Pigeonholing! Huh! What is it good for? Huh! Absolutely nothing.

I am not sure if I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I am the oldest of three sisters. When we were growing up, it became clear to us how our mother and the rest of the world perceived us. I was the shy one, the bookish one, the uncoordinated, awkward one. My middle sister was the beauty, the athlete, the fiery tempermental one. My youngest sister on the other hand, the only blond one in a family of very dark haired people, had to put up with many a milkman joke (or maybe it was my mother who was putting up with being called a slut all the time). She was considered the loud and funny one, the hyperactive member of our family.

To be fair, there is some truth to this. I am bookish. I am shy. But sometimes I am not. This whole process of labelling someone just so that you can fit them like a piece of a puzzle into your brain is more detrimental than helpful I think. First of all because you miss out on all the other fascinating facets (ooh, alliteration!) of people. I am more than the books I read (okay, barely). I am way less shy than I used to be. Example: I almost got into fisticuffs with a driver who had the nerve to honk at me. Actually, shyness has been replaced by turret’s syndrome. I might have to seek medical help on this one. In the case of my middle sister, as a teenager she came to believe that she was only beautiful which led to an eating disorder and some pretty tough years. Presently, she is finishing a gruelling four year program to become a naturopath doctor so don’t let anybody tell my she don’t got the smarts. As for my youngest sister, well, she is still loud and funny and still parties everybody under the table. She is also fiercely sentimental as well as career driven- she just started a fancy vet internship in Manhattan. So there you go, we should stop pigeonholing.

Except that… I seem to be doing it with my own kids and believe me, I am feeling suitably guilty about it. I am afraid people, that I have been giving my youngest daughter a bad rap. Contrary to what I have led you to believe, she is not a difficult child. She has her moments to be sure, but don’t we all? (Okay to be fair to myself, it is rare that I will go running into my bedroom sobbing because someone told me I had to take a shower- see? there I go again.) Yes, she knows her own mind. Yes, she has some tempermental moments which unfortunately overshadow the majority of the time when she is not fussing. But, and let me repeat this in capital and bold: SHE IS NOT A DIFFICULT CHILD. Consider this an official refutation of all that I have led you to believe in the past.

Just to conclude this post, I thought I would copy the entry for pigeonholing in Wikipedia here, as it is so poetically beautiful:


is a term used to describe processes that attempt to classify disparate entities into a small number of categories (usually, mutually exclusive ones).

The expression usually carries connotations of criticism, implying that the classification scheme referred to does not adequately reflect the entities being sorted, or that it is based on stereotypes.

Common failings of pigeonholing schemes include:

  • Categories are poorly defined (often because they are subjective).
  • Entities may be suited to more than one category. Example: rhubarb is both ‘poisonous’ and ‘edible’.
  • Entities may not fit into any available category. Example: asking somebody from Washington, DC which state they live in.
  • Entities may change over time, so they no longer fit the category in which they have been placed. Example: certain species of fish may change from male to female during their life.
  • Attempting to discretize properties that would be better viewed as a continuum. Example: attempting to sort people into ‘introverted’ and ‘extroverted’.
  • Criteria used to categorize entities do not accurately predict the properties ascribed to those categories. Example: relying on astrological sign as a guide to someone’s personality.

Other meanings include when a congressional committees that deal with new bills introduced in the United States congress decide to ignore a new bill, the term “pigeonholing” is used.

Source: Wikipedia

Rhubarb is both poisonous and edible. Lovely. Attempting to discretize properties that would be better viewed as a continuum. Ahh, the sheer virtuosity of quantum physics.

5 thoughts on “Pigeonholing! Huh! What is it good for? Huh! Absolutely nothing.

  1. Hi Lina,You’ll be happy to know that not everyone saw you all that way. There was SOME truth in what you say (except for the awkward, uncoordinated part). I saw you all as beautiful, gifted and unique in your own ways.Love, Auntie DianeP.S. I still do

  2. Where are the aunties who tell you “hell yeah you looked uggghly as shit for a few years there! I was worried it would never end – in fact, I had grave doubts that you would ever be able to fully function in society… but I guess you showed me!”I have photographic evidence that I was awkward, uncoordinated, and yes, incredibly ugly. Though I realize this is not about me, unfortunately this very nice comment from your Auntie Diane dredges up all those times my mother tried to comfort me by telling me I was a “late bloomer” (very confusing term to apply to a girl who started showing signs of puberty at the age your oldest daughter is right now) and I would be beautiful and happy one day. (Extraordinarily tall child, all limbs and bad posture – soon followed by early-onset puberty and acne straight from hell) Because it certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, that I would ever be accepted – which has obviously resulted in deliberate attempts to never fully be assimilated, based solely on my appearance.Unfortunately, that particular childhood pain is still vividly remembered: feeling like the biggest loser in the world, and though life has improved enormously for me in the realm of self-esteem, I have the diaries and the photographs to prove that the pain was very very real.Comments such as the kind-hearted one by your aunt serve as a way to cancel out one’s own memories of certain time periods. Though not meant in a negative light, it serves to dismiss your own feelings and memories.Ultimately, WILL you be happy to know that “not everyone saw you all that way”? Does it erase all those years of feeling/being pigeonholed? Do some people from that time still treat you the same way, with the same affected stereotype? I know that there are some people in my life that still feel they need to comment on the length of my hair because I shaved my head for a few years in my teens and early 20s.And it took about 10 years to convince my dad that my sister is a fanastic, talented cook, as he couldn’t seem to get past the fact that she used to always only make pasta. USED TO. When she was 19. Okay, now that I’ve totally dumped all over Auntie Diane, I always thought it was really weird that when I saw a picture of your “middle” sibling for the first time, you described it by saying “She’s the Beatiful One.” So stop doin it yourself, eh?Also, maybe I am jealous of your Auntie Diane being so nice because I don’t have a close relationship, or any relationship, with any of my aunties anymore. They’re too busy with their grandchildren and dying husbands…..

  3. Sorry, french panic, I couldn’t tell her she looked ugly as shit because she was always beautiful and she probably has the pictures to prove it. I wasn’t trying to deny her feelings, just expressing my own.I’m sorry you’re not close to your auntie’s . Would you like to be adopted into our family? We do that on a regular basis.Auntie Diane

  4. I am all for being adopted into other families – can you work some magic and erase all of the genetic horrors awaiting me – cancer, heart disease, arthrits, osteoporosis, depression…?One time, I read some excellent advice that said to never write anything when angry. This post just brought to mind all sorts of dreadful things my blood relatives have said to me (for example, one grandma shaking her head and just staring at me and telling me she would never have recognized me as her granddaughter – if anything, I look more like a grandson) and I was writing out of the fury of memories that apparently still make me angry. And sad.So, Auntie Diane, I certainly hope you did not take anything I said to heart – your nieces are all pretty awesome, as are all the other members of the family I’ve met – so far…..!

  5. french panic:I’m so sorry you have such horrific memories of your younger years. And I’m equally sorry that they continue to haunt you. I’m afraid I can’t do anything about the genetic stuff. We all have some of that.I have not taken what you said to heart as I know my motives for saying what I said. There’s a quote that I’ve been pondering lately: “I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.” I’m 53 and still working on that, but I like it. HOpe one day you can be free of those bad memories.I’m becoming quite fond of you.Auntie Diane

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