I Don’t Care What You Call Me

Real talk today.

I read an article last week about how asking someone, “What are you?” is a rude way to ask about their ethnicity. Then I read an article called, “How to piss off an introvert.” THEN I read about how Lean In and Girl Scouts are teaming up to ban the word bossy. After reading these articles, I found myself a bit torn. I get where they’re coming from but the negativity that oozes from these articles feels unnecessarily passive aggressive.

This also stems from a little mantra that I tend to repeat to myself as an adult: “No one owes me anything.” While I would hope that someone would owe me a bit of respect, I can’t live my life assuming that people really care all that much.

Before I start coming off like a huge jerk, I’ll give you a few instances of how I’ve experienced these three situations:

I am many, many things.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What are you?” Sure, it’s annoying. But every single person who has asked me that question earnestly wants to know. It’s actually a lot more offensive than when people start speaking Spanish (assuming I also speak Spanish) or cut right to the guessing game and ask, “Are you Hawiian?” “Are you Japanese?” “Are you Mexican?”

What am I? A human, a woman, the boss, a designer, a wife, a sister, a child, half-Filipino, half-German, short…

Also, this topic makes me think of this line from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my favorite movie): “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”

You don’t have to tiptoe around me. I’m not the Queen of England.

I am most definitely an introvert but I don’t expect people to accommodate travel plans or “try to not piss me off” while spending time to me. I mean, really? We’re human beings and we co-exist. If I need time for myself, I’ll make time.

The entire notion that the world needs to “get on my level as an introvert” is kind of hilarious. My friends and family know how I operate and how I feel by asking me intimately while getting to know me over time.

Don’t tell me I can’t say “bossy!” Fine, I’ll ban the word “ban!” Oh wait…

As far as “bossy” goes…I get it. I really do. And then the next minute I’m rolling my eyes. First of all, telling me that I can’t use the word “bossy” feels a little bossy. I have been bossy my whole life. I used to boss my little brother around like it was my full-time job. When I’m at my worst, I can be a know-it-all. While dating Adam, I would never let him choose the music.

And so while the word “bossy” might have been thrown around from time to time, other words felt even more influential. Words like:

  • Leader
  • Strong
  • Smart
  • Talented
  • Creative
  • Genuine

 

Women, men, dogs…and cats: we need to be confident in who we are apart from trivial names, words and stereotypes. Sure, be proud of who you are but realize that you’re not just one thing. You can be a sweet, bossy, introverted, half-Filipino, goofy designer like me. And you can be okay with it.

A Consideration

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Comments (45)

  • YES! I couldn’t agree with your words more!

  • I am all about this! Especially the bossy thing. I too, have been bossy my entire life. I’m not upset about it. Everyone in my life knows it, acknowledges it and moves on. I get where people are coming from, so I’m very torn about it. However, I think if we embrace these things, these words, or whatever rather than fight it… if we own it & be the boss of it, then nothing can touch us.
    So there’s two approaches to it, I think.
    But great post, love it! xo

    • Totally agree! While I don’t need to be “bossy” all the time, it’s who I am! And it can be annoying but I tend to get a grip and laugh it off. Plus..words are just words! I know that words can be hurtful but I’ve found them to be silly as I’ve felt more confident in who I am.

  • I couldn’t agree with this any more if I tried. I’ve read all of those articles, etc. and while I get where they are coming from it’s not necessarily the best way to go about making things better. Too each their own! :)

    xoxohannah

    • Totally agree, Hannah! Everyone is different too. I wouldn’t blame anyone who would be hurt by these words either!

  • I agree with this so much! People are so worried about what’s correct and being careful not to hurt anyone’s feelings. My sister said recently that she’s always been labeled as bossy, but she’s never been offended by it because she owns it, and she views herself as a leader. If other’s mistake that for bossy, then that’s their problem!

    • Exactly! I also know it has a lot to do with how you’re raised and the type of encouragement you’d been exposed to. Everyone is different but I try to embrace who I am while respecting others.

  • Amen, amen, amen. Let’s be us and do our thing while being respectful (kind even!) to all those doing their thing, too.

  • I love everything you wrote, but the one thing that stuck with me and that I most vehemently agree with is the negativity that spews from these types of articles. Thank goodness we really are more than our race, or vocation, or one part of our personality at any one time. Thanks for pointing out and celebrating the unique mix that makes up each one of us.

    • I think the articles try to address a problem while inadvertently creating another. Totally agree with what you said!

  • This was great! I feel you on all of these points. Especially people automatically assuming I’m Mexican when I’m actually part Chinese, haha.

