Self-identity has, seemingly, become a big deal in recent years. I hadn’t given it much thought throughout my lifetime, having identified myself as a husband, father and farmer for the past 40 years or so. But, I do know that other people identify me with other words that I don’t usually and consciously associate with myself.
It’s not uncommon to run into former students I taught at both the high school and college level and they certainly look upon me as a teacher. People that I’ve never met before often come up to me at meetings, fairs, or even in restaurants and ask, “Aren’t you that writer from the magazines?”
I’m always taken a little aback, because I certainly don’t feel like I’m a writer, and my old grammar teachers surely turn over in their graves when that question is asked. I was even introduced, recently, at a meeting where I had been invited to speak, as a humorist. I’m not even sure I know what that means, but it really made me think about how different people, in different situations, identify me in ways I would never have guessed.
Just the other morning, at the convenience store where all of us locals gather for coffee and gossip, I observed a stranger jump out of his car and hurriedly walk towards the entrance. I thought I could tell from his rapid gait, his intentions, and, sure enough, he quickly raced to the back of the store, where the restrooms are located. Just as quickly, he trotted back to the cashier and asked, “Is there someone in the men’s room or could it have been locked when the door closed?”
The cashier politely told him that she had just seen someone go in a minute ago. As the gentleman squirmed, and the color drained from his face, I suggested, “I don’t think the ladies’ room is occupied, so if you want to identify as a woman for a few minutes, none of us will tell.”
As the sweat on his brow began to drip, he replied. “Thanks, I think I have to, today,” before rushing back and entering the room labeled, women. He did knock, first.
Yesterday, I received an email from my doctor, requesting me to complete a questionnaire, before being admitted to the hospital next week, for a minor procedure. As I scrolled down through the questions I came to a part where my previous medical issues were listed, and I was instructed to delete conditions that no longer existed. When I deleted “back problems,” a prompt appeared that asked, “Why?” I typed in, “Corrected with surgery 15 years ago.”
The next condition listed, “Abdominal hernia,” so I, once again, pressed delete and, once again, the question, “Why?” presented itself. I explained the condition was corrected with surgery five years ago.
Then, the shocking medical condition arose when, evidently, one of my doctors, at some point in time, had diagnosed me as being obese. I pressed, delete.
Of course, the next prompt turned into, “Why?”
Very carefully, I typed, “I choose to identify as husky.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’