Cornered

Wife. Mother. Author. Friend. Teacher. Optimist. Artist.

To a lesser extent… Chef. Organizer. Gardener. Runner. Risk taker. Philanthropist.

And just a little less… Activist. Adventure-seeker. Traveler.

Have you caught on yet? These are just a few of my labels, the hats that I wear. (Or that I think I wear. Maybe I should have let my husband or my friends write these lists.) And, you know, as much as I resist being labeled, I actually like these distinctions. I like the woman that they strive to define. But I know there are other things that I am. (Or that people think I am.) Less appealing things…

Opportunist. Narcissist. Pacifist. Cynic. Worry-wart. Even (and I hate this one) dumb blonde.

Like the photo? This is my dumb blonde look. See how I’m twirling my hair? That’s what us dumb blondes do when we’re bored or confused. That happens to me a lot — I am, after all, a natural blonde.

All sarcasm aside, I have to admit that there is a sliver of truth in even the things that I passionately resist — I am a dumb blonde. Sometimes. Like this morning. I ran my entire 5k in a shirt that was on backwards and inside out. Everyone I met on the trail got a good look at my tags and the big, yellow logo of my Under Armour shirt. See? A little ditzy sometimes… Though, in my defense, I did get dressed in the dark.

But believe it or not, I’m not blogging today to discuss my hair color or even the many personal labels that apply (or don’t apply) to me — and to you, too. I want to talk about why we hate being labeled so much and start the dialogue about why labeling is sometimes necessary…

In addition to being all (most?) of the things I listed above, I am also claustrophobic. Nobody puts baby in the corner and escapes unscathed. One of the guys in my high school once wrapped both his arms around my shoulders, lifted me against his chest, and took off down the hallway with me. Well, he was big and I couldn’t move, and it didn’t take long for the panic to set in. I asked him nicely to put me down. Then I begged him to put me down. Finally, I did the only thing my frantic mind could thing to do — I wiggled my hands so that I could get a grip on his forearms with my fingers and clamped down with all my might. I made him bleed.

Horrible, isn’t it? He should have let me go, but I shouldn’t have reacted the way that I did. What can I say? We do some pretty crazy things when we feel cornered.

I think labels make us feel cornered. They make us feel like we’ve been backed into a place that we may or may not want to be — but the point isn’t that we’re there, it’s that someone put us there. I resist the label novelist, because I also consider myself a poet, a lyricist, a storyteller. And sometimes I don’t like being called an optimist because I have a pretty wicked cynical streak. Labels limit us. They dump us in categories with people that we may not like or want to be associated with. They come bursting at the seams with all sorts of connotations and baggage. Sometimes they even drive us to be reactionary — to do everything in our power to be the exact opposite of the label we’ve been given. (And sometimes we just do that naturally… Ever met a timid extrovert? You just did — I can be, in turns, wallflower shy and the life of the party.)

How about you? Do labels make you feel cornered? Or do you like knowing who you are and where you stand? I’d love it if you’d take a minute to comment… And then come back on Friday for the rest of the discussion. Labels make me feel cornered, but I’m starting to stake my claim in the landscape I’ve been given. Believe it or not, I’m actually hunkering down, getting to know my neighbors, and embracing the fact that I am indeed an activist author with worry-wart tendencies… And oh, so much besides.

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