Quick- what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word “labeling”? Chances are it will tell a lot about where you are in life. If you are sending a kid off to school, labeling may bring thoughts of cliques and tearful stories of shunning. It may bring up the morning’s last minute thought to reattach a name-tag to a sippy cup. The corporate and career worlds have various meanings for “labeling” as well. Some people think of the glories of the Container Store. Labels are everywhere; they are a part of life.
This is where my disclaimer clauses should be to prepare you, my delicate readers. This is NOT about judging others or the harm of labels; quite the opposite. When I hear variations of “It’s not kind to label others/ judge people before you get to know them/ etc.” I just want to blow a whistle and throw a flag down on the play. 15 yard penalty for throwing out a vague cliché that violates everything in the human condition. Labeling has been given a bad connotation because of ONE definition. Just think of a world without warning labels, instruction stickers, or manuals. They may seem self-explanatory and unnecessary from time to time, but I would miss them. I can’t tell you how many potential Justin Beiber or Twilight conversations I’ve avoided from identifying t-shirts alone. Likewise, unlabeled items in the pantry can make for a very bad day.
I personally love labels. After 5 moves in 5 years, it helps a lot to have labels and organizers. A fellow military wife has a totally organized house and has been known to panic if she can’t locate her industrial label maker that her husband gave her as a gift. (She was ecstatic.) The word “labeling” makes her think of excitement and peace. After years of repeatedly organizing the chapel resource room, we all need a little therapy.
In the defense of categorizing and labeling, I present to you a few instances from this week where a very clear label over a person’s head (like the hats in Arby’s commercials) would have been VERY helpful.
1) Man ahead of me in line: Bad burrito for lunch. STAY BACK 200 ft.
I mean, really. Good Lord. You are standing still, not crop dusting. We know it was you. You could hold up a bank without use of weaponry, Sir.
2) The co-ed bending down: Forgot underwear today because I was late for my plumbing class.
Dearheart, I can’t wait for you to reach spackle and grout day, let alone laundry day.
3) My diaper bag: Contains everything except diapers. Please restock before leaving the house.
That would have been VERY helpful, thank you. A few diapers and my left shoe are still MIA.
4) The 70 year old cowboy walking two disobedient rat-fluff dogs weighing about 10 lbs: I love my wife and am too tired to fight. Sadly, the young woman 100 ft in front of him had two big hunting dogs. Thou shall not covet, you poor man.
5) Everyone buying or wearing neon animal printed skinny jeans: I really missed the 80s/ I wish I had been born in the 80s. Adequate commentary would necessitate another blog.
6) Fellow ‘tired looking’ mom getting groceries: I had to choose between looking good and smelling good today. Thank you. I believe you made the right choice.
7) To the poor woman seemingly ignoring the “Excuse me”s at the restaurant soda dispenser: Broken hearing aid. I have no idea why you are scowling. Poor thing.
8) Sports bra and spandex-only jogger stopping traffic: I bought them, but I won’t pay the car insurance premium when you wreck. Rubbernecking should be a competitive sport. Unfortunately for drivers like me, it can sometimes be a contact sport. Eyes on the road, please!
9) Guy stretching a little too liberally in those running shorts: Going commando. Look away, Dixieland. Yes, I just dry heaved. It wasn’t the pregnancy- it was you. Have you met the plumbing student from #2?
10) Car driving 10 below the speed limit with “Praying for America”bumper sticker: I’m praying with my eyes closed, hence my driving. Oh, I will see you again in another blog with the other road hazards, Sir.
It’s not the label; it’s how we perceive the label and react to it that causes problems. The world is full of instances full of TMI and problems that could be avoided. Pay attention to the warning labels, my friends. They’re here to help.