Just last week, with only a little paperwork, the good people at the UT Southwestern Medical Center acknowledged my status as a "significant other." That was good enough to take my picture and print it on an ID card. Yet the ID card—which I only get because of this status—does not call me a significant other. The ID card says in little green print that what I am is a "Non-Employee, Non-Student."
There's a faction in Non-fiction that feels it is fundamentally problematic to be defined, not by what a thing is, but in terms of its not being something else. I appreciate the argument in a theoretical way, I support the idea of things being valued for what they are, but as a practical matter I find I don't mind the term. On the contrary, I like the all-encompassing nature of binaries. I like that if you aren't one thing you're the other, that everything belongs somewhere, that everything has a place. Prior to Non-fiction, I worked in Non-profit, which was perhaps too busy writing grants to worry about its Non-ness, but in any case never made an issue of it. I have, in effect, made a career of Non-. So while I am impressed by how frankly and succinctly the little green words have me pegged, I am not surprised.
My significant other, on the other hand, is a total Non-non. His ID card lists him as an Employee and a Student. He is, his ID card suggests, everything I'm not. I'm impressed at how significant and how other that sounds, and then I'm impressed at how insignificant and how same it turns out to be, at least to the extent that both cards give the same chirp as we swipe them over a little black box to enter the university gym. There I am free to reserve a tennis court or take a class in the multi-purpose room or run laps on the 1/12-of-a-mile indoor track. The towels, I am assured three times on the facilities tour, are exceptionally clean, and the number of different greens they have faded to convinces me that at the very least they've been washed a lot. In the weight room, a man I've never met does not asked why I've tipped a Bosu ball-side down and am wobbling on its hard plastic platform as I curl ten pound weights, he asks only if I need some help getting down. I don't, as it happens, I'm fine. I've just purchased a combination lock for the day-use lockers and because of that I can't shake the feeling I'm about to start Junior High, but I'm fine. I've spent a lot of time in university gyms—as a student, then as an employee, then as a student again—and even if what I am now is a "Non-," it's comforting to be somewhere so familiar. It's comforting to feel like everything belongs somewhere.