Sunday, March 12, 2006

Labels By Any Other Name

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I'm long overdue for a post about Labels. I said I'd wanted to write one, and here it is.

Most of my life I was labeled -- sweet, generous, helpful, insighful, analytical, musical...and then there were those that weren't as nice: teacher's pet, browner, nerd, scaredy-cat...

Most kids learn to live with labels; some learn better with them, others are stifled in their personal growth because of these labels.

I've learned that most people do not like labels--labels often mark them as "different," or "odd" or "out of the norm". But sometimes labels help -- they provide some kind of identity, some kind of crutch.

When I was about 27 and having in-depth discussions about personal religious observances, etc., someone said, " you're Conservadox." I asked for clarification and then was thrilled. My beliefs finally had a name! I wasn't teeter-tottering between levels of observance anymore; I was finally called something, and something relatively appropriate for me, for my family. It was no longer I, but WE, who were rightfully called Conservadox.

These days I dislike labels again...they're confusing, there are too many and most people hate to classify themselves. From time to time I go on JDate and to see if people I know who are single are advertising to meet people of the opposite sex. I am amazed by the divisions that you can fall into. Not only am I amazed, but I'm more than thankful that I'm not single, that I don't have to go this route and start classifying myself. wants you to indicate your "Outlook." They have one header: Jewish. Under that is Traditional, Traditional & Growing, Conservative, Conservadox, Reform, Other. (What classifies "Other," I wonder.) There's a second header: Jewish Orthodox. Under that we've got Modern Orthodox Liberal, Modern Orthodox Machmir, Yeshivish Modern, Yeshivish Black Hat, Hassidish, Carlebachian (what, pray tell, does this mean...that you can carry a beatiful tune and lose yourself during the prayer service within the music...?) and Shomer Mitzvot.

G-d forbid a Modern Orthodox Liberal should contact a Yeshivish Black Hat... Perhaps never the twain shall meet. Is that the intent of these classifications for

If being labeled is within my capacity, I'm usually labeled for something positive. I self-label myself mainly for those nasty negative traits: eg. I'm a procrastinator, I'm disorganized, etc.

Right now I'm labeling myself really tired, so I'll stop here. But let me ask this: Have you ever been knowingly labeled in your lifetime? Has it been beneficial for you in any way ora less-than-positive experience?

I thank you in advance for any comments.


cruisin-mom said...

Labels can be good for clarification...but can also be dangerous for getting "stuck" inside of. My family would label me an over-anxious nut-ball!
I like to think of myself as wonderful and funny...

Danny said...

I was labelled "the good one" in my family, "the together one," "the one we don't have to worry about" and though these seem like "positive" labels, they certainly are responsible for a good percentage of my therapy bills.

The Jewish labels from those sites give me the willies. I honestly have no idea what I'd call myself. I certainly don't consider myself Reform even though I belong to a Reform synagogue (but only because my wonderful lesbian rabbi couldn't be ordained anywhere else--it seems WAY more religious than the Conservative shuls I grew up in). I once heard my young orthodox cousin asking his mom, "Is Danny just a little bit Jewish?" Oy.

Sweettooth120 said...

Oh gosh, I am afraid to ask my family how they label me. I think I know already and don't think it's quite positive.

(not my husband and kids of course - they adore me : ) )

torontopearl said...

Thanks for your comments, one and all.
It helps when you can label yourself before someone has to do the job for you!