Thursday, August 30, 2012

Identities wrapped up in labels...

Old people are so cute, aren’t they? They just ask what they want to know and make no apologies for it. For instance, last night I went to a birthday party and I was sitting next to a bunch of old ladies when one turned to me and said, “I don’t know you. Who are you?”

And since it’s Podunk, I had the standard reply. Oh, you know me. I used to be a Smith. My mother was a Jones. She married my Dad whose parents were Smythes. Totally different from the Smith’s. The Smith’s are from Podunk 1 across the river and the Smythes hail from Podunk 2 over the hill. No, my parents are not third cousins….though 2 of my third cousins did marry each other on my mom’s side. Now do you know me?

Yes, of course, she says.

And then I get the question that I get every time someone in town realizes who I am.

How do your parents like their new house? What was it like to lose everything in an instant to a flood?

I answer and say they are doing great and have moved on and thank them for their concern. It’s a small town and people genuinely care and wonder and in general people are humans so they are just curious. It’s a story. It’s big news. It’s gossip. It’s a big deal in a small town and I don’t mind one bit that they ask. It’s comforting knowing everyone knows what happened. After all, the town came out in a big way when the flood came. They are a good portion of the reason why my mom and dad are okay today.

So anyway – afterwards it got me thinking about labels. About how our names sometimes completely get lost to a label. I don’t think that old woman has any idea what my name is. To her I’m “the girl with the parents who lost their home in a flood”.

That’s totally okay by me. I mean that is a huge part of my identity and my past and even my future. It’s just interesting.

Take for instance, my neighbor who just had a baby. She quit her job before the baby was born and figured out her and husband’s finances enough to know they could get by if she became a stay at home mom. It’s what she wanted.

Until the baby came and her husband went back to work and she said she hates feeling like she has to ask permission to use their money since she’s not earning it anymore. She is not content staying home all day with the baby. It’s not enough. She cannot just be mom to baby P or wife to husband R. She said she needs more words attached to her identity. I told her to do what she needs to do. To each his own. She knows what’s best for her family….and so she’s setting out to find more “labels”.

Sometimes I get completely wrapped up in labels and identities. Do you ever do that? So much that sometimes I forget about the few labels that matter most. The mom, wife, sister, daughter labels that mean more than all the others.

But it’s just human nature and easy to forget who we are at our core and just be the labels and identities we’ve attached to ourselves – or that people have attached to us.

I mean being “the girl whose parents lost everything in a flood” doesn’t bother me. It’s a rare natural disaster and of course people want to talk about it. But there are other labels people attach to us that we hate. Like I’m guessing my little brother hates being labeled “the black sheep of the family”. I know my other brother hates being “the brother that hasn’t gotten married or had kids yet”.

I get to be “the mayor’s wife” – whether that carries a good or bad connotation. I’m the “woman that takes care of some community stuff”.

Or “the one that gets hives”. The “girl with all the landscaping” in town. The “woman married to that prison guard who rides the Harley.” The “woman whose husband is covered in tattoos.” The “daughter who never goes to church anymore.” The “girl who lives in Podunk.” The “blogger who thinks she’s a lizard.” The “girl who married her high school sweetheart.” The “girl who used to run 5 miles a night until she got lazy and chubby.” She is “Watermelon and Banana’s mom.”

There was a time when I was “the girl with the ginormous bahoobies”….so I chopped them off. Ha! Well, that’s not totally why but it’s probably part of the reason I had a breast reduction.

Labels can be powerful. They can be pretty broad or very specific. They’re all interesting. Some people fight all their lives to gain or keep a certain label and some people will fight all their life to get rid of a label. We self-impose some and some are just given to us by others.

It’s just interesting to me. How about you? Do you have labels for yourself or for others? Do you see the people under the labels or just the labels? Do you like your labels or are you trying to get rid of them? Do you want more or less?

Today my label is “girl who can’t wait for it to be Friday so the weekend can start!!” I’ve got football games, cookouts, museum trips and 3 whole days of sleeping in with “the man who is married to Draz” and I cannot wait!!!!


Terrie said...

Funny you should say that. There are several people in my building at work and my friends and I call them by what we see them as. "The creepy guy", "Gina's boyfriend (who isn't Gina's - another girl at works - boyfriend but looks like someone she would date", "The cake lady".

As far as my labels, I have two sisters that have always been thin. I think I will consider myself the fat sister for the rest of my life. It has just become a part of my identity.

Dawnya said...

I'm not a fan of labels. Never have been. I hate it when they announce us and Mr. and Mrs. Husband first and last name. Ummm...hell to the nah Becky...I'm me....I just happen to be married to him...but I'm still me.

jennxaz said...

Some labels I like some I don't. I love being Johnnys mom to all of johnnys friends. I love being Johns wife to my hubbies workmates. I love being a software engineer because I worked my ass off to get here. I hate being the fat mom...or fat wife..but I believe those are labels I gave myself!

Cindy said...

my label just changed again within a week. and not the way i wanted it to. now i feel like i have to reinvent myself AGAIN or go crazy. *sigh*

LDswims said...

I love some of my labels and I wish some of my labels didn't exist but they still make up who I am. The labels I am most proud of are Blue and Green's mom and LHF's wifey. I will also always love that I was my mom's daughter and my grandmother's "youngest daughter's niece". Yeah - she didn't want to be called grandma quite yet when I was born so that was what I was for the first four years. And then somewhere around 4 years old I did become her granddaughter. And I've loved both titles.

I'll always be sad that I wasn't someone's sister. And I'll always hate that I am that woman with endometriosis.

I love that I can label you as my friend. It's always nice to be claimed by someone, I've found, and such simple things as saying "my friend" let's us know we matter. I was 25 before my uncle called me his niece instead of his sister's daughter. Such a weird thing to have noticed but made my day when he finally claimed me as something to him.

angel shrout said...

See I could fill up your comment space, but I won't I am stealing this and running with it if you don't care that is...

MandaPanda said...

I label people as skinny bitches and all that the connotation entails. LOL. I'm sure we all label...but I tend not to think of myself in terms of labels...I used to think of myself as "the fat one" but as I've lost weight, I'm losing that label little by little

Kyla @ Mommys Weird said...

So true. Love this post.

Katy said...

I can totally relate to this. I was a swimmer all of my life, and once I graduated college and was no longer a swimmer, I had no clue who I was. Whenever I would introduce myself, people would go "oh, you're that swimmer", so once I no longer had that label, I felt like I had no identity. It was the weirdest feeling.

Cheri said...

I really love this one too, Draz. I may think about it more and post about it later. Thanks for giving me something to chew on. My experience is pretty opposite to yours. Where you have very deep roots in "Podunk" ;-) my husband and I sort of "ran away from home" and traveled, traveled, traveled. I've had friends tell me they could never live that lifestyle, how hard moving is...but there are things that are hard, and things that are easier. You definitely have a chance to "recreate yourself" all the time, when you are always starting over in a new place.

angel shrout said... there is your shout out darling

Ronnie said...

Definitely not a fan of labels. At school I get "the twins' mom." Umm, no. I'm the boss... they're "Ronnie's kids."

I'm from a small town, too, so I'm "Ronnie's-dad's daughter." Sigh. It can be frustrating... but also comforting.