I’m A Creep. I’m A Weirdo. What The Hell Am I Blogging Here?

Creepy: Having or causing a creeping sensation of the skin, as from horror or fear.

As I have written about previously, it seems we prefer to relegate specific negative descriptions of people to specific genders. For example, men are assholes while women are crazy. When it comes to the creep, it seems we as a society reserve this, what I consider a vague and ambiguous term, nearly exclusively for men.

So today I explore the idea of being creepy while examining just what it means to be labeled a creep.

I first began thinking about the whole “creepy guy” thing when a former colleague of mine; a very sharp, well-educated and progressive minded woman -whom I consider a friend- made the observation on social media that all “older” men are creeps. She wrote that she had a series of episodes when older men made untoward comments and advances on her…therefore concluding that all older men must follow this same profile.

Which, of course, would make the likes of Mick Jagger, Richard Gere, Alec Baldwin, hell, even George Clooney, some of the creepiest among us as decades separate the ages of their younger lovers, but I digress…

I really expected much more from an educated person and, of course, as the target demographic of this stereotype you cannot blame me for being a bit on the defensive, right?

Now, a year later or so, I just read a wonderful blog entry by a female friend of mine, Jean Franzblau, of Cuddle Sanctuary fame, ironically entitled, “In Defense of Creepy Men,” which dusted off the creepy male milieu topic once again in my mind. This very short and readable blog entry -an entry that I would strongly recommend you take a moment to read- refers to the idea that often times certain behavioral signals are frequently interpreted as creepy, when, in fact, they come from a much different place.

Jean wrote:

I hadn’t thought much about creepy men before…I thought that a creepy man was creepy all of the time. What I learned is that a person can come off as creepy because in that moment he feels awkward. I googled “I’m afraid she’ll think I’m creepy” and got over 19 million results. In Jon Anthony’s article, Why Girls Think You’re Creepy, he explains that creepiness is “much more of a ‘vibe,’ than it is a look.” It comes from a lack of confidence and the need for validation from others.

But wait. A lack of confidence? I feel that sometimes. A need for validation from others? I’ve certainly had experience with that, too. I had no idea I had so much in common with creepy men!

As Jean so artfully demonstrates, it is imperative that we take an educated and critical look at behaviors and make reasonable judgments based on the individual, not the stereotype.

Referring to one as a creep is, at best, just lazy thinking or, at worst, passing terrible judgment onto a man who, among other things, may lack certain social skills or possesses physical traits of which he has no or little control.

So just what are these behaviors women believe to be creepy?

I really wanted to dive into the creepy deep end so I did a little bit of research.

Creepiness is all about not being able to figure out whether there is a threat,” said Frank McAndrew, Professor of Psychology at Knox College and author of a study on creepiness. As I have already mentioned, he asserts that men may be seen as creepier than women because they’re perceived as more menacing.

As a result of this study, creepy traits and behaviors include:

  • Standing too close to someone
  • Smiling peculiarly
  • Talking too much about a topic, especially sex
  • Laughing at inappropriate times
  • Not letting someone out of conversation
  • Displaying unwanted sexual interest
  • Asking to take pictures of people
  • Displaying too much or too little emotion
  • Having bulging eyes
  • Having long fingers
  • Having pasty skin
  • Having greasy hair
  • Having dark eye bags
  • Wearing dirty or weird clothes
  • Licking lips

Creepy? It seems to me that any behavior/trait that we do not understand can simply get thrown into the creepy pile. Any one of these traits and behaviors, perhaps sans the sex stuff, can be the result of any number of legitimate conditions. And if man is too sexual? Tell him to STFU and you are not interested. Rather than throwing him under the creep bus assert some much needed boundaries.

And here is what I am NOT saying: There are no such men that exhibit these traits who have malicious intention. Of course some do. There are some people we should absolutely be concerned about when certain signals demand it. My concern is that we have only two options when pondering one’s creepiness, a legitimate concern or an illegitimate one.  A legitimate concern rests in the human propensity to sense fear and danger in the environment due to REAL threats. While recently having lunch in a family bar and grill, a man walked past and the hair on the back of my neck immediately stood on end and I sensed fear. I could not even see his face from my angle, only noticed it was a sleight Caucasian man, probably a bit older than myself, with a cowboy hat and rodeo-like gait. Long story short: My inclinations were correct as he was shortly kicked out of the restaurant for inappropriate words toward a waitress.

However, and this is my primary concern and the one that drives the central idea of this blog, as human beings we have a disposition towards tribalism and when a person, behavior, thought form or new idea enters our life that transgresses our tribal norm, we typically have the same response: Danger. Rather than deal with the nuances of this “danger,” we dismiss it all as creepy and move forward, or, perhaps more aptly, backward.

“But wait Jimmy, you sensed creepy and your perception turned out to be correct.” Yes, yet my inclination was not based on a different type of person (an older white male, just like me), behavior (walked normally), thought form or new idea (we never even talked); it was a purely vibe-filled, guttural like, instinctual reaction of which I had no immediate control. My then rational side can then conclude that rather than calling this guy a creep, he is more likely an alcoholic that needs to check himself into a 12 step. Sensing danger can be our friend, jumping to irrational stereotypes can be our foe.

I would never want to suggest to stymie one’s perceptual antenna of fear, rather make certain this fear comes from an authentic place and not an irrational one.

As I write the word creep I realize the utter mystery and ambiguity of the term itself. We can describe one as a liar, cheat, nice, friendly, mean, loud, quiet, inappropriate, etc…based on a very particular set of behaviors that may lead you to one of the these descriptive conclusions. Yet to define one as “creepy” there are no set and definitive identifiable behaviors that provide a direct correlation to creepy.

Just like all stereotypes, it seems we like to throw the creep term around when we are too lazy to make more nuanced and accurate assessments of human behavior, only to then make rash and ignorant judgments on an entire segment of society because they appear weird to us…which is really just a self-justified form of xenophobia.

In the day and age of political correctness, an age in which we are constantly changing our terminologies in order not to offend, extending olive branches out to traditionally disenfranchised communities and building an overall culture of acceptance, it seems we are fine with liberally throwing out a label to a demographic of individuals who may have exhibited a particular behavior that we can freely and lazily now refer to as creepy simply because we do not understand it, without so much as a bat of the eye from the society.

Defensive much? Yep. As an older, straight, and “privileged” white male it is not often that my demo is the victim of stereotyping, thus it feels a bit odd and disconcerting. However, it concurrently reminds me of the shortfalls of stereotypical thinking that tears culture apart and how I need to be more sensitive to this shortcut way of thinking in my own life.

So, kids, next time you see or feel the vibe of a creep, think again. Perhaps the person suffers from a diagnosis (ie. Aspergers, alcoholism, autism, stuttering, shyness) of which you know nothing about or you are just reacting in fear as you try to make sense of your world.

