Friday, April 06, 2007

A Lifetime of Checking the "Other" Box

I'm a person who has spent her entire life checking the box "other".

You know, the forms and surveys that ask you to succinctly describe a major aspect of your personality, beliefs, values, or habits in a single check box. Seems my daughter is following in my footsteps, which we'll get to after I opine a moment on boxes.

From voting ballots to religious surveys to race to you name it, I always seem to veer towards checking "other", especially when they limit your choices to "pick one box only". I'm not a box checker, I'm the person who needs a large text box so I can write a little story behind why I choose to be "other".

"Well you see, I was born Catholic, baptized Catholic, my mother prays the rosary daily and calls me on all Holy Days of Obligation to remind me that it is indeed a Holy Day of Obligation and she went to Mass and prayed for me, I have Virgen de Guadalupe all over the place in everything from sequins to keychains, I consider myself culturally Catholic and the guilt has followed me through life and would you be any different if you had 12 years of Catholic school, but then I found my indigenous roots and made a major turn in my 20's and here I am 42 years old filling up this friggin' box trying to explain why I don't fit into any of your categories!!!"

Or maybe you'll find me filling in this text box in the voting booth:
"I refuse to align myself with any political party because my heart has been broken too many times by lies, prejudice, two-face double talkers who made promises they never intended to carry out. For my sanity I've had to divorce myself from even the 'good' ones. I vote my conscience, not a party anymore." (but let me make it clear I did not vote for our current regime nor his ilk)

Fortunately the 2000 census allowed us to check more than one box, Latina/German/Azteca mutt that I am finally could find a place but they don't consider Mexican American to be of native ancestry so I could rant on that...

Anyhow, the impetus for this verbal fallout had to do with a recent assessment of my 4 year old's readiness for Kindergarten in the fall. Technically she qualifies because California's policy is the child must turn 5 by December 2. That's pretty darn late, I'm not sure who decided December 2 when most every other state has July 1 or Sept 1 as cut off dates. So I'm given the chance to either throw the kid into the grind at age 4 or give her the gift of a year.

Yes, we're going for the extra year, but when I read the assessment, I saw the telltale box:

Citlalli defies description in some areas but this one made me laugh. In describing her social emotional qualities it listed a number of positive traits then the OTHER box popped up:
STRONG WILLED, it said in teacher perfect cursive.

Duh, I thought to myself, tell me something I don't know.

Of all the boxes in the world, I can't believe they didn't have one for strong willed! Even I, checkbox hater that I am, would have made a box for strong willed. In a 4 year old? C'mon people, isn't that the 4 year old credo to do the absolute opposite of what your mother wants you to do? Harumph!

So when I become the benevolent dictator of the world, one of my first decrees will be an end to all check boxes, except on sandwich menus. But on anything personal, I swear it's out!

OK, my next decree will be changing kindergarten entry dates, and I must do something about Holy Days of Obligation. Could we do a national broadcast of my mother reminding everyone? We could get Vatican funding but then it might get political...


brown eyed girl said...

nobody puts Nancita in a box! when you become that dictator can i be your attaché?

Nancita said...

Or like my favorite quote from dirty dancing: