Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Labels We Wear

(This has taken me days to type because I'm recovering from surgery and get a cramp in my newly repaired bicep after a few paragraphs. I needed to get it out though, so here it is.)

My 12 year old daughter came to me a few weeks ago. She said she wanted to get gauges.

Yup, gauges, as in stretch your ear lobe to massive proportions to fit around a piercing big enough to dunk a basketball through. Those gauges.

I managed not to panic.

I then pulled out "The Talk." No, not the one about sex, because we've had that and will continue to have it as she ages. No, I pulled out the other "Talk" that I've been formulating in my mind for years. It's the talk I wish someone had given me when I was her age, you know, when I lived in Reno and thought the "fancy women" on street corners and the even LESS clad women on casino billboards were the kind of women all men wanted.

Apparently not everyone has this talk in their arsenal though, so today I am going to give it to you.

Imagine you and I are in a car driving around. We see a building. On the front of the building there is a sign that says "Elementary School." What do you suppose happens inside that building? What do you suppose people go there for? What would you expect when you walked through that door?
I won't answer for you. Let's continue our drive.

Look, there is a building with a sign that says "Bank." What do you suppose happens inside that building? What do you suppose people go there for? What would you expect when you walked through that door? What is that building?

Now, here's one with no sign that we can read. It has big boxes of fruit out front. It has dried peppers hanging on a string from the red tile roof. It has a sombrero hanging on the wall next to the aqua-marine painted door. What is that building? What do you suppose people go there for? What would you expect when you walked through that door? What kind of people do you think go there the most?

There's another building, it has a steeple and great big front doors.

What about that one? The tiny one right by the football field. What happens in there?

How do you know?

Well, dear, people are like buildings. What people see on the outside, written or presented without words tells them something about that person.

It's obvious when it's a word, like "Budweiser," "Aeroposatle," or "YMCA" that the person wearing that label wants you to identify them with a particular brand, group, lifestyle, orientation, or organization. Most labeling is more subtle though, and unless you know something about that group/brand/lifestyle you may miss the labels.

Now picture this, you see a woman. She is in Wranglers, boots, a ruffled blouse, long ringlets going down her back. Her boots are scuffed and dusty, her hands are chapped. What kind of music do you suppose she listens to? What kind of house do you think she would like to live in?

Using basic human logic, we would say, country and she'd love a nice rambling ranch or better yet a log cabin with a fireplace and a view. Why? Because we read her labels, the labels she chose to wear.

Picture a man all in black, pale skin, pierced everywhere, eyeliner, black lipstick, chunky shoes. (I pause for some of you to silence your inner kitty.) He carries a big thick book and looks at no one, at least when they are looking he doesn't.

I'm not asking you to judge him, I'm just asking you to read him. What does his appearance tell you? Do you think he's at home on the range? Do you see him Latin dancing with one girl after another Friday night? What is he telling you with his self-applied labels?

Personally I love pretty much everyone. Who I select to be my nearest and dearest has little to do with their labels. I still read them, I still understand what they are consciously or unconsciously trying to say about themselves, but I look past them and look at the soul.

Most people don't have time for that, or won't take time for that unless the initial labels match their own. We all SHOULD. That's what God WANTS us to do, but let's face it, most people don't. Judging is wrong, and we should never avoid people based on their looks, but don't make the error of thinking that others don't make snap decisions based on how YOU present YOURSELF.

You need to identify, understand, and make a choice about how you are advertising yourself. What does your haircut, your favorite shirt, your car, your jewelry, say about you?

I told my daughter that if she really wanted gauges that given time and thought if she still really wanted them, then I wouldn't stand in her way. She needed to understand the culture with which people would lump her first. It is a culture that doesn't like rules. It is a culture that includes a lot of really "cool" or "sick" (as they call it now) stuff. It is also a culture through which drugs runs rampant. I told her that if that is where her friends are, that's okay, because I know very well how accepting people in that culture can be of people who are different, or at least who feel different. I don't blame her a bit for liking them.

My concern was the drugs. We had the drug talk long ago. So when I pointed out that drugs would be all around her if that was the culture she identified herself with, her eyes got big.

I still went out the next day and got her fake gauges, just like I've made her Vampire jewelry, buy her goth style dresses, and got her a fedora. I know she's just trying on all these things, I know she's just trying to pick her labels. I'm pretty cool with whatever ones she picks too, because I know who she is, even if she's still figuring that out. I'll see past whatever labels she wears because I love her. I just hope her labels give others that chance, because she is one of the most beautiful souls in the world and everyone should get the chance to know and love her.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Thora,
I'm sure you don't remember me. You are a bit younger, my sister Heather Foltz's age, but I rememeber you. My name is Alicia. I lived around the corner from you, in Smithfield. We got to 'hang out' a few times. Go on some double dates. Anyway, I came across your blog through Heather and have loved reading your work. Stunning. You are very talented. In particular, I love this piece. I plan to add it to my arsenal of life lessons to deliver to any, and all, of my five children. It's brilliant. I hope you don't mind. I wish you the best in your endeavors.