It’s 2017 and I think it is high time we retire the creepy term in with the faggot, nigger, wop, kike and retard. At one point and time we called all of these once disenfranchised groups creepy as well.

We should know better.

 

 

 

“Please Call Me Jimmy, Or Not” or “5 Observations About Language” or “Please Chill The Hell Out Word Police”

Many of my students claim that they find it difficult to argue with a good number of my blogs, in spite of the fact I strongly encourage them to do so. I would like to believe one reason it may be difficult to argue is due to my practice of anticipating objections and addressing those antithetical arguments first and foremost…while making it very clear what I am NOT saying.

This blog will continue with that strategy and quite intentional tradition.

So today I argue that we live in an age of absurd politically correct language—that is reaching near ridiculous levels—and that I most definitely do NOT serve on the politically correct language committee. I also believe our (the universal “our”) collective linguistic sensibilities are far too easily offended.

It is therefore now imperative to make it clear what I am NOT saying when I suggest you all just need to relax when it comes to the use of, for some, emotionally charged words.

I am not suggesting that we use intentional hurtful language toward anyone or any group. I am not suggesting that if we know a word or label to be hurtful to someone to use it. I am not suggesting that all words are appropriate for all occasions. I AM suggesting that we should use words, labels and phrases that a person or group prefers to be addressed.

And should we screw that up? Chill out…we actually have real problems in the world. Like REAL problems.

Take the issue of one’s name. When I was a child most referred to me as “Jimmy.” When I started to get older, I transitioned for a few years to James, then, circa high school, I was officially Jim. Upon reaching mid-life crisis circa mid-forties, in a futile effort to reconnect with anything youth, I elected to go back to my roots…and requested to be called, once again, Jimmy. You may think it silly that I now prefer this moniker, yet who the hell cares what you think? Just call me what I prefer regardless of the reason I prefer. And guess what? I will call you whatever it is you prefer as well…no verbal skin off Jimmy’s back.

If your name is Norman yet you prefer to be called Bubba, I am so down.

This is called common courtesy and makes the village a slightly better place.

Now, that said, should you opt to call me something other than Jimmy…I really do not give a shit.

I realize it is only a damn word and in the grand scheme of things, means relatively nothing.

At the more macro level, the problem is our acceptable phrases and monikers are changing at light speed and we cannot always keep up with the right term at the right time—so put your word guns down language police, not everyone checks in with PC committee when they wake up each morning.

What I am arguing is that we (once again, the universal “we”) place WAY too much emphasis on the role of language, as if words are some sort of sacred cows and possess an inherent meaning all their own that are worthy of respect…not.

Here are five basic observations about words:

  1. Words are arbitrary, subjective and constantly subject to change. According to Linguist and one time US Senator, now dead, SI Hayakawa, the term broadcast used to be an agricultural term referring to a farmer planting the fields, “broadly casting” the seed in the ground. Ready? Nice used to mean foolish, silly used to mean worthy and blessed, awful used to mean “in awe of,” naughty used to mean having nothing, clue used to mean a ball of yarn, guy used to mean a frightful figure (ok…maybe a bad example), egregious used to mean distinguished, flirt used to mean flicking something away, while sick used to mean being ill and some of us old farts still might use it this way. How can we trust the meaning of a word when it can change meaning at any time and we can never be absolutely certain of the intended meaning behind it?
  1. The only meaning a word has is the meaning we assign to it. There are some words that are so elastic we can stretch them to mean whatever it is we want them to mean. My British friends love the word “brilliant.” When I use this word I refer to something completely extraordinary or smart and amazing. They could use it to describe their most recent bowel movement. To many Brits, nearly every underwhelming feat is overwhelmingly brilliant which is, uh, well, not so brilliant—if you ask me. Comedian Louis CK has a spot-on bit about our incorrect use of the words “starving” and “hilarious” which IS absolutely hilarious…sorry Louis.
  1. No two people share the identical meaning for the identical word. Like the words described above, each of us share a sometimes ever-so-slightly nuanced version of the same word. If I tell you I have a big dog, this could mean a large canine but that could mean St. Bernard big or German Shepherd big. Or it could mean eating a big, fat frankfurter with mustard. Or, hell, according to my students it could mean a horny guy….but then it would be dawg or Dogg, I guess. Concepts such as rich, poor, hungry and ill, for example, are so vague as to mean nothing on their own accord. My rich could be another man’s poor.
  1. Meaning is found in people, not in words. For a fascinating speech on the use of the cursed “N-Word” you must check out Marlita Hill’s 1999 award- winning presentation. As she observes, it is the meaning behind the word that matters, not the word itself. In regards to the popular 1970’s series Roots, she observes the overuse of the word nigger, yet contends, given the context of the movie, the script demands it must remain that way. She says, “Does the slave master have to keep using that word – over and over again – I mean, couldn’t he just had said: “I’m gonna rape your wife and kill you – you god damn n-word. I hate n-words.” Get it? The meaning was hateful and any attempt toward a euphemism would have been greatly misguided and ineffective. The opposite can be true as well. I could utter a politically correct word with vitriol and hate in my voice. Meanings matter, not words.
  1. Words are ultimately incapable of conveying the precise message of our meaning. I can hear it now, “But wait Jimmy, you are using words right now. You are a hypocrite.” Yes, I am using words at this very moment because it is the best tool we have for expressing meaning –and I would drink water off my front lawn or out of my toilet bowl if that were my only choice for hydration. Of course I would launch into my belief expressing the importance of nonverbal communication as a means to determine meaning, yet that is a different blog for a different day.

I personally have been reprimanded more than once for using a term I believed was both sensitive and appropriate only to be shamed regardless of my loving and supportive intention. So I could not give Bill Maher a more boisterous “AMEN” when, on his recent HBO Real Time show, he criticized actor Michael Keaton for profusely apologizing when gave the wrong title for a movie he was discussing.

“Cue the outrage, cue the retraction,” Maher said, then quoted part of Keaton’s apology—with crocodile tears added: “I screwed up. It makes me feel so badly that people feel badly and if someone feels badly that’s all that matters.”

“No,” said Maher returning to his own voice. “That’s not all that matters. In fact, things like this don’t matter at all. What matters is that while you self-involved fools were policing the language at the kids’ choice awards, a madman talked his way into the White House. What matters is that while liberals were in a contest to see who could be the first to call out fat-shaming, the Tea Party has been busy taking over schools boards.”

Maher then advised Hollywood liberals to “stop protecting your virgin ears” and pay more attention to what was happening (in so many words) behind them.

Regardless of one’s politics or love/hate of Trump or conservative school boards, if any of you know me AT ALL, you know I absolutely love it when a person is able to criticize his/her own side when something is believed to be wrong or misguided. The world would be a much saner place if we all could practice such objective and critical impartiality.