  • Holla girl! We are all many things! The world has become hypersensitive about some things and it has left us off topic and distracted from the real issues. People ask me what I am all the time and I’m definitely something caucasian.
    Also, Pi really appreciated that you addressed the last paragraph to dogs and cats.

    • And you, my friend, are one reason why I see life so bright! Us exotic beauties have to pave the way :) Tell Pi I will always accommodate… LOL

  • Thank you for this! I read the “what are you” article and felt conflicted as well. I get it on a lesser scale because I have strawberry blonde hair so people just assume I’m Irish when really I have no clue. I could be, I could also be a part Scottish possible. I don’t really know. I agree with the fact that “What are you?” as a question, in that wording, is rude. There are better ways to ask. I, generally, may wonder because I think a mix that I am seeing is really beautiful. A great composition if you will. And curiosity is a natural human thing. I rarely ask though, because I don’t want to offend people. I think if people are being respectful and really are interested in the answer and not saying something they know about your answer then it should at least be met with an “This is what I am…” or an “I don’t really know…” or “I’m a woman thanks.” We received more respect when we give it. But that’s just one opinion.

    • My husband is the same way! He’s always like “yeah I don’t know what I am!” I love curiosity and when people genuinely ask me “what I am,” i end up having a great conversation. I gotta start saying, “I’m a woman, thanks” Or better yet, “I am human!”

  • The whole bossy thing kinda irked me too…instead of the potentially oppressive language around “banning” the term, why not empower it? I’m proud to have been called bossy (whether with a positive connotation or no) most of my life. I don’t want it to turn into a dirty word; it should be something for little girls to aspire to.

    • TOTALLY! I love the idea of transforming a word or meaning. I read an article about the whole bossy thing and they used the term “nerd” as an example. It used to be negative but now can be super positive and people have felt connected because of it.

  • This was a great post Allie!
    I am a total mutt and never care when people ask me what I am, in fact I take it as a compliment that they can’t quiet place my unique look; I do think it’s nice if they say “What ethnicity are you?” but “What are you?” is fine as well.

    I’m also an introvert and most assuredly do not expect the world or even my family and friends to cater to me. I choose my friends wisely, they understand how I am and don’t take it personally when I turn down an invite to just stay home. :)

    As for the bossy thing, I thought that article and that idea is just silly. Maybe they have good intentions but there is nothing wrong with the word bossy; not is their anything wrong with bossy behavior when appropriate.

    • Thanks Shayla! I love being a bit mysterious too :) Hardly anyone guesses correctly unless their close friend or they themselves are Filipino.

      And we’re totally on the same page with the introvert/bossy thing. Both have great intentions but I’d rather tackle these issues personally with those around me vs getting angry and writing a post.

  • Allison-
    I don’t always comment on your blog, but I ALWAYS read it. I mean, like I check back every day hoping you’re over here saying something wonderful and perfect. You are totally inspirational in just about every way. Your passion, intelligence, and honesty comes through in everything you share & I’m completely thankful that I stumbled upon your blog. (from an instagram location tag in Columbus.) Your thoughtfulness is unlike most others & yeah, this sort of relates to your post, but mostly, I just wanted to say hi and thanks for making me think about the strangeness of mainstream negativity.

    • Hi Jessica! Your comment totally made my week. I’m so glad I popped over to your blog now. We are so close! I’ll be sure to let you know when I’m up your way. I’d love to get coffee. This is why I love blogging – meeting people like you.

  • I love this! I love how reading it made me feel like we were chatting about it over coffee at Grandview Grind. And that made me miss you and Columbus!

  • I just have to disagree on your first point, I’m sorry! I know that not every racially ambiguous person gets bothered when people ask the question “What are you?” but a lot of others do, myself included. I personally think it’s a bit rude to go up to a complete stranger just to inquire about their ethnic background especially with a question such as “WHAT are you?” as if I’m an object. Does it ruin my day if someone asks me that? Absolutely not. Is it the worst thing in the world if someone asks me that? Not at all. But it doesn’t make it any less impolite. There are much more tactful ways to ask about someone’s ethnic background if the person is so curious they just have to ask. I’ve had complete strangers approach me with that question my entire life and frankly, it’s uncomfortable. I understand that it doesn’t bother people at all. I’m not saying everyone SHOULD be offended, but I know a lot of people are and I think those are valid feelings. (Sorry for the paragraph! Just trying to explain where I’m coming from.)

    Oh and I agree about the bossy thing. I see it from both sides and I’m totally conflicted about how I feel. I see the intent behind it, but I can also think of many, many other causes that we could all take up instead of trying not to say the word bossy (which I totally claim in my own life!).

