Stop Labeling me. I’m a Non-Conformist

I, like millions of other people around the world am reading the book “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. Oprah is totally into it and therefore so am I. Just kidding. Well, mostly. I have been interested in the ideas presented in this book for sometime now and I am really jazzed to see so many people embracing it. I am not going to tell you to read it (although you would be happy if you did) or agree with it. I am mentioning it because it pertains to a little story I have to tell.

I n chapter two of his book Mr. Tolle (pronounced Toll-ee) talks about identity and labels. He talks about how we humans have a tendency and need to label things and people. You see it everywhere. This is a gay bar, this is a punk club, and this is the water that Michael Jordan drinks. All of these ideas, these labels have value to us: they seem to tell us who we think we are and make it easier for us to judge others. I see it mostly in groups of people. I have written about this before, but I find it fascinating that folks that consider themselves outsiders will not accept people who don’t dress like them. Think about it, all “frat boys” dress alike. Khakis, button up shirt, shit eating grin. There is even a look for so-called “soccer moms”. This is a way for us to tell ourselves that we belong. When you break it down like that, it’s pretty lame. Even “not having a label” is a way of the ego trying to exert itself. The ego gets to think, “I am better than them, I don’t label.” I know, deep shit right? I promise this is going somewhere.

Last weekend Andy and I were talking, yet again, about music. To say that Andy is into music is an understatement. He is totally that guy who knows the names of the people in the band, when the new album is coming out, and what their influences are. Me? Not so much. I mean, yeah I like music who doesn’t? But I don’t bother with the details. I really don’t care. If it sounds good I’ll listen. So, we are eating pizza and listening to his ipod. This means that I probably don’t know many of the songs and have not heard of the bands. Not to sound like an old lady, but most of it sounds the same to me. (In my defense I think one could say that about any type of music they don’t know. Take punk for example: I can tell The Ramones from The Clash from The Sex Pistols probably because I like it and have taken the time to listen to it.) So, there we are enjoying our lunch listening to music. Every time a new song comes on I ask, “Who is this?” and am met with a prompt reply. This was fine until…

“What the hell is this? Who’s the whiner this time?”
“Radiohead!”
(Trouble kids, is spelt R-A-D-I-O-H-E-A-D.)

“Oh, well, I didn’t know. All that emo stuff sounds the same to me. Sorry.”
(Trouble is also spelt E-M-O.)

Andy’s face looked like I had just shot his dog, tortured his mother and took his grandma’s cane away. He looked personally offended and hurt. HURT! He said that I was criticizing “his music”, and thus the problem was born.

“Um, Radiohead is NOT emo! I hate emo and I like Radiohead. They are rock.”
(Uh, huh.)

Needless to say Andy went on defending Radiohead and I went on saying I just didn’t get it. (And it is SO not rock. Puh-leeeeeze.)

I was totally confused. How in the world can a person take a comment like that “personally”? It’s not like Andy is IN the band. He didn’t write the songs or sing them or play the guitar (do they use one?) It’s the same with football other sports and people who like Donnie Darko. Men always, ALWAYS say things like, “Yeah, we totally won.” Um, you are totally not on the team. It has always bugged me.

But I get it now! After reading Tolle’s book, I get it. It is all about identification and identity. See, Andy HATES emo music, and emo dudes and all the other labels that go with that particular brand of music. So when I called a band he likes “emo” it felt to him like an attack on his identity. He got defensive.

Over the past few years I have been really trying to not do that. It used to be that if you told me Elvis was a racist I would have argued with you till I was blue in the face. Why? Because part of my “identity”, my ego, was “I am an Elvis fan. If you don’t like Elvis you are my enemy.” I am trying really hard not to do that any more. I don’t see myself as a “punk” or a “democrat” or “a singer”. I am just a girl who listens to punk music, tends to vote with a tilty to the left and I can carry a pretty good tune. I mean, who cares right? Do our beliefs really make up who we are? Am I just a mass of opinions and likes and dislikes? Do people really like Radiohead? (Ha…just teasing)

I guess the whole reason I wrote this little piece is because it has been on my mind since then. I have been trying to really take this to heart and not label and not BE my beliefs. I started thinking: If all of that crap fell away, who would I be? The answer?

Cher.

Ok…just teasing gain.

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5 thoughts on “Stop Labeling me. I’m a Non-Conformist

  1. Love this post! I have a copy of A New Earth and mean to read it very soon. I’ve heard great things. Love your take on identity here. Makes me even more eager to read Tolle now.

  2. No, no one actually likes Radiohead and you can tell Andy I said so. I’m older than he is and therefor right, deal with it.

  3. what a really interesting post. in some ways that concept seems so obvious and simple, but i have never really thought about it like that before. i should pick up that book.funny enough, i stumbled across your blog by searching for other people who listen to tegan and sara. so we’re just two girls who listen to tegan and sara and have blogs, not two tegan and sara-ite bloggers who find enemies in people if they don’t blog or listen to tegan and sara.

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