The point is clear…when it comes to language and politics in general, it is a good idea to not major on the minors and minor on the majors.

So people, can we please take our language with a grain of salt? I will not be offended if you call me Jim, James or that crazy Hungarian for that matter.

So have at it word police, whatcha got for me?

I know you all could argue with me on this one. Brilliantly, I’m sure. 🙂

 

 

Insert Title Here: Feeling Somewhat EnTITLEd Today

So what’s in a name, or more specifically, a title? I’ve been thinking about this subject recently since a former student of mine, Holliann (who recently graduated from University), wanted to get together for a chat concerning some of her strange and unusual experiences while away at school.

“Thanks Professor. I will see you then,” is how she concluded our social media conversation.

“Please, call me Jimmy,” I told her.

“I don’t think I can,” she said, “but I’ll try.”

“Just do it,” I told her.

Such formal titles make me somewhat uptight and uncomfortable. I understand why certain people would rather stick to formal convention, yet it still does not set right with me.

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This exchange really got me to thinking. What are the criteria for determining whether we call someone by their first/last name or their title/position?

I teach for crying out loud…I am not part of  some kind of regal Monarchy.

If someone asks me what I do for a living I will say Professor. When someone, anyone—students and non-students alike—ask me what I would prefer to be called, I usually instruct them to call me Jimmy. Yet I have found over the years that students, both past and present, are very reluctant to call me anything but Professor.

As a result, now I simply instruct students to refer to me in the moniker they feel most comfortable calling me, provided it is not disrespectful.

So I feel like “Comedian” Seinfeld when I ask, “What is the deal with this whole title thing?”

Please understand…I realize most companies have a myriad of job titles from CEO’s to Janitors, yet we do not call the Janitor, “Janitor Fred,” rather they are Fred -who happens to be the Janitor.  Or we refer to Frank Jones, CEO of such and such a company, rather than CEO Jones.

I wanted to find out more so I went where most of my students go for research, Wikipedia. The site did not provide much help though did offer me the following definition: A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone’s name in certain contexts. It may signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted before a last name.

Yes, I knew that. Thanks Wikipedia. You reminded why you are a crappy source and my students cannot cite you.

I get the whole old school idea of respect, professionalism and appropriateness, yet where do we draw the line and why? I do not refer to Baseball Player Kershaw (ironically we do call his coach, “Coach”), Plumber Stan, Musician Slash, Model Klum, Artist Nick, Accountant Jones, Neuroscientist Williams or Announcer Scully.  Then when it comes to 5 specific fields—namely religion, politics, education, military and medical—we engage in a mad orgy of title-driven monikers.

Why?

If one contends that those 5 areas are more deserving of respect than some others, how unnecessarily disrespectful is that to those other professions?  Are there commonalities in these 5 areas that might designate them for fancy titles? Or is just random cultural bullshit that we have just adopted because, as one of my students recently observed, most people are just “sheeple” and usually do not ask such questions.

I do. In particular when I give a shit about something.

It does seem that within each of the title-driven fields the one common theme is that the various “titled” people directly exert a certain amount of power and control over others. Yet, so do directors, producers, and most business owners and they do not warrant a title when others refer to them.

Then I think about nobility. Are religious, medical, education, military and politics more noble professions, hence a fancy title? Hmmmmm…I wonder what my musician and artist friends would have to say about that?

When I was telling Holli about this blog I was writing, she suggested that maybe we place more trust in the people in those 5 areas, hence the titles. Yet we still must place trust in our engineers so our bridges and buildings will not fail us. In fact, we must place the most trust in our babysitters and childcare workers and they are not referred to as Babysitter Mary.

Therefore it is not about power, importance, nobility or trust…why the titles?

It would seem to me to be an issue of basic identity. When we refer to someone by their title, it is important we see them as first and foremost by their profession.  Is it that when we speak to Pastors, Senators, Professors, Generals and Doctors it is imperative that we see them through this lens exclusively?  Why? What if I would prefer to be known as Jimmy first, Father second, Partner third and then, maybe, just maybe, Professor would land around fourth. Blogger? Maybe 20th.

A title really is a show of power and authority.  As a low power distance person in general -meaning I do not gravitate toward separating myself great distances from those over whom I have power- I have no great need to be thought of in terms of title first, person second. In terms of authority, separating yourself from others by slapping on fancy titles is hardly an effective means of gaining respect. I would rather be respected for the quality of what I do over the quality of the title that has been bestowed upon me.

For those who do not respect my style of teaching or leadership, throwing an ornate title to my profession is not going to change that anyway.

I am not dismissing titles as worthless or in some way negative, rather I am questioning the inconsistent use of them and whether or not they are entirely necessary.

So call me Jimmy. You can do it Holliann! But, hey, if you can’t, I get it.  Just try.

 

4 GREAT, Foolproof Reasons To Use Profanity In Your Everyday Life. Hell Yeah.

Let’s get to it. I recently heard through the gossip grapevine that one student of mine did not like me. Why? I apparently used too much profanity for his liking in one of my classes.

Well la tee freaking dah.

Of course this is not the first time one has not appreciated my colorful and free-range use of the English language, nor will it be the last. Yet, there are reasons behind my profanity madness. My use of profanity is neither flippant nor without deep critical thought and consideration -it is quite calculated. So, today, I share with you these reasons and perhaps you will be enlightened to the reasoning behind my profane ways. Thus, I bring to you:

Four reasons why I, and why YOU, should use profanity.

A wise person once told me that when delivering a potentially controversial message, it is important to begin with what you are definitely NOT saying before you address what you ARE saying. Soooo…

First and foremost, I am in no way suggesting the use of profanity is good for everyone, all the time. Like everything in life, there is a time and place. Context is everything.

Secondly, I am vehemently opposed to hateful, vengeful, mean-spirited words and speech intended for ill will. However, such speech knows no specific words, only motivation and intent. One could be mean spirited with or without profanity -there are plenty of “non-profane” words that are obscene in intent. Isn’t it interesting how our culture delineates between words that are profane and words that are not while the “profane” words may be kindly and gently spirited in intention, while the non-profane words are acceptable-yet full of ill will and contempt? Ah, such tension. And hypocrisy. Now let’s get reasonable and get started.

1. When prohibiting yourself from using profanity, you are limiting your word choices to most accurately communicate with others. Communication is a difficult enough process -why make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the full arsenal of vocabulary choices available to us? Good communication is all about knowing your audience and/or the person to whom you are communicating. In many contexts, profanity is going to be the best language choice available. In other cases, one might argue that profanity might be the worst possible choice –talking to a classroom of preschoolers, let’s say. However, even if the person/group you are communicating with does not use profanity, what better way for them to get to know you than by using words that you feel most comfortable using? I have found that using profanity in normally formal environments brings about a tone of realness and genuineness to the occasion while making others feel more comfortable and able to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues. You might say it serves to breakdown the bullshit formality that exists so often in life.

