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I Am NOT A Bottle of Wine June 8, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Mindfulness, People.

Wikipedia ~ Label (in Public Domain)

I steer clear of labels:

(1) Labels are superficial.

Hypocrites wear labels, claiming to be one thing while doing another.

Actions speak louder than words.

(2) Labels are superfluous.

We don’t have to call ourselves “feminists” to be pro-active in the fight for equality.

All we have to do is keep coming back to the task.

(3) Labels are imprecise. Meanings shift from place to place, person to person, and with changing times.  A label might mean one thing to me and hold a different meaning for you.

When we characterize our actions and beliefs with labels, we can get caught up defending ourselves against out-dated stereotypes and over-generalizations.

(4) Labels encourage people to pigeon-hole us, to presume to know more about us than they do, all based on a label applied to our countenance.

7dwarfsThey ask what we do so they know which cubbyhole to stick us in:  Rich man?  Poor man?  Beggar man?  Thief?  Doctor? Lawyer? Indian chief?

Cocktail party questions are a convenient form of shorthand communication. Nothing more.

(5) Labels are misleading.  The things we have done and the roles we have “played” don’t define the totality of who we are at THIS moment.

“If who you are is what you do, who are you when you don’t?”

Mickey-Ta-Daaa(6) Labels are limiting.  Words can’t encompass the essence of “me.”  Trying to distill ourselves down to a single word or phrase is frustrating.

How could we ever hope to encapsulate our infinite awesomeness in words?

(7) Once we realize we are NOT the labels we wear, we see who we really are.

And we are FREE.

When I first stopped practicing law, I didn’t know how to respond when people asked the ubiquitous question, “What do you do?”

Wikipedia ~ Label (in Public Domain)

I didn’t have a “new label” to apply.

I decided I don’t need a label.
I am NOT a bottle of wine.

Or a banana.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Quote to Ponder:  Our infinite worth lies beyond all labels.

Related post:  Tagline (WP Daily Prompt) * The Most Annoying Question In The Whole Damn World (Delicious Day)


1. Grannymar - June 8, 2013

Nancy, you are my twin! I hate labels for people,or on clothing. I do not want to be an advertising opportunity for some conglomerate. At times I have been known to remove labels on the inside of my clothes because they irritate my skin.

For years, I was known as Dan Molony’s daughter, then Jack Parker’s wife and later still as Elly’s mother!

When Jack died I was invited to join the Minus One Club! It was a group for widows. Have you ever heard of anything so awful – MINUS ONE? I politely declined. I did and do not want to go through the remainder of my life as a jug with a broken handle. My husband died, I didn’t. I will always miss him, but I picked myself up and want to be seen as a whole person in my own right.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

OMG . . . the name of that club is terrible. The Minus One Club! ACK! It sounds like a club for people who’ve lost a limb. 😯

For slightly different reasons, I refused to join the “Woman’s Law Society” in law school. Their goal . . . equality for women in the law. Fine. But what is equailty for women or any other minority really?

Equality for all.

I suggested a name change to the Society for Equality to avoid splintering the focus from equality to a specific subset of equality. They didn’t want to change the name. I didn’t join.

Grannymar - June 8, 2013

In your situation, I would not join either. Equality is Equality and there are no half measures!

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Your attitude is grand, grannymar:

I did and do not want to go through the remainder of my life as a jug with a broken handle.

Right on! 😎

2. aawwa - June 8, 2013

Good stuff! I think that question about who we are when we are not in the workplace is one that can cause some difficulty – I am always re-inventing myself 🙂

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Thanks, Lorraine. When we stop “playing games” in exchange for external applause and accolades, we often discover that enjoying the day-to-day journey IS the elusive destination we’ve been seeking. :mrgreen:

Aah . . . that’s better!

3. Tammy - June 8, 2013

Agree on personal labels! Really want better labeling on my food!

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Agreed. It is hard to avoid Frankinfood when Monsato is polluting our food supply with GMO’s.

Ben and Jerry’s has announced that it will go NO GMO by 2014.

