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.

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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.

xo,
Mads (M/O/M)