Again, am I suggesting to always use profanity? Of course not. I am saying that sometimes the intense  beauty of a finely placed profanity is an unparalleled and wonderful experience and should be considered a communication option.

2. Profanity has a positive, relieving effect on your psyche when used in the proper context to let off steam and/or decrease your feeling of pain. In June 2009, researchers at Keele University in England sought to determine why the automatic response for so many people in pain is to blurt out profanity. You know, like after stubbing your toe, a good “FUCK ME!” is usually in order. In snippets taken from this article, researchers found 68 college-aged students and asked each to submerge one hand in icy water for as long as they could possibly stand it. They were trying to test if students could keep their hands submerged longer if they used curse words or non-curse words.

During the first trial, the students were permitted to swear out loud as often as they needed to see if it could lengthen the period of time that the hand could stay submerged. During the second trial, the students submerged their other hand in the icy water and this time, they were permitted to say whatever they wanted, as long as it did not contain swearing. It was determined that, on average, swearing students could hold their hands in the water over 40 seconds longer than when they did not swear. Why were the swearing students able to keep their hands in icy water longer? These researchers have found that the amygdala, a gland that makes the heart speed up and the resistance to pain stronger, as the key. It is basically responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. The theory is that using actual cuss words somehow activates deep primitive negative emotions, which somehow triggers the amygdala to choose the “fight” response. The fight response then raises your heart rate and decreases pain sensations, just like swearing after feeling pain.

So, even though cursing is often thought of as reflective of inappropriateness, it may be that profane language has the power to decrease pain that general speech does not. Keele University psychologist, Dr. Richard Stevens, summarized his findings and offered this sound advice after the study was over: “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.”

And you all thought it was just me. Fuck you. ☺

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3. Like Marlita Hill contends in this brilliant speech concerning the word, “nigger,” (if you have never watched this 11 minute speech, treat yourselves to this gem) words only become profane when we deem them profane and allow them to be such. Using “profane” words only serves to demystify their meaning and decrease their social power and control.

I recently had a student write me an email describing her anxiety concerning an upcoming speech assignment. In her words, she was “sh#$ing bricks” and “scared off her a$$.”

Hmmmmm.

She then went on to say that she does not like profanity and cannot even write the profane words out. Poor f#@king girl.

Ugh.

I would suggest this “camouflaging” of “profane” words only serves to heighten their social taboo and perpetuate their power and intrigue. Seriously, are you all aware that some strands of Judaism are forbidden to write out the word, God? They must camouflage the word to G*d, for example, with this or some such other replacement symbol. I understand the reasoning behind this idea –it is all about giving God the highest amount of reverence and respect while not cheapening the nature of an eternal, infinite and all powerful G@d by simply being able to write out his (yes, his) name.

Using such logic, do you realize that all of you “profanity camouflagers” are elevating profanity to a deity-type status? You are providing profanity both reverence and respect. Your camouflage is providing the exact opposite effect of your intentions while continuing to perpetuate the perceived power of certain words. It is not necessary to use any variation of profanity, written out phonetically incorrect or not…just use a non-profane equivalent. And while you’re at it, stop with the substitute freakins, goshes, darns, cruds and fudges. Stop the madness –cuss for G%d’s sake. These words also serve to make you look like a pretentious d^%k…whoops.

If you want to deflate and cheapen the power of profane words, use them, in excess.

And, lastly…

4. Because we can! This is America, correct? The land of free speech, correct? Why would we metaphorically shit all over our founding fathers by not using what they fought so hard for us to attain? Fuck yeah Thomas Jefferson and hell to the yes George Washington! I, for one, will not give in to this very un-American madness of not using profanity.

So, for the sake of good communication, our health and wellness, our society and our American right to free speech, cuss away my friends. Again, I am not suggesting to use it all places, all the time, without good reason -it simply must be an option in our vocabulary arsenal.

As for all of you “holier-than-thou” douche-bags who want to restrict and ban others use of their G*d-given right and very American right to use profanity -grow a pair and well, just grow up. If you don’t want to use it, don’t. Just don’t tell me and others what we should or should say in terms of our own self-expression.

Now ask me how I really f*cking feel.

Language’s Little Lies: The Evolving Nature Of Words And Phrases That Make No Cents

After a heavy week, I needed to write something to lighten the mood. Thus….

I am not a big fan of language. I believe it to be skewed, imperfect and wrought with potential dangers. Unfortunately it is all we got to connect with each other in our global village. So, in that spirit, this blog intends to clear up some frequent misuses, or at least inconsistencies, in the English language.

Having traveled to many non-English speaking countries while having some friends whose English is a second, or perhaps even a third, language, I possess a heightened sensitivity to English phrasing and colloquialisms.  We have so many inconsistencies in our English vernacular it must be very difficult for anyone who was not born and bred into the language to gain a “firm grasp” (though I’m not grasping anything) on its use. In fact, it must be “hard as shit” to learn…never mind the fact that I could think of a thousand different substances that possess far greater hardness and density to express this level of difficulty…even for the most constipated among us.

I think you know where I am headed. I understand slang (i.e. sick, dope, bling, pimp) yet what I am talking about are words or phrases firmly embedded in our everyday, somewhat informal, lexicon…at least for some of us.

So what do you say we “get this party started” (ironically it’s a blog, not a party) with a bang?

Speaking of bangs, we all rightly say that we “shoot” or “fire” a gun though why do we also “shoot an email,” or, now, “shoot a text?” I suppose it is no different from when we “shot a picture” as both phrases make absolutely no sense. If we literally either “shoot a picture” or “shoot an email” we would end up only with a nasty mess of celluloid bits and/or small chunks of microchips and metal.

Consider Rene’s favorite phrases (and she knows how I feel about them), “pop the trunk” or “pop the hood.” We do not pop these things -we open or even “release” these things. We pop a balloon, pop a bubble and even pop our corn. Hoods and trunks? These mechanisms are highly resistant to popping…and, in fact, I would argue are quite unpoppable.

What about those phrases we use as a sign we do not care for something?  Consider the phrase, “I don’t give a shit/crap.” If we really want someone to know we care little for something, would we not want to give them our crap as a sign of its largetotal lack of value? Conversely, if someone does not care for something of mine, why would I claim, “You do not give a crap?” If someone is not giving me their crap that is a good thing…like monkeys with their enemies, we would throw our crap at bad ideas. I suppose one could argue that you care so little for something you would not even give that them your least valuable possession -your crap- I would contend that giving them your crap is a far worse fate than not giving a crap.

