Monday, July 07, 2008

pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name?

A couple of weeks ago at church a friend of mine was introducing me to another friend of her's. "This is so-and-so. She's whats-his-name's ex-wife." She introduces me as a "stick person," the person who holds a "stick" on a survey crew. (Though it's really called a rodman and I haven't been a rodman for about three years.) I asked her why she always puts labels on people. Why doesn' she just say, "This is my friend?" Why the labels?

I suppose it comes from our need to identify people with something. We are someone's mom, sister, daughter. They are someone's boss, best friend, neighbor. He's a workaholic, a gossip, a jerk. We seem to put labels on people for good and bad reasons and rarely introduce them by giving their name and taking them, literally, at face value.

Maybe we introduce people with something in common: "This is Sara. She's interested in photography too." Or if we were trying to fix up a couple on a date we might include the fact they're single and their similar interests. But why not just give their names and let the other person find things out on their own? Why do we insist on labels?

What labels do people use to introduce you?


FTN said...

Hey, you hit on one of my pet peeves. Labels 'n boxes. They frustrate me.

For men especially, they are automatically identified with their career. So what do you do? is often the first question you hear, if you weren't introduced with a career already. It annoys me, because if I had to pick a conversation topic, my job wouldn't come up probably in the first five hours I'd talk to someone!

As for the labels I'm stuck with, it's generally tall and breathtakingly handsome.

XI Summit said...

On Sunday I was introduced thusly:

Bud: "Harry, this is Sound Man"
Naturally Bud then walked away.

So I am a Sound ... Man. Don't you wish you were as well?

Me "Hi I'm Jeff, nice to meet you!"

And actually Harry and I got on quite nicely, had a lot in common. And he has no idea what I do.

Sure beats all the folks who think I'm FTN.

Desmond Jones said...

I understand why people are so quick to ask about one's occupation - it's a way to learn something about you, without seeming to pry too deeply.

"Where are you from?" is another popular discussion-starter.

I'd love to tell them about my wife and kids, but, sight unseen, they don't know if I'm divorced, or what, so that's a pretty risky line of inquiry. I'd love to tell them about the life we have in our Christian community, but you know what they say about politics and religion. . .

What labels I get hung on me vary according to the context. It's fairly common, if folks know I'm a serious Christian, for them to make all manner of assumptions about what I think, loosely clustered under the heading, 'religious nut'. Or, if they know I've got eight kids, it's just, 'he's nuts'. Some folks, finding out that I'm an engineer, will start asking me detailed questions about such-and-such funny noise that their car makes, which is quite funny, actually, because (a) I only actually have detailed knowledge of the small part of the car that I actually work on, and (b) I'm really not terribly 'mechanically inclined', but the assumption is that all engineers are rebuilding their car's engine every weekend, just for fun. . .

Anonymous said...

Yet another thoughtful post...

So I thought about it, and decided I didn't want to know what the current labels on me are.

Buttafly32681 said...

It seems to me that not many people introduce me to other people. The most often I get called is "Ms Elmsford"... It's the name of the area I am in charge of at work.

Therese in Heaven said...

I find those labels in the context of an introduction not really offensive. At a party where you don't know anyone, having something to start off a conversation with is helpful to me.

Where the labels really bother me is when people who should know me better keep me in a "box."

The label that I get most is "pianist." Which is kind of sad to me since I don't professionally do that these days.

C-Marie said...

Yeah - I think I'm on that list of So, what do you do again? Or Who are you here with?


for a different kind of girl said...

I suppose the bulk of what I am introduced as, when I'm introduced, is as "...she's P and/or B's mom."

I suppose last night I could have been introduced as "...She's that woman who's really too old to be wearing pigtails out in public."

I tend to always preface my introductions to "This is my friend, .....," and then if the two parties have a like interest, only then mention what that might be, but tacking on some odd label is something I try to skip entirely.

I also noted some said they dreaded the whole "And what do you do?" query. Me, too. I am proud to be a mom, but sometimes, depending on the environment I'm in, it never feels like saying that is enough. Also, when I say "Oh, I work part time in a bookstore," I feel like people look me over as a grown woman who apparently can only pull down a retail job.

Perhaps we should just all wear those "Hello, my name is...." stickers and it would all be much, much easier!

Bogart in P Towne said...

Sometimes the labels are useful to create an immediate topic of conversation or connection between two people...I have used it to make introductions to people that I think might have a lot in common.

Cocotte said...

I'm always X's wife or X,Y,Z's mom. At this point, I wouldn't mind just being assigned a random occupation, other than SAHM. I hate being asked, "So, what do you do?"

XI Summit said...

"Hey, I'd like to introduce you to my wife. She does practically everything."

I've used it on occasion though the wife has accuesed me once or twice of using it to convey a secret meaning ....

Desmond Jones said...

People will often ask me if my wife works, and I usually answer, "Not outside the home for pay."

My favorite was when we were at a class reunion, and one of my classmates was asking Molly where she went to school, what her degree was in, etc.

Well, she's got a BS in Child Development, and then she told 'em, "Desmond gave me a great job in my field."

I love my wife. . .

aphron said...

My $0.02: it started with Adam naming the animals. We tend to classify things and even people. It may be this person uses this as a way of help her remember people.

I agree that it becomes about the title and the person.

How did you get the title Stick Holder?

Recovering Soul said...

I introduce coworkers to my wife, and then when they walk away I say "she's the one getting the divorce" "he's the one I wrote up for lying" "he's the gay one".

I'm sorry.

So if you haven't been a rod-woman for 3 years, what do you do on the crew? It's possible you've said it and I missed it. I haven't been as attentive as I should.

Phyllis Renée said...

FTN - I would think if you had a really unusual and interesting job that would be a good conversation starter. Like, "Have you met FTN? He's a tall and breathtakingly hansome male stripper."

XI - I have often mistaken you for FTN, until you helped me to remember he is the "fuzzy" one.

Desmond - I can imagine people introducing you as the "nut" with 8 kids. I'm wondering if you've ever been mistakenly introduced as working with trains.

SM - Thanks. Labels put on us by those who are not are allies are not worth considering.

Buttafly - I would say you have a great advantage. You can introduce yourself any way you'd like, telling the person just what you want them to know or nothing at all. Kind of puts you in full control of the situation.

Therese - And maybe your friends introduce you in a way that spotlights something they envy about you.

C-Marie - I usually introduce myself and then my husband. Even when we're around people he knows and I don't.

Girl - When I was a kid I was always known as W's little sister. And I don't think you're too old for pigtails. I'm too old for pigtails.

Bogart - I agree, that is a good way to start a conversation.

Phyllis Renée said...

Cocotte - You could always tell people you're the CEO of a business which controls the development of future generations.

XI - I would be more afraid of her coming back with, "Yeah, cause he doesn't do anything." Though we know that 's not true of you.

Des- Molly sounds wonderful. There ya go. You can introduce her as your "wonderful wife."

Aphron - I was telling my friend about what I do and she said, "Oh, you're the one who stands in the street holding the stick." Well, sort of.

RS - On my job I'm the "instrument man." I've never liked the pc equivalents (rod-woman, rod-person, instrument person). They just sound silly to me. But I do make sure no one mistakes me (my appearance) as a guy on the job.

Anonymous said...

Going back to Fadkog's comment. I want a name tag that truly reflects my name. It would be entirely blank. Not even the words "Hello, my name is".