Exploring self identification
There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about “self identification.” I’m an old guy, and this is a new term so I was immediately suspicious that it was some kind of Dr. Phil psychobabble so I looked it up. According to the trusty Merriam-Webster dictionary self identification is the “act of identifying yourself as a particular kind of person.” Oh…well I guess that makes sense so I guess I’m on board with self identifying.
As a humorist and semi-professional observer of the human condition I often label other people with identities that seem to fit them so it only seems fair that people can identify themselves as they see fit. What does it really matter? Even though most people, cameras and those lying mirrors see me as a short funny looking guy with a big nose and a humped back, I self identify as a ruggedly handsome man about town and their misconception hasn’t bothered me much.
I know that there are lots of serious social issues connected to how people self identify…but I’ll leave that to serious people. There are so many funny ways people could self identify why would I talk about the serious stuff? Last week a friend told me he self identified as a trans-financial, a rich man born in a poor man’s body. I know that’s insensitive and irreverent but I’m insensitive and irreverent so I thought that was hilarious.
I’ve met guys who I’m pretty sure self identified as trans-matrimonial, single men in a married mans body. I’m just guessing but I suspect this is a huge demographic and I think it’s a shame the way people look down on the trans-matrimonial community. It’s very popular to bad mouth and punish the matrimonially confused but they’re just people and you shouldn’t judge them — just leave them alone for no particular reason. I’m just saying.
As often as not, self identification has very little to do with reality. I know a guy who was in a garage band in high school and has never held a real job because he self identifies as a rock star…he had to pawn his guitar to put gas in his 1988 panel van, but he’s a rock star.
President Trump said that he, “always felt that I was in the military” because he went to a military type prep school. He actually said he received, “more training militarily than a lot of guys who go into the military.” As a guy who actually went into the military I can say, no…no you didn’t. Much like the three weeks of training that mall security guards get doesn’t qualify them to be real law enforcement officers (including the advanced tactical Segway driving course), dressing up in doorman uniforms and learning to march doesn’t make you a soldier.
Coincidently, I once self-identified as a spoiled rich jerk for about a week after I got a re-enlistment bonus but, just like playing army isn’t real military experience, staying at a suite in Vegas for a weekend doesn’t make you a millionaire. Dang it.
I’ve also learned that most of us self identify differently at different stages of our lives. In the fourth grade I self identified as Snoopy (with a slightly larger nose) fighting the Red Baron for most of the year. I even wore WWI flying ace goggles and a green scarf because I called myself the “Green Baron.”
Of course I outgrew that (they wouldn’t let me wear the goggles or green scarf in boot camp) and these days I self identify as Snoopy the writer. I’m actually sitting on a doghouse as I write this … it’s the only place I can think. When writer’s block hits me I write, “It was a dark and stormy night…” then wait for inspiration. Usually, I write an uninspired column while I wait.
When I was five I honestly believed that when I wasn’t around other people deflated and were hung in closets until I came back. You could probably find several people willing to testify that I haven’t changed much but that’s just silly…I know people don’t deflate when I’m not around. I’m sure they sit and wait patiently for me to show up, right?
Over the years I’ve self identified as the center of the universe, the Green Baron and a weekend millionaire, but none of that ever changed who I really am. After all is said and done “I yam what I yam” … I’m Popeye!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.