I have gone here before in a variety of ways here at The Accident (Wait, is that the name of a Jersey Shore character?). I don’t know if Mama Kat is just trying to draw me out or what, but it’s her prompt so maybe she’ll clean up the mess.
We all love a label. Jock, Brain, Soc (pronounced ‘soash’), Dweeb, Band Geek, Bible Thumper, Stoner, Sped… From earliest age, children are encouraged to locate their ‘thing’, stay with their crowd, and recognize who doesn’t belong and keep them out and not hang out with someone from the wrong compartment.
Then we grow up and we are white collar, blue collar, professional, skilled or unskilled, working poor, unemployed, or homeless.
Historically, it was common, though it is no longer acceptable public behavior, to label people according to race, color,national origin, or creed– wop, chink, negro, kraut, mick ,Catholic, Jew, and Protestant. We have cleaned up our terms, but not our hearts.
It has come in style to have a mental health label. Alcoholism, ADHD, Depression, Bi-Polar, ADD, ODD, RAD, and the increasingly popular OCD. The absolutely best ever: caffeineism.
“What an ugly thing to say, Margaret!”
Have we met?
Let me just explain. I am a bastard, adult child of an alcoholic, college graduate, Native American, lazy, disorganized, lonely, Weight Watchers Lifetime member, SAHM, evangelical, Republican, homeschooler, blogger, doula. I have PMS, Migraines, Arthritis, Anemia, Insomnia and a near genius I.Q.
I live everyday in fear that I am succumbing to the conditions that qualified counselors have identified in my family background– for which the prognosis is poor because lying is fundamental to the differential diagnosis for both.either, so she tells her therapist whatever and they say she needs to get her caffeine under control and that if I work on my co-dependency, hers will go away.
Everyday, I fight for my kids to see themselves as whole persons and not sum total of the labels they can assemble like merit badges– adopted, bi-racial, twin, teenaged, sprinter,…whatever. “Mommy, my friend said I have ADD.”
Here is what a label gets me…
1) An excuse to be served rather than to serve.
2) An excuse to exclude rather than include.
3) An excuse to think we know someone rather than investing the time to know them.
4) An excuse to not try. (Seen the Olympics?)
5) An excuse to dislike someone and to assume they dislike us.
6) An excuse to hurt someone because they don’t matter.
7) An excuse for bad behavior.
8) An excuse to set someone out of our way, make them a statistic, collect extra funding for their presence in our program. Let’s (label) everyone and those who actually need services will ultimately benefit.
9) An excuse to love one person more than others with the same (label). For example; It is okay for Angelina to be a (label) because she is (label); it is not okay for me to be a (label) because I am (label).
9) An excuse to hate without shame.
10)An excuse to further isolate ourselves from each other in a culture gone mad.
But hey…it saves so much time.
“Excuse me, Bitch, but it helps me just to know what I am up against everyday of my life!”
I just did.
Our labels buy us out of the American Dream…which is not “everybody gets to have everything they want and a cute bag to carry it in.” Labels tell children they don’t have to work…it should be handed to them. It tells adults to explain why you aren’t working as hard but should still get to live like the guy who busted his ass and saved his pennies. Their overuse teaches a culture to “work the system” and steals resources from those who truly need assistance and extra understanding. Labels help me step out from under my responsibility for my own situation.
We can’t live without them. It would really take a lot of time to get to know a special needs child without some sort of track to run on. But it shouldn’t come with a padlock. I like a label like “registered sex offender” which should come with a padlock. I know the EMTs love a medical alert bracelet and all the terms that let them know what may be going on with this person. Labels save lives. But. They have taken them, too.
In my family, we say, “That’s just [her].” It is not another excuse as in, “That’s just the way I am; I CAN’T change.” It is how we say, “Understand her as an individual. She will turn out okay. This is irritating in her behavior, but when you put it together with all the good she does, you hardly notice it at all.”
It is love. When we love someone, their diagnosis doesn’t keep us from expecting great things from them. When we love someone their creed, color, or national origin is no barrier to intimacy.
I am linking with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.