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 Actually, shyness has been replaced by turret’s syndrome.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.
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.