Names are ultimately a burden. After all, even the most widely worshipped god will fade once history forgets their name. There is far more power in the lack of a name: what you cannot name you cannot define; what you cannot define you cannot understand; what you cannot understand you cannot help but fear. I refuse to be named because language lacks the complexity to encapsulate all that I am. I will be here long after humanity is dead and all their languages ground to dust from the stones of their monuments. What good is a name to such as I?
I find myself suddenly very bothered by the phrase “special snowflake”. I never liked it, nor the sentiment behind it, but I have recently been gnashing my metaphorical teeth over it. What bothers me is how illogical it is. In essence, a “special snowflake” is supposed to be someone who has many identities, aspects, and labels. This is bad, apparently. What is illogical about this is that we all have a long list of labels – the only difference is that we aren’t always vocal about as many of them. If I say I’m just a girl from Washington state, well, then I’m not a special snowflake. I’m “normal”. Yet if I make a list of even just a tenth of the labels that apply to me, then suddenly that’s too many and I’m just trying to be special. But it’s just a list. All of those things are true about me whether I say them or not. What difference does it make if I state them or leave them unsaid?
I decided to make a list of whatever personal labels I could think of off the top of my head. Let’s see how special snowflake I can be:
I am female, a daughter, and a sister. I am an Italian by descent, an American by birth, and a Washingtonian by choice. I am queer, asexual, sapphic, and engaged. I am a lazy femme, anti-makeup (for myself), and pro-leg hair. I am a feminist and a vegetarian; I am pro-choice and anti-Trump. I am lactose-intolerant, nearsighted, and a supertaster. I am allergic to salmon, kiwis, and oats. I am chronically ill. I am pagan, Kemetic, and a follower of Bast. I am anxious, obsessive-compulsive, and depressed. I am seismophobic and trypophobic. I am a Research Administrator. I am a writer and a reader. I am a nerd and a geek. I am a Fannibal, an Assassin, and a Ravenclaw.
That’s pretty impressive, but does it make me a special snowflake? I don’t think so. Anyone alive long enough to have formed a conscious understanding of who they are could make a list that long, or longer. We all have hundreds of identities, some we are born with and some we choose willingly. We’re all special snowflakes, whether we like it or not. Calling someone a special snowflake just makes you sound like you oppose having a full understanding of yourself, or using descriptors to define concepts that apply to you – in essence, “I hate that you’re using words to describe things”. Well buddy, I have some bad news for you: that’s literally what language is. Words for stuff. If you can’t get over the fact that people like to describe who they are, then you’re going to have one miserable life. Anyway. All this was to say that there’s nothing wrong with being a special snowflake, because all that means is that you’re different from other people, which is literally true for everyone on earth, even identical twins. The end.
Get ready for some word vomit, ’cause I’m thinking about labels. About the people who say we shouldn’t use them. “Labels are for soup cans” and all of that. Um… no? Labels are descriptors. “Short hair domesticated cat” is a label. “Queer asexual” is a label. “HP Compaq LA2205wg” is a label. You don’t get to determine if labels are important because each label will be important to someone. My vet will care what kind of cat I own. My partner will care about my sexual and romantic orientations. The IT department will care what kind of computer is slowly dying on me. Labels are just words and words are kind of really important for communication and stuff. Without words, without labels, we’re left saying, “Bye honey, I’m going to that place that employs me now.” “That’s my car, the…that one over there.” “Hi, I’m a person. It’s nice to meet you, other person.” Oh, but I guess person is a label too. Well shit. Yeah. You know what count as labels? Adjectives. Occupations. Colors. Emotions. Names. Kingdom. Phylum. Genus. Species. Half of what we say every day probably falls under the label (hah!) of a label, and everything else is filler. So when someone says they don’t believe in labels, they’re not saying they disagree with language in general. That’s just stupid. Who disagrees with having words to explain stuff? No, they’re saying they don’t want to learn new words, because that takes effort, and they don’t care about other people’s labels enough to expend that effort. After all, when was the last time someone said “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t learn anyone’s names”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I don’t pay attention to street signs”? “I don’t believe in labels, so I call every animal I see a dog”? Just admit it. When you say you don’t believe in labels, you mean you don’t believe someone’s specific label is important enough to use because it’s not directly important to you. Which, you know what? Is selfish. (That’s a label too.) Labels are words, and the more words we have to explain this weird fucking world we live in, the better. If you don’t complain about all the different names for bird species or cities or diseases or religions, you don’t get to complain about the different names for someone’s gender, sexuality, romantic orientation, or anything else that makes that person better understand who they are.