Does Occupation = Self-identity?

Our Love for Pho – Prelude to A More Serious Question


A week or so ago, I took my daughter to meet a friend for lunch.  We met up in our newly-found Pho joint.  For those of you who don’t know what Pho is, it is a traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup garnished with Thai basil and a variety of other vegetables.  I know for sure my daughter and I can’t live through a week without having Pho.

We happened to sit next to another couple who have enjoyed Pho as much as we have.  They know many hangout places in town and naturally we struck a casual conversation over where to go.

Who Am I?

Near the end of the conversation, the gentleman asked me what I do.  For a few seconds, I was simply stunned and I had to think quickly on my feet to come up with an answer.  I told him that I am just a housewife and he concurred with my self-professed identity.

In my mind, I wonder if he indeed would guess I am just a housewife or he was just being polite to me.  The truth of the matter is I used to so naturally describe myself as what I did.  I would have said that I worked for a company and my job function was such.  Introspectively, how untrue it was to use my profession to represent who I am.

So what should the right answer be?  Should I say I am a mother, a wife, a sibling, etc. or should I elevate my thoughts to a much higher level to share my mission in life?

What would be your answer to this question besides the typical occupation = self identity scenario?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2 Responses to “Does Occupation = Self-identity?”
  1. Lani Rae Garcia Says:

    Lei: Perhaps you should have answered when he asked,

    “What do you do?”

    I’m enjoying a hot bowl of pho.

    Though if I were there, I would have answered, “lawyer.”
    Too many boxes, too little time. We need to jump out
    of all boxes. Especially re: words we identify ourselves

    By the way, you write like a scholar.

  2. Cheryl Schuessler Says:


    Several years ago I read a fascinating article on this issue. The author mentioned that she changed her answer from her profession to her personal characteristics, such as, “I am a learner, a reader who loves to spend a day with a book, ect.” This type of response eliminates society’s stereotypes of certain professions and probably leads to a deeper conversation. If nothing else, it jolts people away from the usual dinner party chatter.