Thursday, July 25, 2013


I don't like labels.

Actually, I think that most of the time labels are  ignored, confusing, deceptive -- sometimes harmful -- seriously harmful, even poisonous.

The  labels you put on yourself, labels you put on other people, labels that  are used over and over by us, by scientists, and researchers, are  affecting, infecting, eating away our common sense and sensibility.

One of my magazines, "The Week," is open on to page 46, where I've been reading about Adam  Alter's new book, ''Drunk Tank Pink" that laboriously explains how  labels, such as "under-privileged," "working class," "baby boomer," also labels like "black," white," or "Latino," are prejudicing us. The author goes on  and on about experiments which prove how labels affect teachers, and how  that affects-infects their students.

Hey, I agree. But of course, I realize that labels can be helpful -- hey, if you're shopping labels tell  you the price,  warranty, how to clean whatever it is. And help to define whatever it is -- categorize it so you can phone Amazon and they can access it and put it on your credit card, dammit-- and --

Dammit -- to hell with Amazon!

I'm  biting my tongue, I know what labels have done to me -- I'm dying to write a letter to this author, to his  publisher, to the damn magazine that published the damn article -- blurting out what I wrote in one of  my novels, "Karen of Troy"-- yelling, shouting ...
      " DON'T LABEL ME—you're  killing me with your senior citizen, golden age, over the hill  classifications—don't put me in a category and assign to me the  category's limitations, or tell me what prowess, what heart rate, what  weight suits me/ my age/ my frame, or prescribe the yearly checkups,  those marvelous latest newest procedures that reveal my deterioration --  don't box me, bag me, limit me, fence me in with death-doom statistics  -- when you pin your name-tags on my breast and assign me my costume,  and foretell my future, you're stunting my growth, you're killing me."

I read this to my husband, John Cullum, who said, "This will be a good blog post, if you can get a better ending, Em."

Okay. Okay, O K A Y -- there's a value to a label on a bottle
that labeled "Poison," but NO value, nothing helpful, nothing good comes from having any labels stuck on me.

I know from my life, my career, that if I'm labeled, if I let lable-itis get  me -- I'm done, finished. If I want to communicate and create I've  got to go naked -- yes -- naked, un-labeled, in no category, unadorned,  undefined.

Naked? Yep! It's chilly sometimes, and  silly -- you're vulnerable. I can catch a cold, or feel very old, but I can't be me unless I'm free -- I've got to be free.


Poet_Carl_Watts said...

Good one Em.

Labels fall under roughly two categories:
Those that tell you what to think about yourself.
Those that make less of you.

Even my name is a label but it is not me. It kind of tells me "you're only human". I feel that is making less of me. Though, on a practical side, my mom did need something to call me :-)

I am me and nothing more ever. I am not my name. Poet may describe me, but I am much more. I guess the tone of voice or intention behind the name would make the difference like a "poet" vs the "Poet!"

People that call me "_____," which would be anything not in praise or recognition, are not my friends.

Labels belong on objects not on people!

#KnowledgeIsPower! #AwesomeTeam♥#Odycy☮:-)

Unknown said...

This is a BRILLIANT post, Em! And you're 100% correct.

We've been programmed to relate to the world based on labels, and that has severely limited our interaction with people/things. Extensive labelling is just another thing that has damaged our ability to THINK for ourselves.

And if I wanted to accurately label myself, that list would be LONG! :) I am MANY things, as are you, and all of us, and we should NEVER limit ourselves.

Carola said...

I feel more philosophical about it than you, but I am contemplating what my future will be like when people label me as old. (Right now I don't look anywhere near my age, so my biggest problem is having people expect me to be younger and more vigorous than I really am.) Last night I watched Alec Guinness in The Ladykillers and was bemused how different from 30 years ago my response was to the "old" lady heroine of that movie. I adored her, and I loved it when her old lady friends came over and drowned the criminals with their sociability.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful blogger is my label for you, Em. Give 'em hell!

Anonymous said...

I sure hope John gets to see you walk in "Freedom".

I just have to use my imagination.

....guess who?

Anonymous said...

Love it Em. Mail that excerpt to that magazine, to that guy.
Go for it.
I hate labels on people too.
Some people believe them.
Louise Sorensen
louise3anne twitter

Anonymous said...

Hi Em,
I hate labels too. But the fact is, we're all labelled from the day we're born to the day we die. We're white, black, straight, gay, Christian, Atheist, rich, poor. Even what we choose to eat labels us, vegetarian or meat eater. Where we live is labelled, and that in turn labels us.

I suppose in the end, the only uniqueness we can hope to salvage, is the type of label, and the font we choose for ourselves.

Seville at Nerissa's Life said...

Yup. Sometimes peeps label me, saying "He's just a cat" and don't take what I have to say, seriously. MOUSES!


Anonymous said...

Great blog! Our world today is filled to the brim with labels for everyone and everything. It is almost overwhelming. I don't like it either Em. An example is my handicap sign I post inside the car on the rearview mirror. I use 2 canes and a leg brace to walk and really need and use the sign when parking. But, I see lots of people using this sign who don't look handicapped at all...driving merzedas or cadillacs. You don't need a dr permission now to get one, so it seems everyone is buying them. I especially don't like people being labeled. Thanks for sharing. kam