a brief stop at the Olympics, I’d join her in the Ice Capades, or better yet, become a cast member of Disney on Ice!
With my new ice skating obsession, I was naturally fixated on the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, rooting for Rosalynn Sumners as she skated her way to the women’s silver medal, and cheering on Scott Hamilton as he won the men’s figure skating gold. I even stayed glued to the TV long enough to watch other events such as skiing, speed skating, curling (which I affectionately call “shuffleboard on ice”) and bobsledding, which of course inspired me to ride a greased cookie sheet down the hill in front our house and into oncoming traffic.
And even though my ice skating dreams quickly melted after I crashed into a wall at my friend Monica’s fourth grade skating party (I never quite grasped the concept of braking), I’ve continued to faithfully view the Winter Olympics on television every four years. But it’s not only the sporting events that I enjoy; I also love to hear the athletes’ names!
When it came to looks and style, Marvin had it all. Decked out in saddle shoes, mustard yellow corduroy pants, and a maroon V-neck sweater, he had a commanding presence, and owned any room he entered. A creature of few words, Marvin was a cartoon connoisseur who also enjoyed more serious fare like Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons. An avid athlete, Marvin delighted in playing Frisbee, and never flinched, even when the plastic disc was speeding directly toward his forehead. Granted, to most, Marvin was only a three-foot-tall stuffed monkey with Velcro hands, but to me, he was my silent partner in crime and constant companion throughout my childhood. He was the Sonny to my Cher.
While Marv and I shared many adventures, from the time we earned a whole dollar selling warm lemonade to parched pedestrians, to the summer during which he accompanied me to overnight camp (because taking a giant saddle shoe-wearing stuffed monkey to camp is totally cool), our best times were definitely had together on family vacations.
When Marvin and I were in first grade, my parents took us, along with my older brother, on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, where I quickly developed a love of American History. I adored the architecture and historical sites (never mind that I thought Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables was actually “The House of Seven Gay Bulls”), and Marv and I enjoyed wearing Minutemen hats while walking on the Freedom Trail and visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.
On a beautiful Saturday in July, I found myself where most people would love to be on a beautiful Saturday in July: sitting in a painfully boring continuing education seminar, hopelessly trying to remain awake. The air conditioner must have been set at a brisk 52 degrees, and after catching a glimpse of my now cerulean blue toes, I wondered if my lips had suffered a similar fate. My chattering teeth thankfully prevented me from entirely nodding off, but I was in need of a more cerebral distraction. Desperate for entertainment, I decided to count the goosebumps on my lower left arm, first by twos and then by threes.
As the counting fun began, I happened to glance at a piece of paper in front of the 20-something-year-old woman sitting to my left, and I realized that she had written her name in the upper right hand corner. Ever the name nerd, I simply had to take a peek, and after a lingering glance, I discovered that her name was Mykailah. Figuring it was code for Michaela, I naturally wondered about my other neighbor’s name. Pretending to do some right arm goosebump counting, I quickly looked at her paper, and was pleased to meet Tyffani. Mykailah and Tyffani? Tyffani and Mykailah? I was now the official filling inside of a yooneek name sandwich.
Guest blogger JILL BARNETT ponders the reinvented names that work magic on our lives….or do they?
I stood in front of the mirror backstage, proudly inspecting my makeup and blue and white gingham costume. Granted, I was in the midst of the most unfortunate awkward phase in the history of adolescence (my parents truly should have kept me indoors as a public service), but on that night, opening night of our middle school musical, The Wizard of Oz, I was too excited about my debut as Dorothy to notice that my skinny body and giant hair made me resemble a human Q-Tip. As I saw my gangly13-year-old reflection staring back at me, only one thing entered my mind: stardom!
I couldn’t deny that dress rehearsals hadn’t been pretty–the Stryofoam rainbow prop had a habit of crashing to the ground as I sang about troubles melting like lemon drops, and then there was that pesky issue of my ruby slippers shedding chunks of red glitter with every step I took, but in my mind, this elite middle school production of The Wizard of Oz (complete with an orchestra consisting of a pianist, a flatulent flautist, and a drummer who smelled like Velveeta cheese) was my launching pad to certain fame. Who cared that many of the Munchkins were taller than I was, that our Toto was missing in action, or that the stage crew had never gotten around to actually building a set? Not I! I was too busy daydreaming about seeing my name in lights.
WAIT! My name in lights? Jill Barnett in lights? I didn’t even like my given name for everyday use, and certainly had no desire to see it on the marquis of the Gershwin Theatre or to hear it read aloud upon the win of my first Tony Award. Nope, Jill Barnett simply wouldn’t do, and in my opinion, it had even less star quality than a name like Frances Ethel Gumm, who happened to be my favorite actress and singer.