Privilege Blog

Monograms and Doc Martens

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.

This is another bowl. From my mother’s side. Happy Birth Day Matilda.

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.”


Blue “M” by Johnny Por Taing via mint
All others by me

17 Responses

  1. I think the minivan looks great. I passed my little red sedan on to my daughter when she graduated.

    A tree fell on it.

  2. Identity, Monograms & Freud.
    That's a mouthfull AND the three words combined explain loads!

    I was one of those kids in high school that got along with ALL the groups, not defined by any one of them.

    But please, if you get a job, don't give up your blog! You've got too many great things to say! Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  3. 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."

    Moi. Exactement.

  4. In college I branched out and made friends with people of all ilk. I don't think I'm as easily defined as I was back then. You must keep people guessing.

  5. I love this post. None of us likes to be pigeon-holed. I too, had a minivan when the kids were younger. Few of us are as simple as we appear on the surface, and in my case, I say, Thank Goodness!

  6. I have almost always chosen to be friends with people from different groups. I've never really fit or belonged inside one certain box…I like it this way. No one thing defines me…I just don't fit the molds put before me. I rebel when I am forced to choose or to fit inside one certain box. Yes, I am several "thats". I love meeting people that don't fit in the box either….they keep me guessing! Thus make the world a fun interesting place!

  7. praise on the "you must keep people guessing" comment- so true and life is richer that way.

    as if I couldn't love you enough, your mad whip when you had kids was the same one that my childhood bestie's mother had- which I loved her all the more for!



  8. I like the monogram posts :)

    When I finally drive, I'm fairly certain I will be driving my mommy's Volvo. :)

  9. Isn't it funny to think that we believe something like a car could speak for ourselves; for who we are in the world.

    And isn't it curious that we even think we'd want it to?!

    I love being lots of 'thats' – I think that's the true meaning of privilege, really. A friend of mine in advertising always tries to pinpoint me: "You read Instyle, right?" I happen to be a happy 27 year old who enjoys embodying contradictions. Not in an identity-politics way, necessarily, just a "don't bother pigeon-holing: they don't have a hole for me" kind of way.

    Wonderful musings, LPC!

  10. Any post quoting both Freud and Collins is a post with merit, IMHO. This one is outstanding Miss LPC, as it addresses a topic very near and dear to our heart: the assignment of identity in response to position and possessions.

    We adore Mr. Collins and have been fortunate to be in some B-school classes he taught at that University near you.

    We do hope Matilda enjoyed a pleasant Birth Day whenever it may have taken place, especially as TQM hoped to use that name for her one and only daughter. (You know how well that turned out.)

    May the rest of your week be simply splendid!

  11. When I first read this post. I was in denial about that I even define myself by who I know, or what I own. I concluded, I am, who I am; and don't measure myself in any such way. But then got to thinking….. (isn't that is what a great post is supposed to do? make us think)

    You're right! While shopping with my sons for school clothes, we were going from store to store in search of the "perfect" sneakers. They could care less what they wear for clothes but sneakers are a different story.

    While walking the mall I walked them into a store that is like a skateboarder store. I figured lets check out those skull style sneakers.

    Well the walls were all black and a very nice sales girl came up to us to ask if we needed help. I replied, "thanks but just looking for now." She was beautiful, had some body piercings on her face and wearing a leather choke collar.

    My youngest son whispered to me, "I don't see anything." But I insisted we go in the back of the store to look. Another sales boy with body piercings asked us if we needed any help. Again I said "no thank you"

    But meanwhile my youngest keep nudging me trying to get my attention and whispers, "Mom let's go. Mom, we don't belong here."

    Oh no the key sentence "we don't belong here" made me look up and realize, us in our preppy clothes really did look out of place in that store….

    Awesome post!

  12. I was also one of those kids in high school who didn't hang out with only one group. Even more relevant, maybe, is the question of ethic heritage and identity. As a Spanish/Chilean/Norwegian/Swedish/African American (equal parts), I've always felt that inner struggle to identify with an ehtnicity. I'm too white (and don't speak Spanish) for my hispanic heritage, and I'm too tan and exotic looking to pass for a Swede. I can claim any, so I claim all!

  13. I am so glad that others share this feeling. And from so many perspectives. Racial and ethnic. High school. InStyle. Young and old. Princess, I am so jealous you took a class and heard Collins speak. Jan, you just need to take a closer look at the van…no tree fell on it, but if I had had a different light, you could see the painted graffiti on the windows. And the plastic spinner left on one wheel. Yes, I did say spinners on a minivan. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree…

  14. Once again much to comment on.

    1. I really like this odd letterpress-looking monogram, for I have always liked the odd retro style of the font which can be called Futura. Cool.

    2. And your mother is from New England (as is mine)? So what are her thoughts on the Gurgling Cod? LOL!

    3. I just got snarked at by a fellow commenter on another blog for daring to suggest that we can have the AND in more things in life than most ever dare to hope. Maybe that's just a symptom of the usual limited binary thought process of most.

    4. Your DMs remind me of mine (well, the older of 2 pairs) – are yours so slick on the bottom they're dangerous in the wet and winter? Oh well…I lurve my beat-up old square toed DMs, for they are unusual.

  15. Oh, good Lord. That is magnificent. Can you talk some of readers who went off the literal deep end when they heard about a tattoo? In The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell remarks on studies of humanity that show solid evidence we are only able to attribute one strong persona to each other, and unable to compute anything that diverges from this persona… Doc Martens. Tattoos. Etiquette. Yes, they can all coexist… and they do, thank goodness. Dichotomies are my favorite thing.

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