Closely related to this-and the more accurate phrase- would be, “I don’t give a fuck” -and this makes perfect sense. Why do we use shit/crap and fuck as if they are synonymous? Last time I checked crap was quite unpleasant while “to fuck” is, well, awesome. If I tell someone “I do not give a fuck,” it means I am not going to part with something quite valuable in my life. If I tell someone they do not give a fuck, they are not willing to offer up something valuable for my idea.

I hereby resolve that it is high time we all stopped giving a fuck and started giving a crap when we hear a bad idea.

And speaking of crap, none of us ever “take a crap,” we all, “leave a crap.” For that matter, unless you are remodeling your bathroom and are in the Home Depot looking for prefab shower installations, no one ever “takes a shower” either. We experience, perhaps even enjoy, a shower or bath, yet we never “take” one.

I really do not mean to harp on bodily functions, though the next time you are “going to vomit,” could send me vomit’s address and perhaps I could join you? Perhaps they live next door to their close cousins pee and poop. Often times when our body is preparing to do something we mistake this for a location we are going to…no, the bodily functions come to us and we await their arrival, we do not go to it. You are never “going to pee or poop” as the pee and poop pleasantly comes to you.

There are just some phrases in our language that reflect something we do not do anymore yet we would never know it based on our language use. The next time someone tells you they are writing a book, ask them what kind of pen they are using. The fact is, they are not “writing” a book; they may be typing one, creating one or even constructing one. The last author to write and/or “pen” a book was probably Charles Dickens.

Our language needs to keep up with our expanding technologies.

Technology is quickly changing the way we use language. Five years ago if someone told me they wanted to “Facetime” me I either would have been disgusted or delighted, pending the hotness of the requester -and don’t get me started on someone who wants to “Skype” me.

In regards to evolving technologies, back when I was raising kids, if you told me you bought some nice ear buds, I would have thought you purchased dogs that can play football.

Some phrases I understand in practice, yet if you really think about them in the theoretical sense, they are “hard to swallow.”

For example, would we ever want someone to really, “lend us a hand?”  If we desire someone’s help I am quite certain we would prefer they use two hands. If anything it should read, could you please “lend me both hands?” Speaking of needing assistance, why do we need to “pick up the slack?” Would it not be better if we were to tighten the slack?  At the very least “slack” should only be picked up for the purpose of discarding it.

And please do not get me started on the “I am hungry” thing. You may feel hungry or desire food, but rest assured, you are not hungry or famished or starving or full, you are (insert first name here).

It is now time to start “winding down” this blog. Of course this blog has no levers or cranks, but I think you get the idea.

And speaking of down.

A friend informed me the other day, anyone who gives a good “blow job,” should be fired. Last time I checked, there is absolutely no blowing involved in a BJ “worth its salt.”

But you knew that.

And probably don’t give a shit…or was it fuck? Whatever.

 

 

Some People Find Happiness, Jesus or Themselves: I Found Ro

I found Ro. That’s right. You heard me. I found him. And I feel damn good about it.

Let me explain.

I am currently in Paris, France.  (It seems weird to add “France” to the word “Paris” as the city has a unique way of standing on it’s own with no need for identifying its larger boundary -as opposed to Perris, California I suppose).

This time around I am with a group of about 20 twenty-somethings yet, ironically, in the context I find myself I am merely a fellow traveller along with them. I am not their “boss” or leader – I am, in many ways, a type of peer with them. I strangely feel like Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School” or Will Ferrel in “Old School” as I travel on a pretour trip through Europe before I begin teaching for the semester in London (do I have to add England?). In any case, here I am while our leader and guide is all of 25.

Though the old man of the group, I feel in many ways I am as vulnerable and as very much a travelling “newbie” as they are.  This came to light this morning.

We arrived last night and I had some dinner with some French friends (and 5 twenty somethings, btw) and actually had a rather pleasant first night after not sleeping for nearly 35 hours.

It was when I awoke this morning and decided to go visit my French friend Ro, who lives on the outskirts of Paris –only a mere 40 minute train ride from where I am staying- that I realized my traveling vulnerabilities.  As I found myself straying from my twenty something tour package and opting to venture out on my own, I was in essentially the same place I was about 3 years ago when I visited Paris for the first time- alone, in a strange city, with a strange language, with strange geography of which I knew absolutely nothing about.

I experienced some moderate anxiety concerning my traveling to see Ro.  What if I get lost? How can I communicate with anyone?  I then realized I am in a big city with civilized human beings and a train system that is very internationally friendly. What is the worst that can happen? I am forced to eat bread and cheese until an English speaking French person can give me a hand? It is not like I am in the deserts of the Sudan – not knowing how I will survive Ebola and have to decide which insects to eat for survival.

Thus I put on my big boy traveling panties and off I went.

I safely made it to my final train exit when things got a little tricky. The directions provided went like this: “Exit on the right through the tunnel.”  Wait…did that mean the several tunnels that encounter each stop immediately when you get off the train…meaning I would have to go the far right immediate exit? Or did it mean enter any tunnel and when you exit the train station to go to the right? So, like any good grammatical contextual analyzer, I decide to read on and see if it offered any additional clues:

“Then pass the glass building while following the street on the left.”

Fine. I will exit the train station and look for a glass building and just head that direction.

I looked left. A glass building! Well, kind of. It was definitely more glass than your average Paris building but could it really be considered a “glass building?”

I could only guess what a “glass building” meant to a Frenchman in comparison and contrast with what it means to me…a California surfer-type with little interest in building design yet has seen his fair share of Los Angeles glass buildings.

Just look for a glass building, Jimmy, do not freeze with directional analysis paralysis,” I informed my meta-self. “Just go with your gut.

The problem was that only in Paris are most buildings made of 100 year-old bricks and cement with very few windows –as if windows were designed as an afterthought by engineers who decided that a small view may be a good idea, for some much needed ventilation at the very least. I determined that if you find any building that has more than a few glass panels in Paris it could be considered a “glass building.”

Yet still, was I looking for a building with a few extra windows or the damn Crystal Cathedral?

So I followed this glass building with suspicion. Again, I did what any good contextual analyzer would do, I read on for the next clue.

“Turn right at the bakery,” it read.

Great. Every corner in Paris is a bakery with mouthwatering carbohydrates and fattening cheeses. However, I became wary of the suspicious “glass building” I was following as it appeared to lead me to a residential area hence, no bakery. So I walked back to where I came out of the train station and went the other way. And, alas, I saw THE glass building. There was no mistaking this one –glass from bottom to top.

I guess glass buildings are like porn –hard to describe though you know it when you see it.

Now where was the damn bakery? I walked a couple of blocks not knowing at which bakery to turn right at. So I looked for more clues:

“Just past the hotel,” it read.

I do not know the word hotel in French though I saw a logo on a building that seemed “hotel-ish” and, lo and behold, a bakery just beyond it.

I am freaking Columbo mixed with Sherlock Holmes with a dusting of Hardy Boys,” I thought with smug satisfaction.

