When It Says Loco, Lazy, Loser On The Label, Label, Label

kidslabels

Do you have lovely eyes?  A noble nose?  An infectious smile?  Sometimes it’s hard to see our own outstanding features, even if they are obvious to everyone else.  That’s because some of us can’t see beyond the big, invisible labels on our foreheads.

We sang How Great Thou Art at church the other day.  The beautiful, timeless song inspired me to lift my eyes and my voice to heaven.  The choir is looking for new members and for a fleeting moment I thought, “Maybe I should join.”

I dismissed that idea as quickly as it occurred.  I’m not the “singer” in the family.  That’s Judy, Libby, and Bill.  I’m the “smart” one.

Kids are assigned their roles very early in life.  Maybe you could read before the other kids: you’re “smart”.  Maybe you walked and ran easily: you’re the “jock”.  Maybe you kept your crayon scribbles inside the lines: you’re the “artist”.  Maybe you cried or raged or couldn’t sit still: you’re the “difficult child”.

Our first labels come from our families.  These are honed when we get to school and new ones are added.  Those early labels have a way of sticking.

I liked being thought of as “smart”.  Having that reputation makes school easier.  There may not really be a “permanent record” that follows you from grade to grade, but teachers hear things.  They’re only human.  When they expect you to do good work, they give you the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Einstein.  I’m reasonably intelligent but, as I discovered as I started swimming in bigger ponds, there are a lot of smart fish in the sea; many are lots smarter.  But that was the label I was given as a child and it stuck, inside and out.

“Smart” was great, but I wanted to be other things, too. In junior high and high school, I would have traded all my “smart” for “pretty”, “popular” and the Holy Grail of teenage labels, “cool”.

I secretly longed to try out for our high school’s musicals, but I was scared.  Besides, I wasn’t a “singer”.  “Singers” took chorus.  I took band.  All the “cool” kids were in chorus and they got all the parts in the plays.   My place was in the orchestra pit with the rest of the “band nerds”.

If being stuck with a label like “smart” can be limiting, how much worse are the labels that demean and hurt?  Labels like “troublemaker”, “lazy”, “stupid” or just plain “bad”.

My mother tells the story of a conversation she had with my little brother, Jim, when he was a kid.  Jim was the funny goof-off, the jock, and the popular one.  He wasn’t known as the greatest student. They were talking about some trouble he was having with a subject and, frustrated,  he blurted out, “School is really hard for me.  I’m not “smart” like Bill and Peg!”

That’s the kind of attitude that can define your entire life if you let it.  Jim didn’t let it.

In the early years he may have internalized the labels that the school stuck on him, but somewhere along the line he ditched them.  Jim defined himself.  He got a degree in business, worked for a few years and then decided to go to dental school.  The “goof-off” is the only one of us nine siblings with the title “Dr.” before his name.

So much for labels.

Labels can be a convenient shorthand to identify strengths and weaknesses, but should be used carefully.  We have to guard against the tendency to limit ourselves – and  others – to the neat, little pigeonholes we’ve become accustomed to.

After all, you’re not free to fly if you’re stuck in a pigeonhole.

**this embedded commercial right under here is part of the post**

p.s. As with all my siblings, my sister Libby can proudly wear many labels advertising her many strengths and talents.  But the label associated with her for life is from a commercial for canned goods from our youth.  I can still hear that jingle in my head because we sang it at her ad nauseam, “When it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label, you will hate it, hate it, hate it on the table, table, table…”  Sorry, Lib.

p.p.s.  In case you’re wondering; no, I’m not joining the church choir.  I’ll let my voice soar from the safety and anonymity of the pew.

 

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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37 Responses to When It Says Loco, Lazy, Loser On The Label, Label, Label

  1. Thank you for a great post. Maybe, along with smart, you can add, engaging, funny, and a fine writer to your label. Thanks again, and take care. P.S. I now have that old Libby’s commercial stuck in my head. That’s okay – it brings back some good memories.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Al says:

    Good post ,Peg, with some excellent points, I would expect nothing less from the “smart one.” And for the record, I think you’re very “cool.”

    Like

  3. franhunne4u says:

    Cool is, who doesn’t want to be cool. Cool is who trails their own path and doesn’t care what others think of it.

