oh, man. ohmanohmanohman. is it a knot? like a crush on a cute boy. or a burn? like extreme hunger. or a tiny muse? who takes up sudden residence in my upper belly region. whatever it is, it's impossible to ignore. so here i am, writing. and today it's courtesy of a facebook friend posting about identity, about her frustration with how it is cultivated and presented and misconstrued and misappropriated.
and i found myself commenting in my head, about my own identity:
i am a writer. an editor. a mom. a single mom. a pit-bull owner. a runner. a food-label reader. a west virginian. a former sorta-memphian. one-time south beach girl. past new yorker. way-amateur seamstress, jewelry-maker, collagist. wannabe forgiver. master verbal pugilist. habitually abrupt. habitual self-improver. one-day author. sister. daughter. cousin. friend. coffee craver. thinker. analyzer. challenger. challenge seeker. fairness fixator. fence rider. all-day-long daydreamer. better in theory. a work-in-progress in practice.
identity is like language: it has no meaning in and of itself. it means only what we decide it means. identity is a collection of labels you apply to yourself or others apply to you. (a collection, that is, unless your labels are so few as to not warrant collection. then you could identify as boring, and that would give you at least one more label.) like language, identity is powerful — and only so bc of the qualities we ascribe to it.
i'm a girl steeped in identity. instead of donning a punk-rock biker jacket covered in patches, i wear my labels safety-pinned to my mind. when i lose one, its absence leaves a bare spot, sometimes eventually re-covered; other times, left bare. in high school i was the prettiest girl in school (by votes, that is) and prom queen (votes again) and cheerleader and popular but sad (a sadness that would eventually blossom into introspective and sensitive. it's fortunate that many unfortunate things, in time, can transform). in morgantown i was the girl w the dogs and cum laude graduate of the eberly college of arts and sciences and the sharp-tongued barista and, in a bobby lane poem written on the men's bathroom wall in the blue moose cafe: that skinny coffee girl, naked on the wall (in reference to a nude photo of me that was displayed in an art show. not nude as in, "hey everybody, check out my junk!" but a black-and-white shot — showing only my body's profile as i sit on the bare floor with my legs curled to my chest, my arms wrapped around them and my head resting on my knees — beautifully and tastefully executed by a friend. the photo shoot was in her chilly, quasi-shotgun-style apartment, above the gallery where another friend would show his photo exhibit from a work-study in italy. i would not do it again. nor would i un-do what i did then. i blissfully embrace the memory — not of the photo itself but the memory of youthful freedom). in memphis, i was that girl who runs through midtown all the time. in wee shorts and a sports bra. sexy was a label often misappropriated to my running gear, in various reiterations of "put some clothes on, girl!" clearly these were not people running in 80+ degree heat, or they would know that running in small articles of clothing is functional. i was comfortable and aerodynamic. it's not often one can be both of those things, you know. so i relished the opportunity.
my newest label of mom is a momentous one, of course, but in all its enormity it does not cover up the bare spots left by my life's re-appropriation to clarksburg. those other labels of me — that have been superseded by circumstance and surroundings — are tucked away in a zipper pocket, waiting to be re-pinned. sometimes, or most of the time, i stick my hand in there and fiddle w them like i would lint or gum wrappers. eventually, a new label will arise: that running, writing, pit-bull-having, coffee-drinking, garden-growing, crafty-stuff-making, healthy-food-cooking mom with the boy genius who speaks full sentences before he's potty trained. my boy, he's not merely bound for greatness — he's bound to blast a hole into this world.
right now, i'm poking a hole into this morning with my half-caff that has grown cold not once but twice. mid-cold-coffee sipping, i was reminded of a label i will never wear: yoga practitioner. a friend was talking about how she'd rather rush to make the 10:30 am cutoff for mcdonald's breakfast than go to morning yoga. it was funnier in her words. a writer herself, she makes a perfect character for a writer: a super-sardonic, cigarette-smoking, alcohol indulging foodie-slash-fashion junkie who looks totally right on with pixie hair and a billy-idol snarl. yoga is too serene, she says. and i realized that's why i hate it as well. i've only done it once, when i was 14, i think. at the wyca in downtown clarksburg with my best girlfriend, ginny, who fell asleep on the mat during the cool down...cool down?...seems altogether unnecessary when one is moving at sloth-speed for 30 minutes. shouldn't i give yoga another chance after all these years? nah. i like my exercise to make me feel more like animal from the muppets than winnie the pooh. speaking of, he was so great in the tao of pooh. i own a copy. i love the idea of flowing like the water. i love it so much that i stab myself repeatedly, trying to wear the label woman of peace. who wouldn't want to be peaceful, ya know? however, as goes with my desire to have longer legs, maybe it's simply not to be. maybe i should stop sticking myself with that damn pin and instead embrace the animal i am. it could work out, bc at some point, even animals must be still.
grrrrrrowwwwwl goes the wild woman as she lies in wait.