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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features September 15, 2014

2/9/2013 10:02:00 PM
Column: How does the world view you? Just ask a brutally honest child
Photos.comYour identity is subject to the whims of the percipient.
Your identity is subject to the whims of the percipient.
Casey Martin
Courier Columnist

It's interesting to think about how the world at large identifies us. What sort of classification have we been lumped into? What's our label?

We're all known by one or two attributes about ourselves, our entire existence, our passions and hatreds, boiled down to this one inescapable truth about us. It may have never come to pass. You might be The Guy Who Said He'd Like to Go to France, Once. Or it may have been long ago, like The Girl Who Wore That Metallica Shirt That One Time.

Forgotten are our real interests, our dreams, our aspirations. Instead, we're left with The Guy Who Really Likes Hot Dogs, or The Girl Who Prefers Cream in Her Coffee. Or maybe we've become our jobs. He's a manager, she's a lawyer. My in-laws still think of me as the guy who worked at Pizza Hut 20 years ago.

The thing about this identifier is that it changes in every social sphere we enter. Amongst my family, my dad is the Harley guy. So this means, on gift-giving occasions, he's often given Harley memorabilia. Not actual Harleys (which would be awesome), but signs and mugs and the like. But amongst his friends, he's the guy with the automotive know-how.

I've found that I use identifiers for people I know well - people I know who aren't simply this one thing. My mom makes crafts. My wife likes mysteries. One of my daughters likes monsters. It's a sort of shorthand for people's personalities.

But what's my identifier? What's that thing that people use to separate me from a crowd? What am I known for?

That's what bothers me. I don't know what that thing is about myself. I hope it isn't horrible, but the things I may be known for are many, and not necessarily kind.

I'm the guy who always, always, always thinks he sees people he knows. I'm forever waving at people, saying "HI THERE! I'M HERE! OVER HERE! IT'S ME! CASEY! HERE! WHY AREN'T YOU WAVING BACK AT - oh, good Lord, I don't know you."

I'm the guy who always forgets where you're from. I'll ask how things were back in Ohio, and you've never been there. Worse, I will argue with you about it, insisting that you were born and raised in Cleveland, that it HAD to be you, because that's the way I remember it.

I'm the guy who hates puns with a childish passion. I'm the guy who insists that you can't wear blue with brown. I'm the guy who has already read that book you're reading, and is dying to tell you how it ends, so much so that I'll blurt out the ending to you, thus spoiling the surprise.

But am I known for these character flaws? I've done some worthwhile things, too. I've backpacked into the Grand Canyon numerous times. I skydived on my 40th birthday. I'm fairly good at cooking.

But I'm not the one that decides what my identifier is to other people. I could be the Nine Inch Nails guy. I could be the guy who knows too much about "The Simpsons."

I'm not without some clue about what my identifier is, though. It's often just "Tall."

Still, one of the best ways to find out who you are is to ask those who are known for their brutal honesty and complete lack of tact: children. So, I asked my bluntest of children, 4-year-old Charlie, what she thinks my identifier is. Her rather surreal answer was "You go GROWL! I love lettuce." I do NOT go growl, but now you can identify Charlie as the kid that likes lettuce. The little weirdo. Or that she's a weirdo.

My other kids, when asked what they would say about me to a stranger if they could only say one thing, said that they would say I like racing. I do. Not to the exclusion to all else, though. Truth be told, I like cheese a lot more than I like racing.

So, have fun figuring out your own identifier. As author David Quammen once said, "Identity is such a crucial affair that one shouldn't rush into it." Interesting thought, Dave. But it's also nice not to be known as just "Tall."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: Grandpa Simpson

My dear Mysterio,

I believe you have misinterpreted my praise for this particular piece by Mr. Martin and subtle condemnation of referring to "superficial" traits, or "identifiers", as something shameful as the first reply suggested.

