Friday, October 5, 2007


A few weeks ago I walked up on a conversation between two gals at the park. One of the gals recently moved here, and is starting the hunt for a house. I walked up as she was saying something to the effect of ' . . . And there's no point in looking in Boulder. They are just so liberal there.'

Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut, but then I would cease to be Kat. I went off on how everyone always makes the claim that 'Boulder is the Berkeley of the West' and that, having experienced them both for extended periods of time, I thought that assessment was crap. If the gal had said 'We're not looking in Boulder because houses are too ridiculously expensive there' I would have left it alone. THAT is a true statement. She's only lived in the area for 2 months, and yet already Boulder is that 'liberal place.' I've got $10 that says she hasn't even BEEN to Boulder, and, on the off chance that she HAS, it was probably just to the Pearl Street mall, and the punks around the east end of the mall have determined her opinion of the entire city.

Naturally, her labeling of Boulder without much basis makes ME jump to the conclusion that she is a sheltered twit from Idaho. So whose labeling is worse? :)

It's funny (funny 'hmmmm' vs. funny 'ha ha') how we often jump so quickly to conclusions. In some ways, it's necessary, simply because of the sheer volume of information we have to process on a daily basis. We use the clues we see to make judgments that are, much of the time, accurate. If we analyzed EVERYTHING ad nauseum, we'd never get anything done. However, obviously sometimes this system fails us, and the judgments we make based on a first impression or seeing someone in one particular situation turn out to be completely wrong.

All this got me thinking about my first year in college. I had three roommates. We didn't know each other - just found a place together through the Institute. Two of us were active in church, two were not. The two who weren't active were nice gals, so that's whom I hung out with. The 'pious' roommate - 'poo face' - told everyone at church that I was 'WILD.' I learned this because by the time May rolled around - after a year of essentially no one talking to me - I had finally grown enough of a spine to put myself out a little bit more try to talk to people. After chatting for a while a gal said 'Wait. You're Katharine? You don't seem wild to me!' Based on one person's assessment, I was labeled 'WILD' which, ironically, at the time couldn't have been further from the truth.

Has having a negative experience with being labeled changed how I judge people? One would HOPE so, but no, not always. I still think that gal from above is an inexperienced twit, even though I don't really know her. :) My assumption will likely make it that much more difficult for me to get to know her better.

Hopefully I will be at least partially conscious of the labels I attach to my children. I do think that people generally live up to our expectations of them. So if I get it stuck in my head that Katie is X, she probably will be - most probably because that's what will stick out to ME; because that's what I have preconditioned myself to see. Ahhhh, just so long as X does not equal 'cheerleader.' ;)

Also curious to me is how the ways we label OURSELVES affect our own behavior. 'I'm not good at Y,' so then I don't even attempt Y anymore. I've already decided that I can't do it. 'I'm a jerk, so people just need to get over it.'

So many labels, so little time to combat them all!


Mia said...

When we moved to Tennessee several of the people we told we were from Austin commented that "Nashville is like Austin only with morals". I just laughed and said ok. I will give them that they are both very musical cities that atract artists of all kinds, but to imply that Austin as a whole has no morals is a dumb blanket statment. But maybe the girl in the Austin ward who said she was moving back to UT because she couldn't bear to raise her kids in such a "difficult" place (read no morals) would agree. I don't want my daughter to be a cheerleader either, and when I voiced that opinion I ofended my mother in law because she was a cheerleader. Wasn't my intent, I of course don't think less of my m-i-l because that was something she enjoyed, it just isn't something I want for my daughter. Then again I don't want my son to be a football player either, unless it is the European variety know to us Yanks (how's that for a label) as soccer.

Disco Mom said...

I would just like to say that Boulder is my favorite place ever and that girl is retarded. And the ONLY reason not to live there is because no one can afford it. But I don't want her living there anyway.

Funny about Boulder, this labeling of it suddenly reminded me of something my brother-in-law told me before I moved there. I had only applied, never visited yet. He described it to me: "Boulder is like Provo, only prettier, cooler and there are no bad parts." Contrast with the twit! Obviously he was thinking in terms of appearance, size, location, college town, amenities, etc., not social persuasion.

I've been mislabeled many times in my life - sometimes I'm cool with it, others not - what can I do?

But I regularly freak out about all things parenting, so now of course you've gotten me self-analyzing some more. One thing I do pride myself on is never doing something a friend here constantly does, which is telling her daughter, "You're being bad. You're a bad girl. You're so naughty." and such. Not that it's such an accomplishment to avoid such accusations, but when I need a bright side I always tell myself, well at least I don't do that. I may lose my temper and get mad, but at least I don't ever give her that label.