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Self-Help

The Jennifer Berman Club

We all have doppelgängers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with them. One Jennifer Berman reaches out to other Jennifer Bermans.

Daniel Rozin, Snow Mirror, 2006. Photo courtesy bitforms gallery nyc.

I’m not Jennifer Berman, the sex therapist. Or the cartoonist. Though if I were, my cartoons would be exactly like hers. My favorite is the one of a huge auditorium with only two people: a man seated in front and a woman way in back. The banner for the event reads: Adult Children of Normal Parents Annual Convention. And I love her drawing of a cat that moves when you click on the links on her homepage. Which brings me to my point. Jennifer Berman, the cartoonist, scored the website JenniferBerman.com. A blond realtor in LA snagged JenniferBerman.net. All that’s left is .org, which makes me sound like an organization, and .info, which I think is fine, but my tech-savvy friends say I’ll come up last in searches.

Not that it matters. I can always give out my web address. It’s not like people I don’t know will be looking for me. And if they do, they’ll find the cartoonist’s site first and have a good chuckle.

The most famous of us is the sex therapist. She was a regular guest on Oprah, and even she couldn’t get our name and had to settle for DoctorJenn.com. The cartoonist beat us all to it. I’d love to meet her. Not only is she hilarious, but she looks friendly and down to earth. Like me, she’s an animal lover. She’s pictured with two of her four dogs on her bio page, has cats, and even miniature donkeys. I’ve thought about writing her. But what would I say? I’m Jennifer Berman, too?

I did once write the woman who has the email address JenniferBerman@Gmail.com. She signed up first so I had to use my middle initial in my Gmail account. An uppercase “L” is fine, but lowercase it’s just a thin line that totally gets lost. People will say they sent me something and then realize they forgot the “L.” So I emailed JenniferBerman@Gmail.com, introduced myself, and asked if she’d forward my messages. But I never heard back.

I asked her if she was the one in publishing. She said no, but didn’t volunteer what she did. I guess I’d hoped we’d swap Jennifer Berman stories and maybe become friends.

A guy once asked me out on my voicemail and I kept trying to figure out how I knew him before I realized he had the wrong Jennifer Berman. Which was a shame, because he sounded cute. I called him back—in part because it was the nice thing to do, but mostly because I thought maybe we’d hit it off. But when he didn’t answer I just left a message explaining the mix-up, without leaving my number.

This year at temple on Yom Kippur, before the service started, a woman ran over to my seat and said she’d given me the wrong ticket. It was for another Jennifer Berman who was waiting out front. I found her at the check-in table. She was young—about 30 and pretty, with long, gold-streaked hair. I asked her if she was the one in publishing because I’m frequently mistaken for her. She said no, but didn’t volunteer what she did. She wasn’t particularly friendly and seemed to think I was a bit of a nut. I guess I’d hoped we’d swap Jennifer Berman stories and maybe become friends. At first I thought maybe she didn’t share my excitement because she got our last name through marriage. But that wasn’t it. She was born Jennifer Berman, but meeting me meant nothing to her.

A friend suggested that I add a suffix to form a domain name, like JenniferBermanNYC.com. But what if I leave New York? I was thinking of something like JenniferBerman-the-last-person-in-the-world-to-get-a domain-name or JenniferBerman-late-to-the-party.com.

The truth is, I’m not sure I’m ready for a website. While the cartoonist was building a body of work, I didn’t yet know that I wanted to write. Websites, like alumni magazines, are a good showcase for those who have stuck to one thing. But to be nearly 50 and beginning a third career—my life doesn’t translate well to an About Me blurb.

I’d like to wait until I’ve published more essays and maybe a book. But they say you don’t exist without an online presence. A website is the business card of yesterday. It’s like how we now have Facebook, when we used to have friends.

I once read an article about Betty clubs. Having the name is the only requirement to join. They had a convention in Hastings, Neb. Sixty-four Bettys bonded, sang the Betty Anthem (sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”), and chapter leaders reported on their groups recreational outings and charitable projects organized in their name.

The cartoonist, the sex therapist, and I—we could organize the first Jennifer Berman convention. I could host it in New York. The cartoonist could make the invitation—like my favorite cartoon, except instead of a nearly empty auditorium it would be packed with Jennifer Bermans, in seats and standing in the aisles, talking to each other, laughing, hugging, excited to pool our creative resources and do great things in the world. The banner would read: The Jennifer Berman Annual Convention, and in small letters at the bottom we’ll include our website: JenniferBerman.org.

Jennifer Berman’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Petside, and Ducts webzine, and is included in the anthology The Man Who Ate His Book: The Best of Ducts II. She can be found online at JenniferLBerman.com until she comes up with something better. More by Jennifer Berman