4. Don - June 8, 2013

You have crystallized for me exactly what I feel about labels. Wonderful post, Nancy – such incisive writing. I can see you practiced law – O hell, is that a label?

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Thanks, Don! And thanks for the laugh . . .

As long as you aren’t trying to pigeon-hole or encapsulate me, I’ll accept the label of “practiced law.” 😛

5. wisejourney - June 8, 2013

The what do you do question…….I would much rarther others waited for me to tell them if I choose to…how I spend my time. Labels are an irritating nuisance at the very least.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

The other day, I met someone “new” who fired questions at me in rapid succession, like a machine gun. It became clear she wanted to get a handle on me based on what I do and what I’ve done . . . what do you do? are you retired? how long have you lived here? why did you stop practicing law?

I found it both tiring and tiresome.

People who think they can figure out “what makes someone tick” in the course of a single conversation rub me the wrong way. 😛

6. Piglet in Portugal - June 8, 2013

You are spot on re. labels. People do pidgeon-hole us. I completed my novel recently. The story was about sexual harrassment and bullying in the work place with a romantic twist. It was not exactly erotica but it did have it’s moments. When my friends asked me what the novel was about and started to explain the plot…they just looked at me blankly and then replied. “Oh, I thought you’d write about Portugal” and looked disappointed. I def felt I was typecast as the cheery Piglet, rather than a serious writer. Labels…bah humbug to ’em

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Exactly the right attitude, PiP! And congratulations on completing your first novel. That’s awesome news.

Ego likes to categorize people, places, and things because it wants to believe that the world is a predictable place. Instead of seeing the world as IT is, Ego sees things through the clouded lens of its own perceptions. As a result, Ego is often mistaken in its assumptions. Reality is seldom as Ego perceives it.

When “the boy next door” turns out to be a “deranged serial killer,” people often express extreme surprise:

* I’m astonished. He always seemed so pleasant.
* He always seemed so thoughtful and polite.
* When Mildred was sick, he brought her homemade chicken soup.

Hmm . . . maybe it wasn’t really chicken? Maybe it just tasted like chicken? :mrgreen:

They are “blind-sided” by reality because Ego put “the boy next door” into the wrong box . . .

7. joannevalentinesimson - June 8, 2013

I so agree with you about labels. The analogy with wine is a good one. Where’s the respect for the once-honored “Renaissance person?”
In today’s writing world, we’re supposed to have a “brand” that readers can recognize. I get so frustrated by that idea, because my writing interests span science, religion, health care, and social criticism (no sports or vampires). But yes, I am a feminist. Maybe those of us who think with all parts of our brains will just have to live with the “eclectic” brand.
Unfortunately, it’s brand that’s used in advertising, so we’ll have a hard time selling our writing.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Great example, Joanne. People like to give out advice as if life is one-size-fits-all. When, of course, it’s not.

They tell us what THEY would do if they were in OUR shoes, but they aren’t. WE are. Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is IT. We live IT or we miss it.

If I limited my writing to a single topic in order to establish a recognizable “brand,” I would be bored . . . and stop writing. So, I’ll remain “eclectic” and “unique.” A hodge-podge of interests.

I’ve got it! I’ll call my brand: Shabby Chic! :mrgreen:

8. jannatwrites - June 8, 2013

I don’t like labels, either. I can see your good at handling the interrogation because you practiced law. 😛 Sorry. I had to do it! (The label won’t hurt at all when you peel it off!)

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Thanks, Janna. You made me laugh! She was insistent and persistent in her probing. I’d answer one question and she’d be on to the next.

Maybe she thought I’d be flattered that she found me so “intriguing.” :mrgreen:

9. Andra Watkins - June 8, 2013

I don’t care about labels either, Nancy. I buy things because I like them and/or because I need them. (Though I am not opposed to a certain bottle of champagne every now and then – also because I like it, not because of its name and history.)

