“So what kind of music are you into?”
“Metal and some Hard Rock.”
I heard a patronizing chuckle.
“So you are one of those types. Is that why you had long hair?”
It was just another one of those get-to-know-each-other conversations where the person puts in very little effort to hide the fact that they are classifying you. Putting you into categories where you seem fit, based on assumptions that leave you wondering if there exist rumors about you that you aren’t aware of, or is this person really THAT delusional?
I have been a helpless victim (Did you just say victim? That’s weakness. Are you sure you don’t suffer from a Victimhood Complex? Are you sure you aren’t in need of some psychiatric help?) of these conversations and many more, ones where I am made into things I wasn’t aware I was. Dealing with this identity crisis for me has been far too complex and almost always unsuccessful.
When people do get the categories correct (Oh, you’re an atheist!), it’s the negative connotations that come along which are irritating. Being an atheist doesn’t imply I’m nihilist or angry and frustrated. Although going through bad life experiences, death of a loved one for example, is the reason some people turn into a Godless state; most others are atheists for purely logical and rational reasons. Some others reject the existence of God in favor of an even more supreme absolute; humanity. I guess atheists get a bad rep for deliberately choosing to stay away from the perceived majoritarian beliefs and lifestyles.
“I am afraid of speaking to atheists.”
“I always feel they might make me one of them.”
The immediate consequences of these assumptions are never good for either of us. I can’t count the number of times I have been told I’m unpredictable which has always come as a surprise since I lead a pretty mundane and consistent routine and thought pattern. Maybe the unpredictability doesn’t lie in my actions but in the fallibility of your baseless assumptions about me. No relationship, or conversation for that matter, can happen without a certain amount of trust. Trust comes with consistency. False judgements create a distorted sense of this consistency.
People would generally react to this situation by ‘sucking up’ to people which can be a total suppression of the individuals true identity. An obliteration of individuality. It can lead them to behave in ways they never would just to seek the approval of a group. While this can be positive reform in some cases, it ultimately leads to a suffocating effect where the individual feels like they are no longer in control of who they are. ‘Lost’, ’empty’, ‘confused’, and ‘insecure’ become regular states of the mind.
My body is a cage
That keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key
I’m standing on a stage
Of fear and self doubt
It’s a hollow play
But they’ll clap anyway
“My Body Is A Cage” by Peter Gabriel
(originally by Arcade Fire)
How do I deal with this? I generally try my level best to not be judgemental towards people and give them a fair chance to reveal themselves. When I do encounter people who I feel are judging me in disagreeable ways, my response is either in silence or when the situation is appropriate enough, I like to play along with the statement and make a really offensive and/or silly joke about that particular stereotype. Not only does it take away the awkwardness but also manages to give the person some food for thought. Let them be aware that there might be a lot more to you than what meets the eye, you just might be the most perfect person for them if they hadn’t been looking at you through a fractured piece of glass.
“So, are you in a relationship?” She asked after a long period of silence. I didn’t know how much information she had gathered about me in the course of this conversation. I didn’t actually want to know. I didn’t want to know what she thought of me. Somehow it just seemed too irrelevant even though we had been around each other for a considerable amount of time now.
“Do you think you’ll find someone?”
“I guess I’m weird enough to find a real special one.”