Not really. But I was pretty proud of me as I continued to successfully avoid the potential of Paris Ebola.

But my work was not done. Not even close. I had to meander a few more turns and buzz a door that had the number 11 on it, walk in, go up the stairwell on the left to the second floor and knock on the first door on the left.

I did all of this successfully…or so I thought.

When the door opened it was an old Frenchmen with a filthy apartment who did not speak a lick of English.

“Ro? Is Ro here? Do you know Ro?”

“Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” I heard…or something like that.

It is so strange how when two people do not know each others language keep talking to each other as if repetition will bring sudden linguistic enlightenment.

“Ro,” I repeated. “Ro. Is he here. Where is he? Do you know Ro. Ro. Ro Ro.”

My nonverbal skills kicked into full gear. It is at times like this I wish I was a feminine woman –trained in the art of nonverbal subtleties- searching for some universal nonverbal common ground and understanding.

He appeared a very kind man as he knocked on the neighbor’s door and a woman answered. He then again said, “Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” to the woman. I spelled out Ro’s name on a sheet of paper he provided and she smiled and pointed up another floor.

“Thank  y ..ahhh…Merci,” I proudly told her, quite proud I could finally use one of the three words I know in French.

As it turns out those weird French people consider the first floor the ZERO floor and our third floor is their second floor.

I went up and knocked –on the third floor door, not the second, as some things Americans just have flat out right- and out walked Ro.

I did it. I survived the rough jungles of Paris.

I am that good.

An hour of conversation later, I departed and just went back the same way I came.

So this 51 year-old did what any 20 something admittedly could do much better –navigate through a strange city with a strange language with strange people- yet I feel so accomplished and satisfied as if I told my 51 year-old neurons to quit carving that neural rut. I told my neurons to live a little, to carve new paths.

Damn, I want to make my neurons my bitch.

I feel younger already. Watch out twenty somethings –you have a match. Why?

Because I found Ro.

 

A Lecture With A GoPro On My Head

This is an experiment in coordination with my son Jordan. Inspired by his All Over Perception Travel Series, I wanted to find out how a lecture from various perceptions and points of view would work. We are going to do another one in a few weeks and we think with this trial run it could be much more polished. Enjoy. His expertise only cost me .31 bitcoin!

Seven Phrases For The Ages: Reading The Meaning Behind The Words

Typically when one wants to detect bullshit and manipulation from another person he or she must frequently depend on the nonverbal aspects of communication.  You know, if someone is lying their eyes roll to a particular side of the head, perhaps they cannot look you in the eye or that slight smirk reveals a questionable motive.

There exists a plethora of studies, articles and books centered on the subject of successfully reading nonverbal behaviors.  I teach entire courses centered on nonverbal communication and find it a very important and relevant study.  As the years go by, my understanding of the importance of nonverbal communication is growing to the point where actual words come in a far second in comprehending messages compared to how actual words are said –context, tone, facial expression, etc…i.e. nonverbal.

However, this being said (see #5 below…just know this blog is the exception) certain words and phrases, independent of how they are uttered and the nonverbal presentation, are indicators of other hidden rhetorical strategies at work. I call these “conversational manipulators” -yet they come in print as well. One might say these phrases are “tells” for manipulating the conversation in such a way as to achieve underlying communicative goals. It is not only important to understand these phrases for the purpose of becoming a more discerning listener, it is also important to catch ourselves using these phrases in order to become a more effective speaker.

So how does this play out? Consider our first conversation manipulator:

1. “I was just standing there minding my own business when…“

This is my favorite, hence number one. This phrase is a prelude to a story in which another individual seemingly oversteps his or her interpersonal space or something unusual happens that makes it appear the speaker is nothing but a harmless fly on the wall.  It places the speaker in a position of complete innocence while suggesting the “innocent fly” played absolutely no role in what they are about to explain. This phrase can also be a set-up to a story that plays out more effectively if the speaker is far removed and in a state of complete normalcy…making whatever happens next far more exciting and interesting when contrasted with this innocent state of affairs. In any case it manipulates the language and you can expect some rich bullshit to follow. An alternative? “I had an interesting thing happen to me today I would like share with you.”

Certainly we all strategize to use language not only to achieve our rhetorical goals, though also to make it sound more interesting. However, some words and phrases are stronger tells for dishonest speech such as:

2. “I honestly….”

When one begins a sentence with the H word what they are really saying is one of two things –either they have not been forthcoming and honest in previous dialogue or what is about to come is not honest at all. Why might we interpret it in this way? We already assume honesty from those whom which we speak while saying this is unnecessarily redundant.  Does this mean they were dishonest up to this point?

When I have found myself saying the “I honestly” to people, what I really mean is I am about to disclose something that up to that point my inner conversational discretion meter stopped me from saying. Thus, in this case, if the speaker is about to disclose something candid while warning the listener a type of confession is about to be put forth, say, “To be candid” or “To be frank” or better yet, “I must confess” as these are all better choices and far more accurate for all communicative parties involved.

The third conversational “tell” is one we are all guilty of saying, probably multiple times a day:

3. “I never” or “I always.”

The only “never” or “always” that is true is that no one never ever “nevers” or “always” anything. Feel free to throw “every” in here as well. Upon hearing this, realize the person is speaking in sweeping terms and what is about to be put forth will be “preachy” in nature – or at the very least making one look good. For example, I can brag of my sanitizing habits and claim, “I always wash my hands after using the bathroom.” This statement would be mostly true, though ALWAYS? I am certain there have been those rare times in our lives when the line may have been too long, the sink was broken or you realized you did not touch anything in the bathroom, thus off you went -sans hand washing. Most of us could probably say, “I have never killed another human being” and you would probably be right. Though how many times do we really need to convince another of that? The “never” or “always” line is usually reserved for issues where we are trying to make a point through exaggeration or look good. These can be easily remedied with the precursor clarifiers of “usually” or “typically.”

The next conversation manipulator comes by way of Rene’ who reminded me of this beauty the other day:

4. “Not to toot my own horn, but…”

This one is quite self-evident: Some major tooting lies ahead.  I find the “tooting of the horn” an interesting euphemism to the alternatives “brag” or “boast” yet they have identical meanings.  As you ponder this manipulator, it is not only guilty of said euphemism, it is also a bold faced lie as one entirely intends to brag about her or him self…and that is ok. I strongly believe that establishing our credibility on an issue can be extremely important –just no need to lie about it. Just state it. No need to qualify it at all…we know the qualifier is just bullshit anyway.

