I've always had a strange, love-hate relationship with my first name. And now, a certain really annoying sociopath in Arizona has gone and disrupted that difficult balance. Being Jared will not be the same, for me… not for a while, anyway.
When I was small, my name was quite rare. It's popularity, as a boy's given name in the US, began to ascend in the generation following mine. The first Jared (non-self-Jared) that I met in person, face-to-face, was a little boy who used to be a customer that would come into the 7-Eleven that I worked at in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1985.
Before that, in grade school and high school years, I never met a Jared. But it was a name many of my acquaintances nevertheless were deeply familiar with. That's because Arcata (my hometown), when I was young, had a substantial Mormon population, and until the early 1980's, the name Jared belonged to Mormons, kind of in the same the way that a name like Lakeesha could be said to belong to, say, African-Americans. The Book of Mormon has a two characters named Jared (not to mention a tribe of Jaredites, and a major character referred to, simply, as "Jared's brother," which always has struck me as very odd). The "main" Jared, of course, is the biblical patriarch, Enoch's father.
How my parents chose the name is mysterious to me. They were hardly religious. I have sometimes been of the impression that my mother, unable to think of a name, grabbed a bible (not out of devotion but only because it's a good source of names) and began scanning the begats and begots until she found a name she could live with. Possibly not true. But whatever.
Anyway, starting in the 90's, the name became much more common. I remember having a coworker with a son named Jared at the bookstore in Minneapolis. I've never met a Jared who wasn't at least 10 years younger than me. I guess you could say that my parents were "early adopters."
I remember how dismayed I felt when I saw that Jared had entered a top-50 given names list in the late 90's. I thought: there goes the neighborhood.
And now, the neighborhood, crowded as it's become, has been destroyed by a sociopath in Arizona. Thanks a whole lot, Loughner. Just. Freakin. Thanks.