At some point during high school, people started calling me by my surname. I’m not sure who started it, but there’s a good chance it was merely the byproduct of an abundance of Matthews kicking around the place, and I’ve nothing against a bit of pragmatic nomenclature.
Somewhere along the way though, the meaning changed. My name became synonymous with mockery, to the point where hearing it actually hurt. I remember so vividly the way this one kid used to say it, like I was a joke and my name was the punchline, and let me tell ye, it cut deeper than any of the classic insults ever could.
To have something that is so fundamentally yours and have it turned on you is very difficult to grapple with as you’re developing. You can’t escape it. It has a specificity that the generic brand of insults lack by definition: this venom is aimed at you, and only you, and you can’t share that burden with anybody else because this ridicule is tailor-made, hand-crafted, custom-built, solely for you.
Looking back, I could handle getting hassled for being skinny, and spotty, and small, and wearing glasses, and having scraggy long hair. These were things I could look to others with whom I shared these universally attractive traits, and see they were also getting grief for them (kids are so cruel, man). I could take solace in the fact it wasn’t me, it was my skinniness; a trait outside of my core self.
But the name thing? This was different. This was ‘we don’t have a word to express our lack of respect for you, so your name will have to do.’ This was ‘it’s not because you’re skinny, or spotty, or small, or pale (forgot that one), or because you wear glasses, or because of your scraggy hair. It’s because you’re you.’
Thankfully, I grew up and my circles evolved, but for a while the name lingered (well. it’s not like it was going anywhere is it?), and like prodding an old wound, it took a very long time for the aching to subside. These days I can hear my own name with pride, as through a rigorous course of self-understanding and self-development I’ve come to be able to view it through the appropriate lens. But I don’t for one second think to detract from the pain teenage Matt endured along the way. I’d love to be able to go back to that kid and be like ‘listen bro, it’ll be sound in a few years, I know that doesn’t help now, but you’re gonna be alright.’ Again, that bloody time machine letting me down.
And it’s given me some beautiful gifts. I have no doubt my powerful sense of empathy for the pain of others is deeply rooted in my own, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
As an interesting aside, my decision to use the surname ‘Jenko’ as my public name doesn’t actually have anything to do with these experiences growing up. It’s literally just because I have one of those surnames where you have to spell it out as you say it if you want anyone to ever have a hope of pronouncing it right, never mind nailing the spelling, and so Jenko just felt like it’d be a lot less hassle to deal with. I was also proper into 21/2 Jump Street (can’t remember which one) at the time of choosing, and so that, as they say, is that.
Have a bloody lovely day, ye beautiful bastards!
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About the curator - Matt Jenko
Hi my name is Matt, but my friends call me Matt. I’m on the wrong side of 29 (damn I hate it every time I have to update that number), definitely feeling my age, but never felt happier and more content than I do at this point in my life. I’ve been through some rocky patches (who hasn’t) and lived to tell the tale, and boy do I gots some stories.
When I’m not giving opinions absolutely nobody asked for, I’m doing a worldbuilding with my passion project, vivaellipsis. If you like offbeat nonsense delivered through immersive escapism, then go and get involved. Or don’t, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m not yer boss.
I’m a simple man with simple interests. I like Yorkshire tea, the sound of rain on the window, and a bloody good story.
9 August 2021
What today’s insight has granted me is the knowledge that if you don’t check in on yourself, you’ll lose touch with yourself. You’ll become unfamiliar with each other, and it feels very strange. I honestly think this is what it means to feel out of sorts.
27 May 2021
The cinematic score to your psychological journey with Matt Jenko. Featuring artists like: Bonobo • Yotto • Emancipator • CamelPhat • ODESZA • Carpenter Brut • Tinlicker • Four Tet • Jacques Greene • Tchami • RÜFÜS DU SOL