My name is Jordan Emily Boswell. My name carries an identity as ingrained in my personal history as a scar or birthmark on my body. Jordan, my first name, is the Hebrew word for “Descent”, which for my parents who were brought up Catholic and Episcopalian doesn’t mean much. Rather, my first name was the result of my father’s fanboy obsession with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although, other than Nick, the characters in The Great Gatsby were either despicable or careless *cough my namesake Jordan Baker* (Thanks, Dad). Emily was my mom’s choice, and happened to be the 3rd most popular baby girl name in 1994 (Shout out to you Mom, for maintaining some normalcy and basic bitchiness for me). Boswell of course, is the name my father's rather diverse family, despite which, doesn't have a questionable pronunciation, to my relief.
As a young and precocious child, I wore my first name proudly, as I was, after all, named after Jordan Baker of The Great Gatsby (a book I would not read until high school). It wasn’t until the imaginary iron curtain came down between boys and girls around 4th grade, that my name began to carry a different meaning. I suddenly became acutely aware of the amount of boys who also shared my name, particularly when my own teacher had checked off the “male” tick box on my 4th grade standardized test. Shortly thereafter, I became eager to embrace all the feminine nicknames that had been bestowed upon me by close friends, including but not limited to: Little J, Jor, J-bo, J-Bos, Jordache, J-Money Kiss Kiss (I admit some were more questionable than others), and many more. My one request was that no one called me “Jordy”, as somewhere down the line I’d developed a Jordy image in my head that involved trucker hats and “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” T-Shirts (see “Not Jordy” online identity).
It was in college that I began to come into my own and decided to reclaim my name. It was also here that I used my name as ammo against a literature professor who found pleasure in berating students as a means of bettering them. On the first day of class, each student introduced themselves and she consequently found at least one critique of their personal bios. When it was my turn, I was ready to proudly share my story, despite the series of students who were shot down before me. I stood up, announced my name and major, and before I could finish describing my goals for the class, she interrupted with,
"Isn’t Jordan a boy’s name?”
To which I replied, targeting her literary background,
“Actually, I was named after Jordan Baker, from The Great Gatsby. Have you heard of it?”
This kind of response could have certainly backfired, but my humbled professor smirked and from then on gave me a level of respect that was hard to find in a teacher-student relationship. She ultimately became one of my favorite teachers of all time.
I'll admit, my relationship with my name has been a rather tumultuous one. My name has been a source of angst, embarrassment, acceptance, but finally strength as well. Today I wear my name on a necklace in plain sight because my name represents what I’ve done, where I’m from, who I am, and where I am going. The good, the bad, and the ugly.