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Consumables often benefit from I.D. labels and tags ~ e.g., Lindt Truffles and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. But labeling people based on a tiny facet of their totality makes little sense, except for FANATICS . . . who should be labeled with indelible ink! 😛

10. colonialist - June 8, 2013

I have mixed feelings on this. Labels are necessary to give some basis for communication. Thus an initial conversation might well probe for common ground, and if the label arrived at is a tiny fraction of what is in the bottle, at least it gives a starting point. The mental label can be amended or amplified later. Labels will also vary according to the interests of the person doing the labelling and their own tastes, convictions and prejudices.
Very often misconceptions regarding our own labels lie with us. If I come across as a doddering old pensioner rather than the writer I would like to be seen as, is that the fault of the observers – or of me?The point is that you are going to be labelled, whether you like it or not. What you can do, however, is influence the nature thereof.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

I don’t care about their misconceptions about me. We have as many reputations as acquaintances and NONE is accurate. If someone wants to waste time “branding” me, that’s their business.

That said, I refuse to apply labels to my OWN forehead for their convenience. :mrgreen:

11. Nancy Curteman - June 8, 2013

Another label is the designer label on clothes that shouts “Look at me, I wear designer clothes.” In reality, these designer buffs are just walking billboard advertisements.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Being a walking billboard is a silly way to journey through life. 😀

12. diannegray - June 8, 2013

I love this post, Nancy! When my children were very young and my hubby was a political high-flyer we attended a lot of gatherings with well known people. The first question always asked of me was ‘what do you do?’ ACK! I hated that question because I worked at home and this would cause people to look down on me (I don’t know why!) So I finally got jack of it and would say, ‘I produce and develop the worlds must important resource.’ When asked what that was I’d say, ‘my children.’ LOL 😀

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Brilliant! That’s a FANTASTIC answer, Dianne.

13. SidevieW - June 8, 2013

labels are so limiting

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

Yes. How could we ever hope to encapsulate our infinite awesomeness in a single word or phrase? :mrgreen:

14. ericjbaker - June 8, 2013

My label says I’m high on saturated fat and will give you 250% of your RDA of grumbling.

nrhatch - June 8, 2013

I figured you for a rambling gambling man . . . not a rumbling grumbling man. 😛

ericjbaker - June 9, 2013

Sounds like the Allman Brothers doing a duet with Kenny Rogers!

nrhatch - June 9, 2013

Kenny didn’t rumble as much before . . . I think he got his face tightened too tight. 😆

15. Three Well Beings - June 9, 2013

What a clever way to remember to shed the labels–not a bottle of wine or a banana! I love that. Labels are shorthand and sometimes it’s a temptation to use them, but I completely agree with you that they are limiting, and if we really hold onto them, they confine any growth we might make otherwise! I think I recall from previous posts that you and I both share a real frustration with cocktail party chitchat! I don’t really enjoy speaking in shorthand! 🙂

nrhatch - June 9, 2013

Yes, we do share that frustration. I don’t mind being asked questions at cocktail parties or elsewhere, but if midway through a thoughtful response, “the interviewer” interrupts to ask the next question, and the next, and the next, I tend to clam up. :mrgreen:

16. Pix Under the Oaks - June 9, 2013

I enjoyed this post Nancy. I am not much of a cocktail party person. I can’t even remember the last time I attended one. They make me extremely uncomfortable. I remember all the talk about what CH and I did waaaaay back. I also remember asking you lots of questions when we first met. I was really curious.. 😳

nrhatch - June 9, 2013

Pix . . . you and I and BFF and CH had a CONVERSATION, with give and take, shared information, and all the other GOOD things that conversations offer when people first meet. No worries, mon. 😎

I wrote this in response to a rash of articles stating that women who are for equality should re-claim the label, FEMINIST. I disagree. I don’t think that claiming THAT or any other LABEL will do a thing to promote equality.

17. sufilight - June 11, 2013

Ha! Perfect timing for me to read this post. 😀 I just finished a meditation where I asked myself “who am I prior to my thoughts?” and there were absolutely no labels as it’s all created by the mind.

nrhatch - June 11, 2013

Yes! The logical thinking left brain wants to put things (and us) into neat and tidy boxes (to enhance its conceptual organization and improve retrieval).

