Years of reading and watching romantic comedies taught me the following: the words "Do we have to put a label on it?" are the kiss-of-death in budding relationships. If you aren't willing to label your love, you aren't ready for a happy ending. You've got to be able to commit to the thing relatively early if you want to last the full 118 minutes, or 341 pages.
I suppose I also learned this lesson in high school, when I, or a significant other inevitably proposed a "DTR," an awkward chat designed to "Define the Relationship," to "put a label on it."
Thus, I am found of labels. My relationship as a wife is labeled by law, and irrational or not, I enjoy the institution of marriage and the label in a form of a marriage certificate.
I am equally proud of my label as a teacher, my teaching license and the degrees allowing me to continue my almost unholy worship at the shrine of literature and words, and get paid.
Those papers and labels remind me that I am committed. Committed to my spouse and my career, and myself.
Despite the lack of official looking cards (which I really want, by the way,) I very much associate myself with the label of feminist. Even though I don't always agree with every incarnation, or every other feminist, the overall cause is important enough to me, important enough to willingly embrace a label. Even when that label associates me with a minority few that "hate men" or burn bras.
The label of feminist reminds me of the inherent worth of every human being, of myself, and of my choices. Feminism allowed me to marry not out of economic or social need, and to teach out of devotion to education, not because it used to be one of the few "female friendly" jobs in a world with a low glass ceiling. Sometimes, I identify so strongly as a feminist that I get annoyed when other equality-minded people do not. I am aware that this is a little irrational. But truly, do you not want to commit for the long haul? Get the happy ending? Don't you know that you can be a feminist even if feminism isn't a perfect social movement? Or are you going to lecture me on the failed institution of marriage, I mean, feminism.
I guess that is the thing about labels, what they represent doesn't need to be perfect in order to be good.
Despite my affection for labels, and my belief that perfection isn't necessary for goodness, I still hesitate to embrace any label concerning my religion. To clarify, I am quite able to embrace some aspects of the LDS label. The Of Jesus Christ part is easy, Christianity, like feminism, reminds me of the inherent worth of every human being. But the Of Latter-Day-Saints part troubles me at times. It's the cognitive dissonance keeping me up at night. The LDS label reminds me of ideas I value: family, charity, humanitarianism, while simultaneously reminding me of ideas I don't: exclusion of certain types of family, Victorian gender roles, and a degree of group-think (more kindly referred to as "Mormon Culture,") that could make Orwell shudder.
But what about embracing labels even when they are imperfect? Don't you want to commit for the long haul? Don't you know you can be a Mormon even if it isn't a perfect religion? Or are you going to lecture me on the failed institution of marriage, I mean organized religion.
Like the romantic partner unwilling to "define the relationship," because they aren't sure of the future, perhaps labels in religion are not always effective. Labeling something assigns it a degree of stasis, permanence that can be rewarding and reassuring, but can also close the door to change, halt evolution, and lead to stagnation. I like labels that help reaffirm who I am, but not when they define me entirely.
While I always want to be a wife, an educator/amateur thinker, an advocate for human equality, I do not know if I want the stasis that comes from the label of religion. I'm not saying I don't want to attend church ever again, or that I have nothing to learn or gain from my LDS background. I'm simply saying I want the luxury of choice. Can I become some incarnation of LDS without being LDS? Can one be Of Jesus Christ always, but Of Latter-Day-Saints in part?
There is one thing I do know: labels are easier. That is certain.
But not all who wander are lost. (Tolkien.)