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.