Labels, tags, logos, call them what you will. But please don’t label me.

Rambling, stream of consciousness post here…

Labels have become my bêtes noire. Okay, they’re useful on packets and jars, machinery, equipment and shops, and for identifying people you want to seek out at conferences, but as for most of the rest of ’em, you can keep ’em.

Clothing labels are far too often scratchy and irritating. The ones at the backs of the collar prickle napes of necks, while the ones on inside seams make for unseemly scratching and clothes-plucking. I much prefer brands where the manufacturer’s info is printed on the reverse of the fabric.

But the labels that really get my goat are those we have had to learn to live with: Baby Boomers, Gen Ys, Gen Xs, Millenials, Grey Nomads—you get the picture. The last example I find particularly trite—demeaning even. The other day I was having a discussion with someone who was painting a word picture of the supposed great divide between the generations and why blame was laid; you know the sort of thing, it’s gone on forever. Anyway, I was quick to point out that I share being a Baby Boomer with Donald Trump. I pray to all that’s reasonable it’s the only thing we have in common.

Then of course we can get quite political. Do you vote green or are you a green or a greenie? Are you a communist, Tory, Trotskyist or fascist? Are you rich or poor? Old or young? Religion—ah yes, that elephant in the room. Are you gay or straight? Or don’t you fit into either category? Married or, perish the thought, a singleton, bachelor, a spinster—or much worse because it’s a real nothing word-cum-label—a bachelorette? And what about labelling things, illnesses perhaps, we can’t even see? Are you an addict? An epileptic? A coeliac? A diabetic? A haemophiliac?

None of these things are YOU, nor should they define you. Should we wish to label ourselves that’s fine by me. I, after all, am a white woman fast approaching her three score years and ten, but that’s surely it’s for me to decide if I want a sticker on me. It’s not for someone else to do.

In so many ways we celebrate our differences; everyone of my friends is different from another. Long may it last. We are all unique and yet we are all one. We are not some demographer’s superficial artificial construct.

On a lighter note, and here’s the rub as it shows how fickle I and my thoughts can be, a label I liked simply because it amused me and which, sadly, seems no longer to be in use, is: KIPPERS – Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eating Retirement Savings. An aside; I read that ‘kipper’ can (apart from simply being a smoked fish) mean all sorts of things—some unsuitable for a refined page such as this—and some as innocuous as describing one of those wide ties so fashionable in the 1970’s. What, I wonder, happened to ‘grockles’ which was used en famille to refer, gently rudely, to wrinklies, oldies etc? It probably relocated from Devonshire where it’s used in a derogatory fashion to describe tourists. Far too un-PC to use such phrases any more except among disrespectful friends and family. More power to them.

And another thing (thank you, Kathleen Noonan).

I read the other day of a person who gently chided a journalist for writing that someone had ‘committed suicide’. This is a hangover from pre-1961 UK, as opposed to the state of Victoria where the legislation changed in 1900, when people who ‘committed suicide’ (as others commit murder or a robbery) were deemed not fit to be buried on consecrated ground—for heaven’s sake (irony intended). A more fitting term might be that so-and-so took their own life or died by suicide. We, as a family, have known young people who took their own lives—far too many of them. We’ll never really know why they did so, but one presumes it was because life had become too awful and, in the end, was far less appealing than the finish of the suffering. I have yet to attend the funeral of someone of my age who took the suicide route.

By the way, just in case you were wondering: apparently the phrase ‘get my goat’ comes from the US. Some flighty racehorses need and like the calming influence of a special goat as company. In the past (only in the past?) unscrupulous ne’er-do-well race-fixers stole the goat to upset the horse and its race-running.

Category(s): Creative writing
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6 Responses to Labels, tags, logos, call them what you will. But please don’t label me.

  1. Great post! I despise labels as much as you do and find acronyms more prevalent and confusing than ever before.
    Here is another – DINK: double income no kids and FEAR: false evidence appearing real. The list goes on and on.

    • Hello Mary – I knew I wouldn’t be alone! I knew DINK, but FEAR is a new one to me. Mind you, it’s very relevant for today’s world of False News. Cheers – Margie

  2. I always learn things when I read your posts Margie. Smilie: :) Good read.

  3. Margie, what a wonderful post. Thank you. I never knew the ‘goat’ reference, but how fascinating to know that horses find goats soothing. And the ties? I remember them with a certain amount of horror. If my memory serves me well, they were usually violently colourful, floral and big enough to use as a napkin. Grockles. Ahhhhh, that lovely, private, peculiarly English word. Only used in my youth as a description of ‘outsiders’, tourists, or foreigners (who were likely from the next village over). I still use it, but now it is no longer in general usage and has to be explained, it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but still it slips out from between my lips with a satisfying regularity and whips me back in time to my misbegotten youth. I think that every generation since time immemorial has been different in some way from the generations before and after. But there are infinitely more similarities between them than differences. We are humans and experience ‘life’ in much the same way, no matter our age, our generation, our wealth or health, our aspirations and disappointments. We have two indisputable common factors. Birth and Death. What happens in between is up to us, but unless we are a Mozart, a Pliny or a Bernard Shaw; a Rembrandt, a Galileo or a Shakespeare, our humdrum lives play out in much the same way. It’s certainly humbling. If you HAD to have a label what would you choose?

    • I’m so pleased you enjoyed reading it, Heather. Yes, every generation is going to be different from the others because of the pressures, constraints, freedoms etc of their time. We should, I feel, celebrate those differences and not be so quick to see them as ‘faults’.
      Yes, too, we all share Birth and Death, and we breathe the same air, drink the same water, bleed the same colour… And then there are animals. They too breathe the same air, drink the same water and bleed the same colour.
      Hmm, if I had to have a label I hope it would be: Loving (because I sure won’t make the Pliny et al stakes!). I still see the world as (mostly) a good place filled with (mostly) good people. Naive? Probably. Hopeful? Definitely.

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