    Thanks for putting your thoughts and ideas out there! Great food for thought :)

    • Girl – you don’t need to apologize! I was hoping someone would!! I totally get it and know that it affects people differently. I just had a woman on Facebook say she asks, “Where is your family from?” and I told her that it would rub me the wrong way. Or I would misunderstand and assume they meant what city in the US did I grow up!

      It is weird, though, when complete strangers ask you out of nowhere. When I think back to those situations, it happens when I’m already talk to someone. Last week in las Vegas, our pool girl was curious because she is half-Laos and often gets asked.

      Thanks for reading and sharing how you feel! I love hearing it all!

  • Great post! My favourite quote was “If I need time for myself, I’ll make time.” This is so true! I too am an introvert, and I don’t expect the world to revolve around me and my needs.

    • Exactly! I love that people are more aware of what an introvert is but I don’t expect them to walk on eggshells.

  • Wow…people really do waste a lot of time and energy trying to work out this ‘politically correct’ thing. Eliminating the word bossy maybe is the funniest. And yes, it is TOTALLY bossy to say not to use bossy. Oh Girl Scouts… ;)

    xoxo
    Kelly
    http://www.dreaminlace.

  • I’m irritated that folks ask you “what you are.” Under the best case scenario, I suppose people might want to know what combination of genes makes you so attractive…and then I think I might be trying to talk myself out of being irritated.

    I was born bossy and in my younger years, I was the little commander, bossing my mom, sister and anybody who entered my radar. In mid-life I learned an important lesson (somehow) which sticks with me as I approach the big six-0, the tenets of which I was just relating to my son via Skype last week. 1) I can tell someone what to do OR how to do it, but not both. Violation of this tenet causes unrest, uprising, and revolution. 2) I can be happy or I can be right. There’s pretty much no in between. 3) If I consistently complain about the manner in which a job is done, we’re all better served if I do the job. If I choose not to do the job, I don’t get to complain.

    I got nothing on the introvert thing, but I wish I did.

    • I really liked your important lesson. Thank you so much for sharing those 3 things. I remember learning #3 awhile ago. It occurred to me that if I quit a job, I couldn’t complain about the issues unless I stayed to help them through it.

  • I have also seen way too many of these articles! And have felt the same way! People just feel the need for labels and categories and, really, do we really need all that?

    I find the introverted issue most difficult. My natural tendency is to be introverted, I think, but when I’m with people I make the effort to be an enjoyable person, so no one believes me when I confess that I get shy/nervous/anxious or whatever.

    Side note, I am also half Asian (half Chinese, one-eighth English/Ukrainian/German/Scottish…whatever) and always get asked ‘what I am’ haha. I really don’t mind it, though. I guess you get used to it? Because I understand what they mean, and really, it’s an easy way to phrase it. Funnily enough, I’m usually taken to be First Nations or Filipino. We Halfies will just have to continue to remain an enigma to the rest of the world ;)

    • We really do :) I guess I don’t mind it because, like I mentioned, they’re always genuinely interested. I think it’s more awkward when they just ask. Although when I was in Hawaii, the towel guy asked if I was Hawaiian. I told him no and that I was half-Filipino. He said, “So am I!” so not even us half-Filipinos can ID each other :)

  • I love your mantra: Nobody owes me anything. I’m going to start using it!!! Great post. Very brave and honest!

    • I came up with it when I watched some lady verbally assault a barista at Starbucks. I was thinking, “lady…no one owes you anything. it’s COFFEE!”

  • This is well put. I don’t want to get all dramatic but I noticed I don’t know what I am anymore after Max died. I don’t know if it was a mom thing or a grief thing or whatever it was, but I’m not the same person. Also- my dad is Japanese and my mom is Mexican and there’s nothing I hate more than having that “what are you” convo. let me be a japxican!

    • Japxican. I love it. I would be Germilipino.

      Also, that’s not dramatic. I have I feeling it will shift again as life evolves.

  • Oh man, I couldn’t agree more! People spend too much time putting negatives together with more negatives. Banning something is only going to make the word worse. I think it would make much more sense to tell girls they are leaders and to spend time focusing on the positives rather than making it an attack.

    I don’t like articles that make an entire group of people sound a certain way. Introverts aren’t mean people that need the world to accommodate them. If someone wants alone time, that doesn’t mean they’re pissed off. :)

    I love this post. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes! I totally agree re: empower and instill leadership when working with young girls. Also, a ton of that starts in their home with their family.

      And the stereotyping is just so old. People are all unique!!

  • This is a great post, thanks for sharing. It reminds me of this Walt Whitman quote “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

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