Defining me

Not long ago, I ran into a guy I went to high school with.

We did the awkward "Is it really him/her? Should I say something? Should I not?  What if it's not him/her?" eye contact thing for a while, then finally he walked over and said "I think I went to high school with you."

Whew.  It was him, and thanks to the magic of Facebook connections, I was able to produce his name with only the slightest awkward pause.  "It's Justin, right?" I asked.

We spent a couple a couple minutes catching up in that stumbling, painful way you do with someone you don't know well and really never did know well, and at one point he introduced me to the lady he was with as "his woman."

I swear I could not make this stuff up if I tried.

Anyway, talk came around to work, as it always does, and he asked me the question I typically dread, which is "What do you do?"

"I stay at home with my kids now," I answered.  "But I used to..." I was going to say "manage a bookstore," but for once I stopped myself, because it shouldn't matter what I used to do.   It shouldn't matter that I don't currently have a "real" job.  It shouldn't matter.

But it does.  Just a little.

So instead of finishing my sentence, I smiled at him and inquired after HIS current employment, but I'm sure he was puzzled by abrupt topic change and I wondered later if maybe he thought I was about to say something kind of unsavory like "I used to be a $10 hooker,"  or "I used to be in prison for smuggling mink coats out of the country," or "I used to be a Republican" or whatever other distasteful thing he might dream up about my illusive backstory.

I wondered why it bothered me.  I told myself that it shouldn't matter, that it DIDN'T matter.

But it does.  Just a little.

Why is it exactly that most of the women I know feel the need to attach labels to themselves, words that describe and words that define them, as if their actual BEING here wasn't enough?  I don't know any men who share this affliction.

Women I know also have a tendency to attach the word "too" to every label they assign themselves - too fat, too short, too poor, too shy, too smart, too dumb, too talkative, too... whatever.  It's sort of like every woman I know is somehow trying to smush down the very essence of what makes her unique.

So not only does the why of labeling escape me, but the how is troublesome as well.

If I feel the need to define myself, should I do it based on what is the most important to me?  If so, I'm a mama, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend.

Perhaps I should define myself based on the things I do the most often.  If that's the case, I'm a laundress, a chauffeur, a housekeeper, a teacher and a short-order cook.

Maybe I should define myself based on my favorite hobbies.  That makes me a runner, a reader, a writer, a quilter, a gardener, a nerd and a crafter.

Or maybe I need to start letting go of these labels altogether, and realize that I am all those things and a  thousand more.  There are days that I am more some, days that I am more others, but it all comes together into one giant, imperfect, inexact, wonderful, messy, blessed creation that is uniquely,  singularly, and mostly harmoniously... me.

I'm just me.

And that's enough.


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  1. This post really resonated with me. When people ask, I say, "I'm a nurse" even though it's now been two years since I worked. I still say I'm recovering from spinal surgery, even though I've recovered as much as I ever will. Why do we do this to ourselves? John starts high school in the fall and I'll be meeting a whole new group of parents. I'm going to come up with a better answer before then - because I deserve it.

  2. Why DO we do this to ourselves? And you hit the nail on the head - we do it to ourselves. I suspect no one, especially people we have just met, really care all that much what we say. It's just part of that awkward dance of "getting to know you." And yes, you definitely deserve to be able to say whatever you want to say when you meet someone new. I'd love to hear what you decide the "right" answer is.


  3. This was most wonderful!!!
    Why can't we all just be prefect, amazing, outstanding, tuff as nails women who wear our hearts on our sleeves!!

  4. This is true for lots of women regardless of whether we are stay at home mums or working mothers. You might like to read this article, he is Australian and his blog is amazing. This post may be a little balm to heal the 'just a little' wound. You are enough. We all are :)



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