I am working on a book with the oxymoronic title Passionately Moderate, and it got me to thinking about the labels I apply to myself that are oxymoronic. I am a feminist traditionalist, for example. I believe strongly in women’s autonomy and inclusion, but I was married for 53 years to a loving husband and raised three daughters to believe that being a career woman and married with or without children was not a variety of oxymoron. I was also a band booster and a Girl Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher. I cook, I clean, I sew as I was raised to do.
When I was working as a policy analyst (an economist at the Strom Thurmond Institute who never voted for Strom), I had a picture of myself on my office door finishing a lap quilt for my daughter. Caption: Professor, economist, quilter. As poet Walt Whitman wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
Religiously, I identify as a liberal Christian Unitarian Universalist with touches of Buddhism and paganism in my religious makeup. My Universalist self does not accept the idea of exclusive possession of the truth by any one way of being in religious community, so others may find this identity oxymoronic, but I prefer to call it holistic. I am progressive on social issues and fiscally conservative, but I always have to explain that fiscally conservative doesn’t necessarily mean smaller government, it means more responsible and accountable government. I recall many years ago a student coming up to ask a question after class and he began by saying, “Well, I know you are conservative, so…” I think he meant that he found himself agreeing with me, and his label was conservative, so I must be conservative.
I am also a New England native but an adopted Southerner for the last 2/3 of my life, which make me more a split personality than an oxymoron, but I hold both cultures to have enriched my life in different ways. I probably have other contradictions in my makeup that I am not aware of, but I count on my daughters and my friends to point them out to me.
So I invite you to reflect on your own oxymoronic labels. Practice oxymoronics. Try being both-and rather than either/or. It can be enriching, rewarding, and a good foundation for a bridge to others who share some of your “oxys” and others of your “morons,” along with those that are just their own.