Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Yesterday someone called me an iconoclast.

Ordinarily, I would take this as a compliment. That was not, however, how it was meant. Here's how the conversation began:

"You carry a purse?"

"Um, yeah...why wouldn't I?"

"That just doesn't fit my perception of you. You seem like too much of an iconoclast to carry a purse."

Well, obviously we are dealing with someone who doesn't really understand the meaning of big words or work with a fully functional thought process. Surely even Joan of Arc, Mary Shelley, and the like all carried purses (or some other time period appropriate clutch). But I couldn't resist probing this a bit further, if only to mock this person mercilessly for his poor logic.
"And what are these perceptions that have led you to believe I am an iconoclast?"

"Well, I've just heard you talking."


"No concrete examples are coming to mind...I've heard you talk about politics and religion. You also seem like a feminist." (This also said like a dirty word).

"I'm liberal if that's what you mean."

"Not just that. Then I heard you mention liking the Flaming Lips, and you dress a certain way, so I added that to my little mental version of you."

"I'm not sure there's just one type of person who likes the Flaming Lips...wait, dress what way??"
"Plus you are a vegetarian and have tattoos" (more nasty words).

"So what you're saying is you work in stereotypes?"

"I just figured you'd be too unconventional to carry a purse. You don't do anything else normal people do."

Normal people? Here I rolled my eyes for about the tenth time of the conversation. It wasn't that these labels are not parts of my personality; they are. But there is an ample number of other parts, ones that carry purses apparently. I don't want to be different simply for the sake of being different. I just want to fully explore all the divergent parts of who I am. I don't like being boiled down to my lowest common denominator. But, do not ask me to elaborate on that metaphor, as my knowledge of math ends there.

I won't even pretend to be free of the desire to box people up. I had put this person in a box long ago; I just had the courtesy not to tell him about it. I have the dubious pleasure of working at the ESL center with this particular tutor, who volunteers there because he has a thing for Hispanic women and is usually trolling for numbers. I, therefore, stereotyped him icky. He also wears shiny black slip-on loafers with jeans and sports jackets. I stereotyped him a hipster douchebag. He throws out ridiculous opinions like, "I think instead of executing Saddam Hussein, we should reinstate him. He'd have shit back under control in a week." Stereotype: moron. He asked if we'd seen his cd case. We had...some Stevie Wonder's Greatest Hits going on. Here a convenient stereotype alludes me, but I visibly cringed.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't care what most people think of me. So this guy is way off base. Whatever. When I got thinking about it, I decided I was pissed because he was using these stereotypes in a derrogatory way. How dare you say feminist like it's something bad?! But all stereotypes at their core are to make the people doing the typing feel superior. I just used terms like hipster and moron because I imagine my style and intellect to be vastly superior to his. And vice versa obviously.

We all do it. Think about how much thought (or conscious lack thereof) you've put into your profile blurbs and pictures. You want to be perceived in a certain way and may have gone out of your way not to be perceived in other ways. Maybe that's my problem. I want to be perceived as someone who doesn't fit into neat little boxes. The beauty of personality is the facet and gradations. Classic literature and Cosmo on the same bookshelf. A business suit hanging in the closet next to worn out denim. Stilettos and running shoes. Cupcakes and carrot sticks. Theater and reality television. Sweet and tough. Sarcasm and compassion. The introverted extrovert. I don't like people assuming that just because I am one way I can't also be another.

But it's impossible to be all things to all people. Nobody sets out to be misunderstood, but it can't help but happen. The people who are important, the people who really know me get to see me in my entirety (lucky, lucky them ). And that's all that matters, I guess. The others, the people on the outside, will always see me (you, us) the way they want to, usually the way that makes them most comfortable with their view of themselves.

Maybe the very fact that I don't want to be what people think I am does make me an iconoclast. No italics.



  1. I'll say one thing for ya... you made me learn a new word... LOL! People make stupid judgements based on whatever it is they choose to notice. I'm glad to see that you are strong minded enough to know that it truly doesn't matter as long as you are comfortable with who you are.

  2. Hey, I enjoyed this, some good points you made there.. I also truly hate the word 'normal' - makes me go grrr...