5. “That being said…” or “In spite of the fact…”

Yes, these can be conversational manipulators…yet not always. Think of these phrases as red flags to warn our bullshit meter something big, steamy, and manipulative may potentially lie ahead. I purposefully used this in the first line of the second paragraph of this blog for a reason: It can have a legitimate rhetorical purpose when used effectively. In many cases these phrases can easily be interpreted, “disregard all that was just said” -not always. In the case of this blog it was effectively used (I suppose you can be the judge of that) to draw a point of comparison and contrast between verbal and nonverbal uses of language.  I wanted to point to the strong importance of nonverbal communication yet not completely dismiss the power of words themselves or this blog would be completely pointless.

6. “At the end of the day…”

Talk about disregarding all that was just said…this takes the first place conversational manipulator trophy. It is the first-cousin-once-removed from Auntie “That being said” -without the possibility of it having legitimate function. It suggests that whatever was just said or done is irrelevant cause “at the end of the day” some overriding power or entity will do whatever they want to do or the nature of the subject matter rests in a set of principles overshadowed by the dreaded “end of the day“ beast. I think of this phrase in the same way we dismiss our, let’s say, Uncle Joe’s racist attitudes with the platitudes, “Well, that’s just Uncle Joe being Uncle Joe” or perhaps even better yet, “He’s just set in his ways.” In all cases they are avoiding the issues and rationalizing the result or behavior with a euphemistic conversational manipulator.

And, finally:

7. “Seriously…”

Now, if one is in the throes of a humor filled conversation and want to give a turn toward the serious, this can be legitimate. Yet even in this case it is often used to simply fuel more humor because the context is supposed to get more serious and clearly does not.  Please note there is no “I” in front of seriously as this gives the word an entirely different—and effective—rhetorical use; as in “I seriously doubt people will stop using these conversational manipulators any time soon.” By adding seriously in this context it adds to the level of importance and belief in the statement made. When one begins a statement with “Seriously” this may suggest that up to that point the conversation was silly and flippant. Like “honesty” I assume “seriously” with those of whom I converse.

In spite of all this and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, though I honestly and seriously have gone well over my intended 1000 word maximum. I never do that, yet, at the end of the day, I guess we all just do whatever we want.

So, as I sit here and now mind my own business, perhaps you can think of a few I completely left out

I know, right?

Profanity And Language, WTF? A Closer Look At The 6 Different Types of Cursers. Warning: Explicit Language Ahead

Recently in one of my online communication courses, the subject of profanity and cursing was discussed.  Many do not realize there  is a difference between the two, as profanity, or the “profane” can be a conceptual idea while cursing is utilizing specific “bad” words. As one who essentially never cursed the lion’s share of my adult life and now curses liberally, I find the subject of great interest and, actually, pretty important.

Thus, the conversation was started with a 25 year-old female stating the following on our discussion board:Let me start by saying that I spent a lot of time as a child with my stubborn grandma who smoked like a chimney.  She also cursed like a sailor.  With that said, I didn’t curse so much when I was a child, but as I’ve grown, I have picked up this sailor cursing habit; and yes, I blame it on my grandmother.  So, as many of my peers and siblings do not mind the cursing (I also believe cursing is embedded in my generations’ language) I do realize that my elders and the older generation do not find this language attractive.  Some men that I have dated have also commented on my cursing in a negative way, and I just say “Fuck you.”  I’m kidding… I have realized that I can come off “unladylike” and childish to certain people, so I have learned to refrain from cursing in front of certain people.  I do this to respect that particular person I’m with; I don’t mind cursing and it is simply the way I was raised and a part of my language and expresses my laidback personality.  I never intend to insult people with this type of language and I’ve learned it can do just that.  So I now am very cautious of who I curse in front of.  It’s amazing how something as little as cursing or slang can have a big impact on how one perceives you or your culture as a whole.”

A female, approximately the same age, responded with this:“I completely agree about cursing being a staple in today’s generation! I also find it comical that people say it is “unladylike”. What is “ladylike” anyway? Crossing legs? Being a man’s beck and call? Then count me in as “unladylike”!

You go girl. I’m down with the feminist stuff. Totes.

So, what is it? Cursing good? Cursing bad? Should we? Shouldn’t we? So many different ways to go with this blog. I could write of the philosophical outlooks on using profanity and its cultural effects. Or perhaps even the psychological dimensions of the interplay of profane language with human thoughts processes and behavior. Naaaah. Instead I realized that there are essentially 6 different types of people and their relationship to swearing and it might be fun to recognize each type. Which one are you? Be honest.

1. The Never, Ever Curser. This is essentially what I was for many years. Cursing to me was a sign of weakness and expressed a lack of self-control. I mean, if one cannot control their tongue how could they control anything else in their life? There is no hint of the profane in this person’s vocabulary. Even in times of extreme anger, silence is the preferred choice over any hint of profanity. This is “Father Know Best” language meets Ward Cleaver for a good delicious dialogue over milk and cookies. In my opinion, when one has young children this is not a bad route to take. Therefore it was quite a compliment when my 20 year-old daughter recently told me “good job” as she explained she never even knew the “F-word” existed until she was 11.

2. The Replacer Curser. This is the goshdarnit crowd. For gosh sakes, you know the ones, they replace what would be a nicely placed swear word with a freaking PG version. This is the world where crap becomes crud and the ass is transformed to a butt. All the intent of a swear word is present without actually committing the swear crime, for Pete’s sake. Some might think this person is just full of bullroar, as I do. Think of the person who violates the spirit of the law yet cleverly remains true to the freaking letter of it. They like to think people do not give a fudge about their picking replacement vocabulary or else they can just go to heck.

3. The Cleaned Up Curser. In the cleaned up curser world, they like to dangerously push the language limits yet will only dabble in the swear words that are deemed only moderately profane.  Typically the word ass can be used because it can also refer to a donkey, hence acceptable. Even dick and pussy can be used due to their relationship to a person’s name or pet feline. In this world, shit is still far too much yet crap is just fine. Of course I never really understood the difference between shit and crap; I guess the former is just a shittier version of the latter. In addition, damn is ok because water can be collected behind it and god can still declare you to hell in its name. Oh, and speaking of damnation, hell is ok as well. And if it’s good enough for god? It’s good enough for the cleaned up curser, godddammit. Generally these people are very poor cussers and do not use even their cleaned up versions effectively, perhaps due to the fact they are not privy to the full arsenal of profanity. For example, they may confuse the hard-headed man to be a pussy while the soft coward to be a dick. Whoops. This could lead to real fustercluck.

4. The Regrettable Curser. This is the person who will liberally use swear words yet still feel a sense of shame in the process. These people will often try not to cuss, yet fail quite miserably. My suspicion is that these people probably got their mouth washed out with soap or their ass backhanded at some point in their childhood, due to cussing, and never really got over this traumatic experience. Typically this is the final phase for many before transforming into the next possible phase of cursing, the Discerning Curser.

