Writing about monograms (and continuing to find beautiful pictures) I have found myself thinking about identity. One might with good reason tell me I have too much time on my hands. That I need to get a job. Yes. I know. However.
Monograms have an immediate implication for identity. Monograms mean something before you even begin to decipher the initials. We assume someone wearing any sort of monogram at all is fairly conservative. (Or making a very ironic comment, if they wear a monogram with, say, Goth outfits. I know, wouldn’t that be funny?) However.
My own personal, non-universal, case is a little complicated. I am a more left-than-right-of-center person living in a liberal area with a liberal professor father and a liberal New England mother. Our ilk isn’t really prone to monograms. However. I also come from a High WASP family with initialed bowls and mirrors and spoons and pins. My family name is due to make its exit with this generation, unless my brother has a late-in life-marriage with children. I have a sheepish pride in my heritage.
So I wonder, do I, do we all, have to choose? I hope not. Can we belong to Group Blue AND Group Orange? To Group Up AND Group Down? I hope yes. How expansive is identity in this day and age? I hope very.
Freud has something to say.
“A good part of the struggles of mankind center round the single task of finding an expedient accommodation – one, that is, that will bring happiness – between this claim of the individual and the cultural claims of the group; and one of the problems that touches the fate of humanity is whether such an accommodation can be reached by means of some particular form of civilization or whether this conflict is irreconcilable.” Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
So does Jim Collins, author of one of the best books on business to be published in the last 20 years.
…”highly visionary companies…do not oppress themselves with what we call the “Tyranny of the OR” – the rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time….highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND” – the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.” Jim Collins, Built to Last
I have no delusion that I can solve Freud’s question for all time. If I solve it, I solve it in a small way, at 7:13 in the morning, California time. This was my car for all the years of childrearing. It now belongs to my son. I take no responsibility for how it looks.
These are the shoes I bought at the same time we got the minivan. So I could keep that sense of self above and beyond the role I was playing at the time. So I could be a mother AND someone who once lived in Manhattan and went to CBGB’s. I take full responsibility for how these look. Years of disuse.
I don’t like confrontation but even so would fight as best I could for the right of every person to define themselves as they want. To belong where they want to belong, and to be different where and how they want to be different. I don’t think I’m special in this. I would guess that there are many people in the world who think to themselves, “Yes. I choose this group AND that group. Neither is my full identity. Not altogether. I am this. And that. Maybe several thats.”