Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Love Letter to Assigning Things

Dear assigning things,

Oh, do I love to assign stuff to things! And of course the antipode: things to stuff. It's something I do automatically, usually, and well. It's probably because I have a meager morsel of synesthesia. When I say "meager" I mean it. My synesthesia - chromesthesia - is a dinky shrimp of a concept that sounds a lot cooler than it is, and I don't like to talk about it. For the uninitiated: sometimes I see colors when I hear sounds. Or hear colors. It is not nearly as extreme as you are imagining it right now. A symphony is not rainbow of light.  It's not constant, it only happens during speaking, and again...I don't like to talk about it.

It's a problem because some people sound like they are the most sluggish, defeated fluorescent yellow they could muster, and I automatically hate them.  They could be a perfectly nice person, but I will refuse to give them a chance to prove it.  It's terrible.  If you've been reading this blog for awhile (all four of you lovelies), you would know that I ardently judge people based on the sound of their voice. Sometimes a person has an offensive timbre and they can probably do nothing about it without the help of Henry Higgins, so I graciously forgive them for shrilling like a human theremin, but that doesn't mean I like them.

So I will assign that person to the list in my brain headed "people who sound like drabby yellow grass." Of course, colors ebb and vary depending on the types of vocalization, the modality, etc., but in general, some people have lovely voices that flutter from pale blue to the night sky and others sing in a papal purple and speak in scarlet, but not everyone, just some. There is no mapping logic to it all. But once you've spoken a color to me I will remember it.

And although some people sound like colors, most people don't. Which means I need to find something else to assign to them.

The act of assigning, the deliberate synthesis of one thing and another, whether that thing is a trait or a phrase or a responsibility or a's different than something as omnipotent as naming. Naming asserts control over a thing. It involves taking into account history and future and the summation of the assigned parts.

When something is named the audience places immediate judgement. Compare Avatar to Ferngully, two terrible movies with the exact same plot.  Regardless of their similarities, the titles insinuate that the focus of each is different: one word is the manifestation of a god on a lesser plane of existence, while the other is a ravine fully of shaded plants.

So naming is power.

But assigning...assigning is mine. It's my personal association. Assigning could be interpreted as a claim to ownership, but to me it's more like a claim to relationship. Yes, this thing, this person, this place, it means something to me and I to it. We are relevant to each other. 

Maybe when I assign things to stuff or stuff to things, it's a plea to my personal vanity. Or is it a way to organize impressions, or memories?  Is it a way imbue immortality? Or is it my own personal confusion of the two concepts?

I've assigned sentences to the stars and certain behaviors to the trees on my street, smiles to people with a tendency to frown, friends to flashbacks and flashbacks to friends, degrees of douchiness to flavors (what is going to be the kale or cauliflower of 2014? I need to make a list), gravity to versions of nostalgia, lovability to myself, unfair judgement to drug addicts, giggles to puppies, personalities to letters, stamps of approval to restaurants that sell cream of chicken and rice soup on days outside of Sunday, activities to days and emotions to weeks.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of things I've assigned to humans with or without their knowledge:

Speaking of animal personalities, I'm a bear. 
Which means, I'm sure, that I would be a cinnamon bear.
  • animal personality (but only from this particular quiz, and I don't so much as assign animals as take the quiz for everyone I meet always)
  • toys
  • Hogwarts Houses (one time I assigned a Hogwarts house to every US President)
  • Myers-Briggs personalities
  • colors
  • actors and actresses
  • biography authors
  • walk songs
  • weather
  • nicknames
  • type of circus performer

Sure, all of these are the makings for a fine Buzzfeed quiz, but not really.  Because it's not like I assign things to everyone, and I don't assign the same things across the board. I assign colors and feelings and objects to humans. Durrr.

Still there's a problem: this turns humans into characters, and explaining away behavior by saying, "well, she runs from confrontation because she's a cottontail rabbit who speaks in peach." It's always unhealthy to turn a fleshy, living person into a character. That's objectification, not a relationship.

I used to objectify myself completely. I thought, "I want people to think I'm this way" and so I would live up to what I thought other people's expectations would be of the person I wanted to be. Then I placed judgement on myself based on how I assumed other people perceived me and tried to anticipate and thwart those assumptions by berating who I thought they thought I was. Like in the mirror.

Honestly? I still do that. Sometimes. But now I realize what I'm doing, and I'm correcting it. Do not objectify everyone. We are people, and therefore unique and unknowable. Stop sucking.  

But assignments help. They reinforce knowledge...I don't think Emi is a gently carved bolt of affable lightning, I know she is. I know Fraya is a bouncy ball with an orange sunset singing inside, Xtine is a crown of perfectly roasted marshmallow stilettos. These are things I know. I have assigned things to them that will last forever.

So thank you, assigning things, for being a thing I love to do.



 So I guess I have a Love Letters series now.  I mean, I do. Click here for the list so far.


daisyfae said...

makes me wonder if nursemyra had a colour (with a "u"). i think she would be a stunning bright royal blue, or maybe a saucy red!

renalfailure said...

This will sound very drab yellow, I didn't get selected for the Chicago Comedy Festival so no trip out there in March.