“Oh, are you a vegetarian?”

“I’m a vegan(paragraph).”

Identification is something we cling to because it is not only useful, but necessary. We default to simple terms to represent complex things. These terms never fully say what we need them to, but they approximate it well enough for basic social interaction.

There are lots of self-identifiers I use or have used: vegan, educator, musician, girl, free culture advocate, crazy, techno-hippie, girlfriend, post modernist, daughter, house mate, Bostonian. These are just a few that have been applied to me in the past 48-hours. The thing is, none of them are really accurate.

I’m not -really- a vegan, I generally eat vegan food more than 90% of the time, but I’m not a vegan. Sometimes I eat eggs. Sometimes I don’t ask. I recently purchased a leather saddle for my bike. I work in education, and I  used to teach, but calling me an “educator” seems like a huge misnomer. I develop education content, and not really even from a pedagogical perspective. I don’t even  live in Boston! I’ve been in the Boston area for two years now, but my drivers license says Massachusetts, and it’s an easier word that “Somerville transplant.”

In order to recognize the lack of truth in many of these terms I, or others, use surrounding the entity I sometimes think of as “M.” I’ve begun to add the classifier “paragraph.”

“Paragraph,” which in turn needs to be explained, is my current way to try and add a footnote to conversations. My mileage for this term varies. This term is not accurate, and I will be happy to go into more detail, but I am using it for now. Paragraph stands for “there is a paragraph actually explaining what I mean.”




4 thoughts on “Paragraph

  1. I was discussing a similar issue in real life yesterday. Jobs are often taken as a first approximation to identifying someone, but it’s often very crude—and often people really don’t want to go into the inevitable paragraphs which follow. (In my case, “I write free software” yields “Oh, how does that make any money?” and away we go; but I’d much rather talk about music.)

    I’ll be trying your “(paragraph)” classifier. At the very least, it might steer conversation in a more interesting (and meta) direction.

  2. I used to (sort of) instead of (paragraph). I found myself having dozens of identical conversations with strangers. Everyone expects the common, and is predictably surprised to find the unusual, and everyone asks the same followup questions which lead to more (sort of)s and more surprises. It made me feel exoticized in an unpleasant way.

    So now I have other tactics, like trying to be the one who asks these questions of the other person first, so that when they then ask me, I can present my answers for comparison with their answers instead of for comparison with everyone else they’ve ever met. Or if it’s someone I’m pretty sure I’ll never talk to again… I sometimes oversimplify to the point of lying.

    I suck.

  3. There are lots of qualifying “tags” we use to identify ourselves. What becomes complicated is which ones we actually identify with, and which ones are external identifiers which we may not ever feel are really our own.

    I always feel like identifiers like “female”, being purely a consequence of fate, reflect my inner reality much less than those which I’ve worked for, like “scholar/academic”. Sociological studies attempt to delineate all these different groups, but self-identification and just the random static that comes of being an independent actor still evades quantification.

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