Everyone needs a label these days. Something that defines them; a pigeon hole in which to neatly categorise the people you meet. This is demonstrated by the fact that one of the first questions asked in new social situations is ‘so what do you do?’, presumably because ‘what are you?’ and ‘who are you?’ would mark the quizzer out as a bit socially weird. But people are so much more complicated than that*.
I’m a woman. I’m a wife and mother, a journalist. None of those really explain who I am though. I’m a bit of a geek, somewhat intolerant of intolerance – an ouroboros of a head fuck, if ever there was one – and known for excessive use of sarcasm, which proves a hindrance on the occasions that I am being genuinely sincere.
Is that an accurate picture of who I am? Or a reasonable likeness of a fraction of my personality?
Take two elements of my ‘definition’. Journalist and mother. Naturally you might be drawn to the typical personas of these two identities. In today’s post-Leveson times (pre-Leveson too, I suppose), hacks are frequently regarded as unscrupulous and untrustworthy; as people who’d sell out their own mothers for the sake of a story.
This is, of course, not the case. It is true that these sorts of people exist but I don’t think I’d be off the mark to suggest that they pop up in all lines of work.
All you have to do is open up a newspaper (written by some bastard journalist) to find stories of GPs killing their patients; tracksuit-wearing TV stars using their freakishly saint-like status to allegedly commit the most heinous of crimes; secretaries hiving away thousands of pounds from their employers. The list goes on.
But are all doctors murderous villains? Do all celebrities, tracky-wearing or otherwise, have a horrifically deviant side? Does every PA have a sideline in swindling their boss? Er, no.
So yes, I’m a journalist. But like many, actually most, of my professional peers, I do my best to be responsible and sensitive.
On the other hand, my role as a mother conjures up all sorts of connotations too and I’d like to think that in my case the majority of them are true.
My boys are my world. All those overused phrases about jumping in front of a bus or walking across hot coals for your children… all true. They light up my life and make my heart swell with pride. Does that make me a better person? No. Am I completely selfless towards them at all times? Again, no. I’m human and as such I’m flawed, but I’m trying.
I remember once hearing something about Terri Hatcher of all people, who wrote an autobiography of sorts called Burnt Toast. The title refers to her idea of motherhood being one where mum will always take the burnt toast so her children don’t have to.
At the time of hearing that I thought two things: a) what a sappy way to explain the relationship between a mother and her offspring. And b) who the hell cares what the Desperate Housewives and Superman (New Adventures of, I believe) actress has to say on the matter?
It looks like I did, but I assure you this titbit of information about Hatcher was not sought out but merely stumbled upon.
Yet years later, it has clearly stuck with me. I should take the fast-breaking moral high ground and sacrifice my own eating experience in order that others may enjoy their grilled bread without excessive carbon. But I don’t. I make more, so that we can all be happy. Or, in today’s waste-conscious world, I try never to burn the sodding toast.
Is that a better definition of motherhood? Of course not, each to their own. The point I’m clumsily trying to make is my labels might not define me, but my actions hopefully will.