Saturday, February 05, 2011

"What’s In A Name … "

So, when is political correctness really needed, and when is it just becoming ridiculous?! Because, I think all of us have gotten at least at one point in our lives where we read the “new and improved list of what not to call someone” and followed the reading of it with an eye roll.

When is it really needed to protect the dignity and integrity of one group of people and when is it just egocentrism?! And even if we learn the rules, do we always follow them?! Or our education, backgrounds and just patterns of speech are stronger than any social rules? And in this world of “social networking” … how often are we really “socially correct” in our addressing our fellow humans?!

Although I mostly try to learn the “rules of the world”, I find it challenging sometimes to keep up with what’s allowed anymore. I still don’t know, much to my own despair, and with sincere apologies to the respective groups, when to use “Asian” and when “Oriental”, for an instance. And don’t even get me started on what’s appropriate to call various “civil unions” nowadays!

And it’s not because I have anything against all these various names – most of them exist for a very good purpose – but it’s because everything seems to be so relative anymore: there is no telling what can be perceived as demeaning to someone today when the same word was totally legit the day before. It’ll be as changing as the human nature, forever!

But let me get to the point.

So, I lived in The South for 12 years. My ex-husband swore I’d be saying “y’all” after my first year there. It still has not happened. Another thing that has not happened is that I never got used to being called “dear” and “honey” and “sweetie” and “darling”. I still cringe every time I hear these addressed to me, although I know very well that it’s part of the culture, it’s not their intention to offend. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I know (deep inside) that it’s me being too sensitive! So, no, I would not be one of those super-sensitive people falling into ridiculous and call for a re-write of the “American Dictionary of Political Correctness”. No! But … I still cringe!

I live in Utah County now. A county famous for its religiousness and more specifically its LDS religiousness. People here assume, quite often, you are LDS. Unlike The Amish, for instance, there is no outwardly distinction between the Mormons and “the rest” of the people. And religion is pretty much in every layer of society here – it rules the lives, the children’s activities, the volunteer work, even the business world, quite often.

Amongst the more pious ones, of which there are a-many (read “the majority”), it is customary to call everyone your “sister” and your “brother”. Even outside of church, you are assumed to be their “relatives”, in spirit. Strange, you say?! Remember: this is their culture, and you’re an outsider still. And you try to learn their ways and roll with them.

That’s until it happens to you! As it did to me: the other day, the WalMart photo lady called me “sister”. And once again, my skin crawled. And once again, some small part of me wanted to shout out “I am NOT your sister, <insert expletive of choice here>”, just like for 12 years I wanted to shout out “I am only my sweetie’s darling and honey and dear, <…>!”.

So, should I add more words to the said dictionary?! Or should I just adjust my attitude and try to understand the culture?!

After days of internal deliberation, I looked at the very big picture, and I have come to realize that there are a lot of other things one could call you! “Dear” and “darling” and “sister” – even when not having the connotation it might have in your book – are not some of the morally bad words one could be called!

In this world of hatred and resentfulness, maybe we should need more “dears” and “sisters” and “brothers”, I figured.

So, I’ll live with it. For now. Till next time I hear “sugar”, and then … Wait a minute: wrong state! But you get the point.

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