What are your labels?

I came of age during the nineteen-eighties and nineties. If you didn’t, sucks to be you. We had most of the advantages and none of the soon-to-be identified disadvantages of the information age.

Despite the geographic and temporal advantages of my birth, I struggled. Nature, nurture, and life experiences created a perfect storm of eating disorders, mental illnesses, and tigers, oh my. I can’t imagine how much worse things would have been had I been trying to navigate life online as well. [i]

Not everything about the modern era is bleak. Much of it is a very good thing, despite the current, I-forgot-my-history rise of the political far-right.

Evolution continues.

One of the modern conventions that I enjoy (is that the right word) is the increasingly expansive way we’re looking at human beings. If we must categorize, and it seems we must, binary is the worst of choices. Little in life is either/or once you leave the toddler years behind.

I like expanding the definition of normal when it comes to people. [ii] The either-or of the modern, traditional male-female dynamic never sat right. And, why would it? It’s a construct, not something that’s innate to the species. And while the construct fits many, all that feel excluded by binary choices welcome the evolutionary change.

Pronouns are everywhere now. Even people who choose not to embrace the idea that life is more than binary are aware that things are changing. I find that she/her/we fits me the best, the plurality of the last making me just that little bit different from most of those in my circle.

So, down with pronouns. But what about labels.

There are so many labels and they don’t tell people as much as we think they do. Give us a label and we assume we know all. It’s remarkably short-sighted: it presumes a definitional singularity we’d be outraged to be the target of. We’re legion, after all, with each teacher being very different from the rest. [iii]

All of which made me curious about my labels. I’m ready to give an accounting, though apologies in advance to The Ting Tings. [iv]

What are your labels?

That's not my label

Four letter word just to get me along
It's a difficulty and I'm bitin' on my tongue
And I, I keep stallin' and keepin' it together
People around gotta find somethin' to say now

Holdin' back every day the same
Don't wanna be a loner
Listen to me, oh no
I never say anything at all
But with nothin' to consider they forget my name (ame, ame, ame)

They call me mom
They call me daughter
They call me sis
They call me “hey”

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me quiet
But I'm a riot
Mary-Jo-Lisa
Always the same

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

I'll miss the catch if they throw me the ball
I'm the last chick standing up against the wall
Keep fa-fallin', these heels that keep me borin'
Getting clamped up and sittin' on the fence now

So alone all the time and I lock myself away
Listen to me, oh no
And though I'm dressed up out and all
With everything considered they forget my name (ame, ame, ame)

They call me GM
They call me Admin
They call me teach
They call me “Hey”

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me quiet
But I'm a riot
Mary-Jo-Lisa
Always the same

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

Are you callin' me liberal?
Are you callin' me b*tch?
Are you callin' me liberal'?
Are you callin' me mentally diseased?

They call me coach
They call me Kelly
They call me her
They call me Em

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me quiet
But I'm a riot
Mary-Jo-Lisa
Always the same

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me writer
They call me gardener
They call me nana
They call me volunteer

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me quiet
But I'm a riot
Mary-Jo-Lisa
Always the same

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

They call me stubborn
They call me proud
They call me kind
They call me sane

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name

So alone all the time and I lock myself away
Though I'm dressed up out and all
With everything considered they forget my name

image credit: razzle.ca

[i] The high school bullying I experienced would have likely proved fatal. It nearly did without that amplification of social media. Luckily, I lost my temper. “Permanent victim” is a role I dislike. Seriously.

[ii] Normal: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. Also, intersecting a line or surface at right angles.

[iii] Or janitor, or CEO, or sister, or skateboarder. My first thought was actually CEO, but I rejected it.

[iv] That’s Not My Name, Songwriters: Katie White / Jules De Martino, lyrics © Playwrite Music Limited


8 thoughts on “What are your labels?

  1. I find I self-label a lot more in the online world than I ever did in real life before. I suppose it’s partly the nature of the medium to try to distil complex things down into simple words, and partly that my ways of being (or not being) are less subtle than they used to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting: you touch on the labelling as a choice. I didn’t make that distinction. I used to be quite anti label (in part, I think, because it’s a way to refuse treatment), but that was before my brain became a categorical fan of categorization.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually hate labels on clothes and stuff, but somehow I seem to label myself with things, because it seems to be the only kind of thing people understand to an extent, or a way of communicating what you are like through labels. And that seems to be a huge thing these days.
    Labels do not actually make you know a person at all. And even if you have the same mental illness as someone else, people are very different in how they feel.
    But we seem to live in a world full of labels, they are absolutely everywhere. It’s gotten a bit silly…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. Labels only trick us into thinking we know things. Categories, subcategories, and so on. To me it also feels like a shortcut. We don’t take time anymore. Thanks for commenting 💖

      Liked by 1 person

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