5. The Discerning Curser. I would probably place myself in this category. Why? I do use curse words yet not flippantly so. I think about it. I gauge my audience. I assess. As the conversation above will attest, I communicate with a generation -by and large and with many exceptions- of those who liberally curse. You know, the 18-28 year old motherfuckers who do not give a shit about profanity in language and actually respond quite well to it. However, the discerning curser can still reign it in when necessary and not drop F-bombs while visiting grandma at Beverly Manor or to their little brother at Mountainview Elementary. The Discerning Curser will occasionally drop a profane bomb at the wrong time yet will instantly recognize and address the transgression.

6. The Out of Control Curser. This curser is the completely out of control asshole who has no idea when fucking too much is just too fucking much.  Whether a fucking ball game, bar, nursing home, or goddamm kindergarten playground, for fuck’s sake, it’s all fucking good shit and the right time to drop profane fucking words to any dick or cunt within earshot. I think you assholes get the goddamm idea.

So which one are you and why? I really do believe a nicely placed profane word, given the right context to the right audience is not only acceptable, it is the preferred nomenclature. It is a bit like watching a film and the characters are drinking a made up brand of soda, like Cole instead of Coke, or Pipsi instead of Pepsi. I feel cheated. I want the real thing. So it is with my language  -I want the real thing dammit. Don’t cheat me and the rest of the world out of profane sugar with your aspartame language.

And so the discussion will continue. As a former “never, ever curser” just realize I have a lot of damn time to make up for.

Howdy Partner: Six Reasons We Prefer The Term “Life Partners” Over “Husband And Wife”

One of the most frequent questions I receive from people pertains to why Rene and I prefer to be regarded as “Life Partners” as opposed to husband and wife.  If you want a quick correction from me, just call Rene’ my “wife.” I’ll show you. The label makes me cringe.
Whenever I tell people about my “Life Partner,” Rene’, they automatically assume I am hooking up with a gay Spanish dude.
I do find it ironic that as gay people are fighting for their right to call their same sex partner husband or wife, I prefer we all call our significant other a “Life Partner” as it rings more genuine, authentic, and is an accurate description of what most of us really are, or perhaps, should be.
However, I am not out to change anyone or to convince one that “Life Partner” is the superior term, cause who am I? I believe two people should call themselves whatever they would like to call themselves according to their belief system. Do you like the terms husband and wife? Awesome. Have at it.
So why do Rene’ and I prefer the term Life Partners?
This is a very reasonable question.
I have done some light research (read: a google first page search with shitty key words) into the origins of the terms husband and wife and the findings were ambiguous.  No matter, I hold a fairly strong opinion that finding out the origin of terms (which is nearly an impossible task, by the way) is essentially irrelevant as words are constantly evolving and changing. Does it really matter how it once was used? I suppose at some level it could be interesting, but for no other reason than for brain candy, and for some bullshit perceived credibility.
What follows are the six basic reasons we prefer the term “Life Partner.”
The terms “husband” and “wife” reek of unevolved, centuries-old notions of people ownership.  Just as they used to pronounce a couple “man and wife,” giving the man his identity and leaving the woman to be known only in terms of her relation to the man, justifies that language must constantly evolve as humans constantly evolve.  We no longer have bondservants, spinsters, or bastards, in the same sense we used to have them. Let’s move forward and evolve our language choices in step with our social changes. I am unsure why the gay community fights for the “right” to be referred to in such an archaic term. As stated, I like their term much better.
The term “Life Partner” identifies us first and foremost in terms of our individual self and not the other. Please do not get me wrong—to share your life with somebody and to share it lovingly and honestly is a joy unparalleled in life. Yet we enter the world alone and we leave the world alone. It is our individual self that we must deal with first and foremost; we are “selfs” that come into a sort of union with another—which part should we identify as? That is a personal decision. We would rather see ourselves as Jimmy first and Rene’ first versus what we have together first. She is Rene’, she is not MY wife. When one says “my husband” or “my wife,” they are suggesting, in essence, that the other is a possession. At least when one uses the term, “my Life Partner” it carries a connotation of complete egalitarianism. Think about it, if someone called the other “my life husband” or “my life wife” it would seem rather odd; because most of the time it is not for life. “Life Partner” dares to proclaim that you are in this for the long haul. A lot of “life husbands” or “life wives” are now referred to in a different term, “my ex.”
If we are to create labels that are going to define us, that label should reflect the nature of the arrangement.  Rene’ and I have a partnership…that is precisely what it is. Just as in any partnership, business or otherwise, you have an agreement and each accepts certain roles in said partnership. Since our arrangement does not include many of the conventional roles of husband and wife, we use a term that more accurately defines who and what we are. I am off to teach in London for the Fall of 2014. Is Rene’ going with me? No. She intends to visit, yet our partnership allows for extended periods away from one another. Like, if you love someone set them free man. Peace. Dude.
Marriage is a failing institution as most end up in divorce. Why label two people coming together in a committed relationship something after failure? If we labeled other things after failure, we would call our cars “Edsels,”movies can now be known as “Ishtars,” and our presidents can be labeled, “Jimmy Carters.”
We both question all cultural conventions and do not want to carry on traditions for the sake, of, uhm, well, tradition. Culture is a man-created (and I do mean primarily people with penises, yes) construct that is as viable to error, prejudice and bullshit as any existing ideology.  In fact, culture is one vast ideology that constantly needs to be reexamined and questioned. We were both very young in the 1960’s and barely of elementary school age, yet we both possess very strong “hippie like” sensibilities. We question everything and do not accept cultural convention because that is what “the man” says to accept. So, in a sense, we use the term to convey our overall disposition towards life in general.  So, yeah, part of us does it just to be rebellious assholes.
“Life Partner” does not recognize the gender of the individuals. In a show of solidarity with the gay community, why use a term that identifies the gender of the individuals choosing to do life together? I love it when I call Rene’ my Life Partner and people assume I am gay. To break century old traditions, changing language is a good start. It will be a beautiful day when one says they have a Life Partner and one will not know the gender of the other…or even care. We are all humans in need of each other. One planet, one people, bitches.
The term “Life Partner” implies a tacit understanding that partnerships are flexible and negotiable whereas husbands and wives have to live up to rigid expectations.  I have heard it said that the country of Mexico was considering enacting “marriage contracts” in which participants agreed to specific terms. After a period of time, they could contractually sign an extension or opt out. I like this idea…though I am not sure the Catholic Church in Mexico is too hot on it. If we see ourselves as partners first and foremost, it relieves one of the traditional burdens of husband and wife. When one says, “I need to go home to the wife,” versus, “I need to go home to my Life Partner,” I hear something very different.  The former implies this is a burden placed upon him by a demanding bitch, while the latter carries a connotation of mutual respect.
At least that is how I hear it.
Hey, call yourselves what you want to call yourselves.  I am just relieved because from now on when I get the question, I can answer with, “read all about it at jimmysintension.com.”