A few days ago, I was dinking around Google trying to find some information when I came on this post. I honestly can’t even remember what I was researching, but it had nothing to do with the content. Ironically, a few of my blog reads are in the comments (Which is a bit weird and also makes me feel the need to issue the disclaimer that I swear I’m not a stalker.)
It got me thinking about my verbiage choices, especially on this blog.
I have an inexplicable fear of mentally handicapped people. I don’t know why, they just scare me. I used to say that my idea of hell would be to be a hugger at the Special Olympics. I wasn’t trying to be mean when saying that, I just knew it.would.freak.me.out. When I worked at a bookstore they would have severely handicapped people come in and after the first week when a lady lurched at me and wouldn’t let go, I had to have other people ring them up because I would be having a full blown anxiety attack in the break room.
I felt bad about it. I’m not proud of it. I don’t do it on purpose.(So please don’t email me nasty things. It’s hard enough to be honest about it.)
So, in penance, I participated in “The Polar Plunge” to raise money for the Cache Valley team to participate in the Special Olympics. I jumped into a freezing cold lake in the middle of January and I had a great time doing it. Between that and spending a little bit of time with a friend’s nephew who has Down Syndrome, my fear has lessened a lot. I can’t lie, it hasn’t gone away, but it is a LOT better. To the point that I think I would do OK being a hugger.
What I can be blamed for is using the term “Retarded”, without thought. Example? I call myself a “Technotard” all the time. In MY head I’m thinking “WOW, my technical skills are totally delayed compared to everyone else”. BUT. I really shouldn’t use it. Looking at it from a different point of view, it is probably pretty darn hurtful to people.
That was pretty hard to admit because I am admitting to being uncouth, backward and cruel. I also found a couple of the commenter’s in the post to have a holier-than-thou “Smug” tone of judgment and I HATE admitting that those people are…well…RIGHT. But in this case? They are. And I’m going to stop. “Techno-dork” should suffice very well and I apologize if I made anyone uncomfortable. (And no, no one emailed me about this. I came to this conclusion all on my very own.)
This whole topic got me thinking about other “Gaffes” and “Taboo’s”.
Utah is a very Caucasian state. In fact, I was doing AWESOME in the diversity field because I had ONE African American friend in high school. He and his siblings were the only black kids in the school. In my interactions with him I first really clued in about how minority groups may say things about themselves that no one else is allowed to. One of the first things I remember him saying to me was when we were building a set for a theater performance.
“Hey, Mike? Could you bring me a different drill?”
He put his hands on his hips, gave me a big “TSK” and said in “That” tone:
“What color do I look?!!!!”
OMG! What do I say to THAT? EEK! ACK! I’m going to totally offend him!!!! So, I went with the safe, yet stupid:
Yah. He LOVED doing that to people. Not particularly nice, but on the other hand, he had a sense of humor about it. As I got to know him really well, he would say this to me a LOT. By the end of high school our banter went more like this:
“Yo, Mikey! Grab a different drill. This one sucks.”
“What color do I look like, Miss Thing?”
“Black. Now give me the damn drill.”
When I was a freshman in college, I had an African American roommate named, Charlotte. When her family visited they threw the “N” word around like you can not believe. The first time she did it in front of me I must have looked like someone bitchslapped me because she just laughed.
“It’s ok, girl. Black people are allowed to call other black people “N******’s”
REALLY? WTF? I never knew that! She also explained that if I ever said it to a black person the chances of getting the wrath of hell opened up on me were pretty high because I was white. White people aren’t EVER allowed to use it. EVER.
Ok. Good to know. Not that I would have ever thought about saying it, anyway???
Come to find out that it is pretty common for minority or special interest groups to use slurs or jokes with themselves.
I was visiting my awesome sister, Linny and my sister-in-law, Nooncy. They were watching a BBQ cookoff on food network. Linny called out to Nooncy in the other room.
“NAN! Come in here. You need to see this girl grill. She’s such a Dyke!”
What the hell??
Now, to understand my confusion and “EEEEK!” factor in this exchange, I have history with the phrase “That’s so gay”. I’m not proud of it, I just didn’t see the harm in it. Until I said it in front of Linny and Nooncy during what I refer to as “THE GREAT LETTUCE WEDGE INCIDENT OF ’99″
“A lettuce wedge salad? All it is is a hunk of grody iceburg lettuce with some tomatoes thrown on top. That’s so gay.”
“OH, REALLY? I think it sounds rather heterosexual to me!”
I felt completely lame, mean, and like the smallest-minded person on the planet. As well I should.
Though I was forgiven long ago, I still whip myself about it. It pretty much cured me from using the term. I will confess that in TRUE LORALEE STYLE the three times that I have said this since then HAVE BEEN IN FRONT OF GAY PEOPLE! Yah. I’m a real winner.
So, when Linny went off using the “D-word”, it was a bit confusing. She explained that yes, they could use it and no, I could not. Cool. Just as long as I know.
On reflection, though. I do the same thing. This behavior isn’t limited to race or sexual orientation, but it falls into other special interest groups. Example? Mormons. In fact, I just commented on one of my favorite blog reads yesterday:
“Dude. I seriously need to hang out with your family.
Any interest in acquiring a plural wife???
(No, really people. KIDDING. No snarky replies necessary)”
She’s a Mormon, I’m an inactive Mormon (But having been raised one, I sill have some street cred) therefore it is ok for us to banter about polygamy, green jello salad, station wagons, and Mormon culture in general. (Well, if you have a sense of humor. I can’t see my mother-in-law playfully bantering about those things. Ever.) Point is, if you are a non-Mormon you just DO NOT joke to a Mormon about “How many wives do you have”. It’s tacky. It’s rude.
I think that it is obvious that I will never be the most politically correct human on the earth. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be. I think that it can go WWWWAAAAAYYYY overboard. Like the movement in England to say that a student flunking out of school isn’t “REALLY” failing, they are just experiencing “Delayed Success”. WHATEVER.
I can be more aware. I can be kinder. I can try to put myself in other’s shoes and try to keep my yap as closed and un-offensive as I am capable.
THAT said, I will probably STILL think to myself “BLOGGER IS RETARDED!!!” because really, there is no other better description. I will endeavor to be a good little hypocrite and not say it out loud, though.