What is superficial is very much what we are and what makes us unique. Those aren't traits to be ashamed of, those are the ones that ultimately make the world full of diversity. Anyone can be caring, or think of themselves that way. It takes a special guy to love a hot dog. And a special gal to find that what she really wants is a caring hot dog lover and not a caring pizza maker.

Judgmental reactions seem easy to come by, I guess. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting and you think I'm the idiot for trying to find something more than mere lightheartedness or, god forbid, "shallowness", from a piece that pointed out one of the greatest things about being human - our "identifiers".

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: It's no mystery

To Grandpa Major:

You're not the first person to read Vonnegut. Get over yourself. Don't mold a sophomore reading assignment into a justification for bad behavior. Being unbearably judgmental and then claiming some sort of perverse moral high ground is just plain unoriginal. It's been practiced for centuries by some of the world's foremost narcissists. No good ever seems to come of it, but keep it up and it's pretty certain that love will continue to mystify you.

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2013
Article comment by: Grandpa Simpson

Once upon a time...

...A short story was authored, titled very simply, "Harrison Bergeron".

At it's core, I suppose a mortal could interpret it as explaining the difference between equality and sameness.

You can find this piece shallow, you can find it humorous. You can do the same with the piece posted above.

Or you can think about "identifiers", or perhaps, uniqueness - the differences between us that define us in the eyes of others - and their true value to society. Without it, relationships are meaningless and very human emotion, such as the mystery of love, don't exist.

"Tall", "Hot Dog Lover", or whatever else seems superficial compared to "Helping" and "Caring" may not be the way some people prefer to be identified as. But, in 2081, all of those allegedly superficial traits deftly regulated by the Handicapper General in Harrison Bergeron's world created the epitome of a superficial world.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Casey Martin? Oh he's the guy that demonstrates some of the best in humanity weekly and luscious facial hair daily.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Jane Austin

For Steven Major. What condescending shallow comments from someone who thinks that good qualities include kind and caring. Those qualities are not obvious in your comments. I would not want to live in your judgmental world that does not include humor.
I loved the article and have had fun thinking about what my identifier is and how I identify other people.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Another vote for the tall guy with the pizza

It's remarkable how different people can read the same thing and come away with such entirely different perceptions. When I read one of Casey Martin's columns, all I ever see is his desire to share a light-hearted look at daily life. I see a self-effacing guy who clearly loves his family, enjoys life and takes some time each week to share his appreciation for the small absurdities and quirks that surround us. It's called humor. It may not appeal to every reader, but those folks can move right along to the stock market reports, murder investigations or whatever else gives them satisfaction.

Then there's "Steven Major." I've read many (too many) of his comments in the Courier, and all I ever take away from them is his desire to share a consistently downbeat, malcontented worldview, along with his complete disdain for the legions of uninformed slackers that apparently populate his planet. He seems to have a criticism or negative opinion for every occasion and on nearly every possible subject.

Steven Major on crime and punishment: "Take her house, take her car, take her kidney make her pay."

Steven Major on sports: "Doping IS professional sports."

You get the idea. Don't even get him started on religion!

So it's a nice Sunday morning. I can visit Casey's world or Steven's world. For a "bland and depthless superficial" person like myself, it's a no-brainer! Besides, I'm old enough to know which of these worlds is truly "sad and self-absorbed."

PS: Don't worry Charlie – weird is the new cool.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Coyote Contraire™

It's yet another cold, bleak, depressing Sunday in Prescott. At least it was until I read Charlie's, "You go GROWL. I love lettuce."

My laughter surprised even the dog. I already like Charlie. (You should teach her to type.)

Thanks, tall pizza guy.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Sunshine Smith

Too bad Steven will now be known as "that guy who spouts negative opinions online." This, as he calls it, "sad and self-absorbed world" could use a few less of those.

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Major

A superficial article for bland and depth-less superficial people.
There are other human qualities people can become known for, try these: Kind, Resourceful, Honest, Intelligent, Helpful, Caring, Happy.
The author suggests a self absorbed and sad world I would not want to visit.

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