Society has this obsessive tendency to try and label every aspect of a person’s existence. From the way we look, dress, act, and other superficial qualities that are believed to define our character. The more you resist conforming to the norms of the people surrounding you, the more labels they throw your way. Our communities are filled with label whores who, instead of dignifying their esteem in the latest high end threads, use labels to call out people (on their flaws) for being who they are.
I stood on the sweltering platform at Union Square, suffocated by my own need to breathe and the swarm of sweaty bodies that overwhelmed my petite figure. Latching onto my bags filled with pamphlets of all the volunteer opportunities from this coming school year, reading my latest book and blasting HAIM through my headphones, I felt a body stand still in my proximity. A young guy approached and stood closer than necessary. Past situations and keen observation made me aware that his intent was to speak to gain my attention.
“Everything is better bite sized.”
Annoyed, anxious and uncomfortable with little space to avoid the pending interaction. I swallowed hard, adjusted my stance and ignored his statement.
As he stepped closer, he asked, “What are you reading?”
I blinked. Still, there was no reply.
“I’m just trying to get to know ya. No need to be an uptight, mean bitch. You hipster chicks read some books and listen to rock music and act like ya’ll too good for conversation.”
Conversations with my friends and others flashed through my mind. All the times I’ve been labeled mean, uptight, the “angry black woman too independent for a man” and I felt a surge of guilt emerge from the whimper of my thoughts. Impending guilt because a man sexualized my being,yet again. Imagine that!
He shook his head, clearly blaming me for what had transpired. I stood perplexed and my flustered gaze was met with the words of a woman standing in earshot of the one-way conversation.
“Sweetheart, don’t worry too much about people like that.” Looking over my person and the charity totes I had clenched to my wrist, she continued.
“Anyone who’s involved with trying to feed the world’s hungry and strengthening the educational system probably isn’t that mean. And from seeing your angst on standing amid a crowd of people, you’re guarded. You’re stern, [You] have a story deeper than meets the eye. Smiles are good for hiding, giggles make life easier. Women are supposed to be inviting and when you ain’t that intimidates folks. I used to be you, don’t sweat people’s perception. Let’s Discuss Diabetes With Owls is a very humorous read you’ll enjoy it.”
She went back to reading her paper.
I felt an instant of relief. It’s rare that someone gets me. Our souls shared a similar story and for once, I didn’t have to explain it. The introvert in me was happy.
It’s weird how strangers sometimes get you more than the people in your life. Or that people see that your behavior comes from the way you’ve been treated throughout life. Many of my experiences with men especially have hardened me but I’m more cautious than jaded. Through it all I have never considered myself more than Christina because labels can be function like temporary fads in the long run.
Society puts labels on you to point out all the things we have been conditioned to think is wrong when people don’t behave in a manner similar to the projected view of the different groups of people in our hierarchical regime.
Depressed. Insecure. Fat. Mean. Jerk. Asshole. Snob. Hippy. Emo. Goth. Coon. Attention Whore.
I used to be one to label people, until I realized it does more harm to the psyche than good. The labels on maps and streets physically navigate our limitless journeys, but in a spiritual sense, they can dock our ships.
The labels allow people to define who they believe you to be. It lets them tell you who you are and points out who you are “supposed to be”. We don’t realize it, but the perpetuation of labels leads people to conceal themselves and impinge on happiness.
We’re labeled. Tags are placed on our conscience and stick to us like the dew of a warm summer afternoon.
Those invisible labels show prominence and we begin to believe what is perceived of us and the judgment manifests itself in our lives. They assume, make selfish rationalizations, and judge on first impressions as if a lifetime can be limited to a few minutes. Old truths become your eternal reputation as if people don’t evolve. And it happens most from the people we’ve known the longest because they become comfortable in deciding who you are instead of who you’re becoming.
You are who you are because of your experiences, the ones people see and the untold ones you tuck away. Labeling you is a way for society to continue to spread groupthink. No matter the slight differences in opinion; we’re all the same – human beings. There’s a solace in labels because it’s easier to form reactions to the imagery of what is wanted of us, then it is to gauge the individualism of non-conforming existences.
You have a destiny and a mission in this Uni-Verse and no one should have the privilege of affecting it. We’re all flawed. Acknowledging these flaws is beneficial for growth but the labels that come along with progress be them good or bad box us in. You never reach your full potential in life at the confines of others.