Thursday, June 27, 2013

A word I shouldn't use

And hopefully won't, hereafter.  
Cliff, making conversation as we pulled out of Quiktrip: "That woman that pulled out of here is driving with one hand, and in the other hand she has a great big donut she's eating." 
Me: "I didn't see her; is she fat?"
Cliff: "Heck yeah."
Me, as we started to pull around the lady: "Wow, even her wrists are fat!" 
Silence, and then
Me: "Oh, how judgmental one can be after only six months of counting calories."
::Laughter at ourselves ensues::


This is a slice of our life from this morning.  
First of all, note the "holier-than-thou" attitude toward someone eating a donut.  Thirty-eight pounds ago, you could have called me fat.  In fact, several years back when I had gained a considerable amount of weight, my mom and I drove up to see Aunt Ruby.  The first thing Mother said when we walked in the door was, "Look how fat Donna has gotten."  
It hurt.  
From now on I am going to try and reserve that word for dogs and cattle and other creatures that don't know what "fat" means.  Yes, even if I am talking about a stranger in a passing car who doesn't know what I'm saying.  
When I'm with my husband, I do reserve the right to be "impolitically correct" sometimes.  But to put a label on someone that would have described me, only six months ago, is just wrong, and hurts me as much as anybody.  It says I don't think I was as worthy a person when I was overweight.  

Another word we shouldn't use, and an explanation, sort of.  Where I grew up there were no people of color for miles around.  The only black people I ever saw were in the movies, usually portrayed negatively:  likable and funny, but not too bright.  Many people used the "N" word in Iowa at one time or another, although I never heard anybody say anything specifically negative about black people because we didn't know any.  When we played ring-around-the-rosie, pockets-full-of-posie, the last line was, "Last one down's a n----- baby."  
It wasn't intended as a slur or a put-down, it was just a word in a game.  Probably if we had had neighbors of color at that time, we would have used another version of the game, the one that ended with, "Allie-allie in free".  But of course white people didn't have black neighbors then, did they?  Their children didn't even go to school together.
I don't know how old I was when I stopped using that word, but I'll bet it was before I was ten.  Mostly I used the word "colored", which was the term my parents always used anyhow.  At that time, that was considered the polite terminology, and I believe remained so until the sixties, when "Black is beautiful" came into play.  You can't believe how hard it was for me to switch to the word black, because it somehow seemed derogatory, don't ask me why.  It's hard to change something that is ingrained in a person.  I guess the best term now is African-American, but that's so many syllables!  It takes so long to say!  
As for the Paula Deen brouhaha, I like the perspective of Patrick from Patrick's Place.    
    

2 comments:

TARYTERRE said...

What's that old children's saying, "Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." In theory it's nice, but so not true in reality.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

It's so easy to judge others. Sad but true. I think we all do it in one way or another. None of us is perfect. Like you I try not to be judgmental. The best rule of thumb is to always treat others as you'd like to be treated. Works every time.