Labels

band-closeupIf there is one thing I don’t like are labels, because labels have a tendency to still stick even after the meaning for the label has gone. When I was a kid, every kid had a label, whether they wanted it or not. Some were good: brainiac, nerd (I suppose that is OK now, not so much back then), or jock. Other were not so nice: nose-picker, butt-picker, asswipe, skeeze, slut, whore, doofus, dumby, idiot, fat, roly-poly, blubber, elephant, kiss-up, brown-noser, skank, etc. You never knew where these labels would come from, but I imagined there was a 3M plant somewhere working overtime to keep up with the dumb-mand. When I look back now with my 46 year old brain, we were not very creative with our sharp tongues. Take for example Shakespeare. Now there was a man that could give a good put down, and still make it seem nice. Of course, most American’s believe that anything spoken in the King’s English is bound to sound better.

“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” –Henry IV Part2

Can you imagine a child’s utterance to bully such words? Confusion abounds! “I tickle your catastrophe!” First of all, using tickle and catastrophe in the same sentence is bad ass. To put them together in this manner, beautifully ugly. The bully would no doubt beat the child to a pulp, just for not understanding such words. Next, the g-word would come out, because everything that is not understood is automatically listed as “gay.”   Now that’s a big word used quite frequently, from children. Still I hear it from adults as if it was a norovirus wrenching from their mouths. Again, from not understanding, who they might hurt. Gay is a tough label to drop, if you aren’t gay. Even if you are gay, and not loud and proud, it’s a tough label to move forward from.

I was mistaken on more than one time for being gay, in my life, as well as teased by family and friends, for my dainty ways. I’m sorry that I like show tunes and the theater. I don’t like to get my hands dirty (because I didn’t like to hear my mother yell at me as a child).  I wasn’t considered manly because it took years for a mustache to grow.   You maybe can imagine the anger and frustration that this book cover had to endure, because its contents were different then the label placed on him.

One incident at a Philadelphia Phillies game that I won’t soon forget. My friend Joe and I went to a Phillies game, he a Baltimore Orioles fan and I a New York Mets fan, both dressed in our respective team’s jerseys and hats. The New York Mets were in town, and we got tickets. For most of the game, other than for someone above us shouting, “Mets suck here!” everyone was nice. I didn’t have any trouble, until I went to the restroom. The Mets were losing, and there was slim chance that they might win, but being a fan for many years, they were not having a championship season. I slipped into the restroom and stood at an open urinal, when this guy comes up and stands in close, in his Phillies jersey, yelling every racist, sexist, gay-hating bile you could possibly imagine directed at me, the “queer” wearing the New York Mets jersey. I was standing away from him facing the wall, but I could hear others in the restroom becoming riled to his politics.  He was bating me. I was scared. Part of me wanted to punch him so fucking hard with all the pent up anger from my childhood, but he and his buddies would have had me on the floor beaten to a pulp. I instead, resigned to my situation, I said nothing. I finished up, despite his flailing arms in my face, and walked away. And then he spit on me as I left. Let me make this clear, this person was at least thirty years old, spitting like a two year old. He was obviously drunk, but that is no excuse. I made it out of the bathroom, and I went back to my seat, rattled.

My estranged nephew came to visit my parents two weeks ago, and I heard the same bombardments from them about him. I hate to hear it. I hate to think that my parents are still levying this level of anger, and for what? What has he done that is so horrible? Haven’t they grown up through years learning to accept people? That hate leads to hate? My dad talked about my nephew’s “wimpy” handshake. Dad, if you don’t like his handshake, how about giving him a hug? A big hug for your grandson, since you haven’t seen him in ten years, regardless of what you think of my brother’s ex-wife, or the whole divorce that put a wedge between the two of you. Perhaps you forget how “wimpy” my handshake was, and how easy for you and my brother to trample on my feelings, when it pleased you. You weren’t making me tougher, you were making me older.   Now, my parents see me in a different light. Why would you afford your own grandson the same chance to be himself?

Labels are bad. They are no good. Save them for your Holiday Cards, and not for you friend, relatives, and enemies.