Life without labels

One of Us on the Amazon blog posted yesterday about someone amazing in her yoga class, and wondering about where she was (on the way UP, or DOWN, or just who she is), wishing there were little labels to let her know. Naturally I jumped to the conclusion that she meant labels about weight status, but that’s not what she meant at all — what she wanted to know was, is this amazing woman new to this and still so greaName Badgest? or has she been doing yoga for years to develop this strength? Or is this just who she is?

It made me think about labels. We don’t have them for any reason unless we are at an event and walking around with “Hello My Name Is” nametags. It would be a lot easier to see a label or tag on someone and know, “Just Dumped and Devastated” or “Ask Me About My First Trip To Europe”, “Sexual Abuse Survivor” or “Looking For a New Job” or many other variations. It would give us clues and cues as to what to say.

When people who don’t know me see me, they see someone who is significantly overweight. What they don’t see is the invisible label that says “Have Already Lost 100 Pounds”. When people know that part, they treat me differently. I’m not just a fat person, I’m a Fat Person Doing Something About It. But really, I’m the same person whether I’m wearing a label or not.

And we all would need to be covered with labels because we are complex individuals whose lives include families, jobs, political opinions, religious beliefs, food issues, choices of entertainment, etc. There are things we are passionate about and things that have left scars, memories of the past and places lived or visited that overlap in weird ways with other people once we start to delve into them.

All we have to do is talk to someone else to find out something about them. Yes, if there were labels, we would know to steer clear of “Serial Killer Hunting For Next Victim” but really, most people are just people. We all make snap judgments based on appearance, on behavior, on smells (such as the smoke that clings to clothing) – even before the other person opens their mouth.

Just for today, as an experiment, instead of trying to label someone else or jump down their throat for not seeing and honoring my own invisible label, I will take the time to listen and ask some questions and have them tell me things I didn’t know. I think I’ll learn a lot.