The Invasion of Pop Culture

Jennifer Aniston. Jennifer Lopez. Jennifer Garner. Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Love-Hewitt. The entertainment world is awash in people whose names reflect an era in which the name, Jennifer, was a parental favorite. It’s not just the entertainment world, either, and the “era of Jennifer” is not a new moment in history. I went to high school with someone named Jennifer; we’re now friends on Facebook. And I have another Facebook friend, someone I’ve never met and to whom I’ve never spoken, whose name is Jennifer, but who sometimes refers to herself as Jenny. There are others, I think, but my head is not sufficiently clear at the moment to remember them with any precision.

According to a website called

Meaning: Jennifer may come from the Proto-Celtic word “windo-seibrā,” meaning “fair one.”
Gender: Jennifer is traditionally a female’s name. However, it can be used by any gender.
Origin: The name Jennifer is believed to be of Cornish origin. It was adapted from the name “Guinevere,” of Arthurian legend.

The reason I am fixated on Jennifer this morning is this: I noticed as I scanned the web this morning that CNN saw fit to include “news” about Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Aniston on the home page of its website this morning. And those three “news” items triggered thoughts of other Jennifers I have known. It just mushroomed into a Jennifrenzy, as it were. I began to ask myself whether there is an inexplicable connection between Jennifer and me. Despite my rejection of such a “woo-woo” concept, the idea provides mindless entertainment. But in the real world, I am not in contact with these Jennifers except on very rare occasion; commenting on a Facebook post, for example, or reading a once-or-twice-a-year message from the Jennifer from my high school days.


If the universe were fair to those of us who inhabit it, a pair of strong hands would be giving me a massage right now. From the base of my skull, along both shoulders, down the middle of my back and back up along both sides, those hands would release the tightness of those muscles. With disciplined fingers and a firm grip, a trained masseuse would cause the aches and pains to disappear into the ether, replaced by muscular appreciation.

When I wake up, my lower back complains bitterly about what I must have done to it during the night. My shoulders, stiff and uncooperative, scream at me in a voice only I can hear; cursing my choice of sleeping positions. I blame the extra two and one half hours of sleep I got, but did not want nor need nor agree to. That extra time in bed was an accidental experience, one that should not have occurred. I awoke to pee at four, only to return to bed; getting back in bed was a mistake, as I could not stay awake. And, so, I gave my muscles and joints even more time to petrify. Curses and maledictions. Big damns and little damns. Perhaps resting comfortably in a hot tub for a few hours is what I need. I’ll settle for a massage. Actually, I suppose I’ll have to settle for an unfulfilled fantasy; a pair of imaginary hands performing their magic on me.


This morning, a handyman will install a television wall-mount. And he will install an electrical outlet behind the television, thereby eliminating the unsightly dangles of power cords dripping from behind the wall-mounted entertainment portal. There was a time when I would have undertaken both projects; a very long time, in fact. My bones and joints and muscles were more limber during those years. During those years, I could contort my arms and legs and torso in ways that, today, seem impossibly dangerous and painful. Time has taken its toll on my capabilities; joints that once were as malleable as a rubber band sometimes become inflexible, almost brittle. When those symptoms of decrepitude disappear, as they often do, I feel young and vibrant and ready to take on the world. But when the symptoms are in full swing, I feel old and feeble and angry at myself for deferring my enjoyment of life for so long. Youth tricks us into thinking we are invincible. Old age imbues us with the wisdom that—had we only possessed it—would have made our youth so much more valuable in preparing us for our later years.


My high school graduating class was big. I think more than 600 seniors crossed the stage to collect their diplomas on that celebratory evening roughly fifty years ago. In recent months, I have been following a Facebook group dedicated to my high school graduating class. Though I have not stayed in touch with anyone from my class (I was approximately as introspective and reserved then as I am now), I have reconnected with some people. And when I read updates about someone I once knew, it sparks the resurrection of tiny fragments of memory of my high school experience. Lately, many of the updates on the group page are devoted to death announcements. It should come as no surprise to me that the number of deaths of former classmates is increasing. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. We’re all aging at the same rate. There’s a strong correlation between old age and death; but the definition of old age varies, depending on a number of factors. On the one hand, I remain young; some might say I am immature for a man of my age. On the other, my body proclaims—loudly at times—that I am too old to behave the way I did in my twenties or thirties or forties or fifties. Had I taken better care of my body during its first half-century, I suspect the physical evidence of my geezerhood would not be nearly as obvious and restrictive. C’est la vie. No point in crying over spilt milk.


I once started writing a fantasy short-story about a man who barely heard the almost imperceptible sound of a tiny bell whenever someone else thought about him. He, alone, could hear the bell. Though he knew it signaled someone was thinking about him, it gave him no indication as to whose thoughts included him. But the volume of the sound increased when someone’s thoughts about him were especially vivid. And he noticed that the increased volume seemed to coincide with his own thoughts of three different women. Finally, one day, he mustered the courage to mention his odd affliction to one of the three women.

“I hear you think about me,” he said. “I do not know what you’re thinking, I know only that I am on your mind. Is that crazy?”

The woman’s head bowed slightly, as if reacting in embarrassment to the man’s words. “Not crazy. I hear those bells when you’re thinking about me, too.”

“Bells? You hear bells?”

“Yes,” the woman said, “and I’m not alone in hearing them. At least two other women hear them, as well. And we talk about what it may mean.”

The story, which remains unfinished, was to explore the complications of three competing romantic relationships. I’ve since decided that would be too formulaic. For a while, I thought the story might morph into one about a menage a quatre, but I decided I should probably stay away from writing soft porn…or hard porn, for that matter.

I am not sure what prompted me to think about that short story. Such stuff just comes to me on occasion; as if there’s a message…meant for me to unlock its meaning. But I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no mysterious message. Just one’s own fantasy attempting to justify itself. I was a bit younger then, too. But youth holds no copyright to delusional thinking.


Time to launch into an appreciation of Thursday.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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