What’s in a Label?

In general, I’ve hated labels. I’ve yet to find a label that actually accurately describes who I am. This disdain for labels started when I was in college. It all started with the word bisexual. Someone who likes both women and men. But that felt too limiting to me (remember, this was the 90s and the term pansexual hadn’t been coined yet). My motto was hearts, no parts, and I found the “bi” in bisexual to be too limiting because I viewed sex and gender to be on a continuum. So I applied my own definition to the label that acknowledged that continuum, and woman and man being at the poles, with most of us falling somewhere in between.

Even without that definition, bisexual still seemed problematic because I tend to be more attracted to women than men. So I started using the expanded label of lesbian-identified bisexual. If you would ask my therapist, she seems to think if I had had a different upbringing, I would simply identify as lesbian. I don’t know about that, but it just makes it clearer that labels are inadequate, yet we need them to try to communicate about our identities to the world. Still, since labels are limiting, a lot can be lost in interpretation.

So, what are all the labels that apply to ME?

Woman. Mother. Sister. Daughter. Aunt. Niece. Friend. Survivor. Mentally ill. Bipolar. Lesbian-identified bisexual. Pagan. Feminist. Democratic Socialist. Witch. Author. Designer. Artist. Unitarian Universalist. Geek. Fangirl. BBW. Learner. Teacher.

And as my therapist points out, soon to be added to this list is divorcee and single mom.

How does it all fit together? It just does. It’s just who I am, and it’s fluid because I’m a work in progress.


Toxic is as Toxic Does

The only way to deal with a narcissistic abuser: NO CONTACT.

And if you have to have contact, use the Gray Rock Method:

According to the blog PureWow:

“Basically, it’s a tool to prevent toxic people from escalating the situation, riling you up and stressing you out—three things they absolutely love to do. By acting as boring, uninteresting and unengaged as possible, the gray rock method discourages the toxic person, and they’ll often seek out a more exciting target for their manipulative behavior. “The best chance we’ve got of a healthy outcome with a toxic person is changing our response to them,” van der Linden says.”

How do I do it? Before you meet with the toxic person, get in the zone—you don’t have to be Meryl Streep, but you do have to use your acting chops. During every interaction with the toxic person, speak in a neutral voice, talk about boring subjects, don’t make eye contact and give short, generic answers. Don’t tell them about your promotion at work, your mother-in-law’s upcoming surgery or your kid’s new bike. Channel the most boring person you’ve ever met, and don’t engage emotionally, even as the toxic person tries to get a rise out of you. Some proponents of the “gray rock method” even suggest wearing gray or neutral clothing, with no makeup or jewelry, to really drive home the “blah” feeling you’”

How does it work? Toxic people crave excitement and drama—if you’re fueling the fire, they’ll begin to rely on you as a way to keep things interesting. When you practice the “gray rock method,” they’ll have nothing to spin into drama, and in most cases, you’ll be surprised how quickly they lose interest in you. Although it’s extremely effective, some people, including van der Linden, find this technique tough at first. “Gray rock takes practice and preparation,” she says. “I have used it effectively but it does not come naturally for me, because of my warm, empathic and somewhat chatty persona.” Another caveat? Whatever you do, don’t tell the person that you’re “gray rocking” them, and don’t make it obvious that you’re acting differently. (It can backfire and cause them to double down on their behavior, yikes.) Subtlety is key here, people—but once you get the hang of it, it’s an extremely effective way to protect your time and energy. Now go for it: be a boring rock.”