Meditation allows us to see past the labels to the “what is.” 😀

18. Susan Rowland - June 11, 2013

Great blog. I especially love this conversation!!!

nrhatch - June 11, 2013

Thanks, Susan. Glad you enjoyed the comment thread . . . it’s often the best part. 😀

19. Perfecting Motherhood - June 12, 2013

I read a very insightful parenting book once and the one thing I remember most from it was the chapter on “labeling”. Parents, teachers, everyone tend to label children. Children hear their own labels and grow up believing them and living up to them. Scary to think! The author suggested saying “he/she tends to talk a lot when he/she’s excited about a subject” rather than “he/she’s a real chatterbox. I try my best not to label my kids, my friends and people around me. Labeling is easy but it’s also very lazy.

nrhatch - June 12, 2013

Yes! We are meant to be static ~ to change, grow, and evolve through life. Labels (such as “shy” or “clumsy”) can “stunt our growth” . . . if we accept them as truths.

We can’t always stop others from labeling us, but we can stop labeling ourselves. “I am . . . that I am.”

20. Booksphotographsandartwork - June 12, 2013

I hate when people ask what I do. Since I don’t have a job or career do I have to say “nothing?” And I was recentlly called the “free spirit” of the family. Ugh I know what that is code for.

nrhatch - June 12, 2013

I’d rather be called a “free spirit” than other less flattering terms, but I know what you mean. It probably is “code.”

Next time they ask you what you do, try giving cryptic answers:
“Oh, a little of this and a little of that.” 😉

Booksphotographsandartwork - June 14, 2013

Now that would be a very true statement. I will have to remember that one.

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

When we face predictable questions, it’s fun to prepare and share “canned responses.” :mrgreen:

Makes for more “original” chit and chat.

21. mrkoenig66 - June 19, 2013

Love this piece, Nancy. I dare to think that hypocrites grow weary and tired of being attached to the label “hypocrite,” too. LOL Oh, the beauty of Namaste reveals to me that there is a bit of everything within me, including moments where, I, too, could wear a post-it note on my forehead with the “H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E” written in the darkest, boldest Sharpie pen. 🙂 Namaste _/\_

nrhatch - June 19, 2013

Thanks! My favorite hypocrites are “Bible Thumping Christians” who pronounce that anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe is going to H~E~L~L.

I’m always tempted (by the devil, no doubt) to respond, “Judge not . . . lest ye be judged.” :mrgreen:

But you’re right about that Sharpie . . . most of us should have a Scarlet “H” on our foreheads.

22. bluebeadpublications - June 19, 2013

I shared my classroom with an Evangelical for four years. She told me I was going to hell for not being onto religion and apparently meditation is the devil’s playground.

nrhatch - June 19, 2013

That’s so funny . . . imagine thinking that “meditation” is evil. What a silly rabbit. 😛

23. windandlaughter - June 19, 2013

i love how clearly you wrote this out =)

nrhatch - June 19, 2013

Thanks! Here’s to being the square peg that refuses to squeeze into a round hole! 😀

windandlaughter - June 19, 2013

*raises glass* absolutely! 😀

nrhatch - June 19, 2013

*clink* 😎

24. elizabeth2560 - June 8, 2014

Hello. I came over to you via you leaving a link on Renae’s blog (aawwa). This is a great post and one I have thought about for a long time. When recovering from my collapsed marriage, in websites and other advice received there were all sorts of labels applied to my situation. Firstly ‘victim’ (of abandonment), then ‘survivor’ (of divorce), then ‘warrior’.
I simply want people to see me as me.

nrhatch - June 8, 2014

Same here, Elizabeth.

I think people apply labels so they don’t have to treat us as the individuals that we are ~ they can stick us in the “victim” or “bully” cubbyhole and treat us in a generic fashion . . . without taking the time to really SEE us at all.

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