No, this is not a review of the 2016 film starring Natalie Portman about a former First Lady dealing with her husband’s assassination. This essay is about me – a dorky teenage girl reflecting on her name.
I don’t know how I feel about the name Jackie. My full name is Jacqueline, but only my mom can call me that. It sounds weird if anyone else says it. Thick like peanut butter. If you Google the meaning of Jacqueline, often “supplanter” turns up. Jacqueline is the substitute for Jacob, which is primarily a boy’s name. I don’t particularly like that meaning; it insinuates that because my name emits femininity, that it’s just a substitute for a more masculine and better name. It makes me feel like I’m lesser, even though I know I’m not.
Jackie sounds better. It’s sharp, crisp, and fun for people to say. They can emphasize the “ie,” make it end in “aye,” and even cacaw my name like a bird if they want to. I’ve even had peers emphasize my name with a karate chop at the end (looking at you, Jackie Chan).
I used to hate associating myself with the name Jackie. My older sister loved to taunt me, so she refused to call me anything but Jackie. It used to get me so mad, but one day I caved. I let her call me Jackie. I succumbed. I surrendered.
It’s atypical for Jackies to surrender. Jackie Kennedy, the woman I’m named after, never gave up. She worked tirelessly for what she wanted, even when she wasn’t First Lady anymore. Jackies are supposed to be leaders.
I never thought of Jackies as leaders. I saw them as followers. Supporting roles. Sidekicks. Whenever I’ve been cast in a play or my friends and I pretended we were in a movie, I was never the main character. I was the best friend who encouraged the popular girl, the magician who gave the knight a spell to win the princess, the expendable character who dies fighting for the greater good. No matter how much I tried or hoped, I was never the person I wanted to be, so I stopped trying. I think my parents envisioned me as a leader in my life. As the star of my own show. Instead, I feel like the understudy. I’m still trying to figure out how it works. I don’t feel ready to be in control of my own life.
I was named after another Jackie. Many people don’t know about Jackie Cochran. She was a pilot, one of the first women pilots of her time; she even worked with Amelia Earhart. She raced, and was often called the “Speed Queen.” When she died, no other pilot had accomplished the speed, distance, or altitude records she had. She made aviation history.
I want to be like Jackie Cochran. Quiet but strong. Unheard of, but a legend. A feminist. A fighter. A leader. A silent hero of her story.
Maybe I’m not supposed to be the protagonist yet. I’m only 17, and there’s still so many battles to face: senior year, college, and student loans, to name a few. However, my predecessors give me hope. The Jackies of the world have shown me that I can control where I go and who’s by my side. So whenever someone emphasizes the “ie,” ends it in “aye,” or cacaws my name, I’m reminded of the ghosts of Jackies past, and how I’m a leader too. But I’m just a leader on the inside today. For now, I’m content to patiently wait in the wings, ready for my chance to play the lead.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.