Existential Etiquette: Lose the labels

“So, what do you do, exactly?”

The sentence — A classic, innocent and rapport building ice breaker — has evolved and unfurled itself into various meanings. One, perhaps the most prominent, being “So, what are you?”

Answer this question, and your activities become your adjectives; ways in which fellow human beings can find solace in the act of pinning you down. I can illustrate this with a memory from grade 12, on a trip to New York with friends from my high school. “This is Madison, she’s a model,” they’d say, jutting out my most prominent interest and making it my identity.


Thing is? This kind of speech unjustly separates all of us from each other, making us create divides and distinguishers where really, there should be none. Just because I groom poodles, just because you build homes, doesn’t make us different. Maybe if we dropped the qualifiers we’d even get to know each other to realize that. (Imagine! More friend-making potential! 😍)

What if we changed this verbiage? We don’t intend to make us fearful of the phrase — only mindful of its misconceptions; gently aware of the fact that no, you don’t have to be what you do.

Next time you’re at a party, try responding by shifting “I am” to “I do,” “I take,” or, boldly, “I love.”

I love modelling. But I love lots of other things, too.

Mads (M/O/M)

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