Categories

So much of my life involves fitting into a category. Sometimes it is quite literal: What genre is the manuscript? and other times it is more of a vague sense when I walk into a room. For example: I recently went to a conference. Entering the auditorium I thought I was simply looking for a seat that would give me a good view of the stage. I also like those seats on the end that stick out slightly for a bit more leg room. Yet there was more to it, because as I looked around I realized I was also judging the people I would sit near. Man or Woman? Young or Old? Conservative image or kind of funky? In the same category as me or in a different category?

Categories impact me daily. Senior discount, Shopper who remembers to bring my own bag, good driver rate on my auto insurance, coffee drinker, or up-to-date on my tire rotation. Where do I fit?

Do I believe in vaccines, bring my own glass “to-go” container to restaurants, wear sandals, swim in the deep end of the pool?

Was I the mother who did my children’s laundry, made their lunches, worked as a room mother?

In other words, am I worthy? Was I a good mother? Do I meet some standard by which I judge myself because society trained me to question if I fit in that category?

Fitting into categories has morphed into my own self judgement. But there is a flip side. In my family of origin we valued NOT being like other people. Creativity and originality were goals. So there are times in my life I am angered at being given a label, especially without my input. I am able to laugh it off externally (“Really? You thought that about me?”) but internally I seethe. Don’t judge me, you’re wrong, how could you ever think that?

As always, writing about this leads me to think. How do I put people into categories? What assumptions do I make because they are male, female, old, young, dressed in polyester, wearing a hat, hiking boots, high heels, sandals with socks? Do I think less of them because they park over the line, turn without putting on their blinker, hand their two year old a mobile phone while in a restaurant?

Hmmm…..(yes, that is a random, accidental shot of my feet, but somehow, I like it anyway.)