    Like

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a wonderful post, Peg. So much truth to these words. It’s heartbreaking to think a child might not pursue something based on what someone else might have said. Thank goodness your brother didn’t. Now he’s not only a dentist but he’s probably got great teeth too!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Judy says:

    Peg u should definitely join the choir! Why not ? As the smart one, it should be clear to u that you don’t have a valid reason not to! You have a lovely voice – perfect for choir😊
    Love, the singer

    Like

  6. Elyse says:

    Great post, Peg! I’ve often thought that my life would have been much different if I had not escaped my childhood labels — in fact, I think those of us who wander far from our families can set our own identities. Otherwise, we are all stuck at age 12.

    For the record, I was the cute one. We were all the funny one, as we are all (or think we are) hilarious.

    And poor Libby. Imagine living with that moniker.

    Like

  7. Pingback: When It Says Loco, Lazy, Loser On The Label, Label, Label – Sejarah Tagline

  8. I love that your goof-off brother is a doctor! So you were the smart one? Me too. And I was very shy, nerdy, wore glasses, and played in the orchestra (always wishing I were in the much cooler band). It’s interesting to see what we leave behind, and which labels seem to stick. With college and maturation, I was able to leave a lot of shy and nerdy behind.

    Happy singing in anonymity.

    Like

  9. Heidi says:

    Oh, so true! My beautiful and amazing daughter became pregnant at just 16 and now spends her days ( at nearly 20) running herself ragged after her 2.5 year old. She watches her very smart younger, special needs sibling and announces often that ‘ India is the intelligent, sensible one and I am the scatty one who didn’t listen to good advice ’. It absolutely breaks my heart.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s got to be tough. While this choice may have changed her life, who’s to say it will end up to be a bad choice? It doesn’t mean her future won’t be fabulous – just different from what you all may have thought you wanted, as I’m sure you tell her all the time, Mama. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post! I think that some labels are even put on us not as a reflection of ourselves but as a reflection of the person labeling us. Like you said, labels need to be approached carefully.

    Like

  11. All I’m saying is that there are SOME PEOPLE–I won’t mention who–who are old enough to identify that post title without the need for the embedded commercial at the bottom. Gag on my age.

    From what I’ve observed, being labeled the coolest in school almost guaranteed a lifetime of disappointment. You don’t want to peak too soon.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Isn’t that the truth? If you see something from your youth, it zings straight to some reflexive part of the brain. I (silently) chant that commercial every time I see the title.

      Good point about coolness. That doesn’t stop every junior high kid from wanting it, though.

      Like

  12. Church is the only place I can sing as loud and as long as I want. Not one person asks me to stop. They may looks at me in shock but they let me sing to my hearts content.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. OH that jingle. We drove everyone crazy with it. (Marketing seems to have been a lot more fun and less mean back then than the current lot)
    Being 2+ years younger than everyone in my classes, no way I could grab any cool label – certainly not smart (which could be the kiss of death and I had enough struggles), but witty. Witty was a whole different game to play – able to back down bullies and garner respect (or maybe fear they would be next facing classmates’ laughter and ridicule of being out slammed)
    All I can say is thank you Mad Magazine, Fractured Fairy Tales, and Bullwinkle.
    (Mother. of course, saw her hopes dashed of a “popular prom queen/cheerleader” by the annoying difficult one…but then again she had smart and perfect older brother…lucky me!)

    Like

  14. susielindau says:

    This is so true! I thought I was adopted since I was and still am the rebel and risk-taker of the family. I would seriously wonder if I didn’t look so much like both parents. Ha!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It’s astonishing to me how different families can be. Our kids don’t look anything like one another, and not a whole lot like us, and their personalities are very, very different. Friends of ours have 3 kids and you can tell what family they are in from a block away.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I was the opposite of “cool” and I was in chorus! Growing up, I was labeled “smart” or “dork” or “suck-up” because I did well in school (and sure, I was a charmer and bs’d my way around teachers from time to time.)

    Also, I was called “crybaby”, and “stuck-up” because I was quiet and sensitive. Life just ain’t fair sometimes. I’d give anything to be “cool” now…or even less of a crybaby…

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Hello, Miss Darlydorkla! (juuuuuuuust kidding)
      You invented “cool” in my book.
      Crybaby, eh? I was never called that, but I definitely am. I kind of wish girls got the same “suck it up – big girls don’t cry” training that boys get. It’s a hell of a disadvantage in a business negotiation to start crying, but it’s something I can’t seem to help.
      It’s Snowmaggedon here, although nowhere near as bad as you guys get in the East. We’re getting 3-5 inches each day and you’d think the world was coming to an end. Jeesh. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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