By Michelle Combs
Why, after living five decades, do we find we’re supposed to limit our vocabulary and retire words or phrases? There are scores of articles that tell midlife women what they should and shouldn’t be saying. I am puzzled by this.
Apparently, one word mature women aren’t supposed to say is “panties”.
Who decided we shouldn’t call our panties, panties? What should we call panties? Underwear? Foundation garments? Bloomers? Underpinnings? Unmentionables?
We’re also supposed to put a lid on swearing. I find that unacceptable. For instance, what are we supposed to do when we stub our toes? I don’t care who you are, when you catch a baby toe on the edge of the dresser, nice words fly out the window and blue words fly out of your mouth. Also, when we’re kids, we’re told we can’t swear until we are adults. I am an adult and have built a sizeable cursing vocabulary. Now, I’m supposed to unlearn 35 years of hard work?
Women over 50 are supposed to steer clear of current slang. Why? You know who doesn’t steer clear of current slang? My 77-year-old mother. She has recently taken to expressing surprise by saying “Whoa, dog”. She does this without irony and with the perfect inflection. She also sometimes modifies phrases. For instance, when we have a phone conversation, she ends our calls not with “peace out”, rather “peace and out”. I told her she added a word, but she likes her way better. I’m glad she says the phrase her way. We should be who we are. Do you think slang is how you’ll be memorialized? Here lies Betty Lou. She said “groovy” to the bitter end.
I’m not taking the advice of people who feel qualified to tell me what words I can use and not use. I’ve been around a while, I’ve lived through a lot. I have earned the right to use any words I choose.
I do have some suggestions for words or phrases we should stop using. Perhaps, these words or phrases shouldn’t be used by anyone, but by the time we’re fifty, we should know better:
Why is she wearing that? – Do you know who it helps when we judge other women for how they choose to adorn themselves? No one. We need to build each other up, not tear each other down. Who cares if Delores is wearing leggings? How does it hurt you if Mary Alice is wearing a mini skirt? Younger women are watching. Let’s show them how to do this. Let’s show them that being supportive is preferable to being judgmental and superficial.
Yes and/or No – Yes and no are two powerful and important words. I am not suggesting that we cease using the words “yes” and “no”. I am suggesting that we cease saying “yes” when we want to say “no” and we stop saying “no” when we want to say “yes”. Say no to demands on your time when you have overextended yourself. Or, even if you are not stretched thin and you just want to say no. Self-care is important. Conversely, say yes to adventures. Say yes to “me” time. We’re all going to die, you know. You might as well experience as much peace as you can while you can. Correctly using “yes” and “no” brings forth all kinds of peace.
I can’t – The “I can’t” phrase is acceptable when you are asked to babysit your neighbor’s second cousin’s baby monkey for the summer. But stop saying “I can’t” to new experiences. Now is the time. There is still something you dream of doing or trying. Don’t say “I can’t” to finding your passion. Don’t say “I can’t” to taking time for yourself. I’m not saying time is running out, I’m just saying that time is definitely running.
I’m sorry – Did you hurt someone, inadvertently or on purpose? Physically or emotionally? Then saying “I’m sorry” is appropriate. Are you speaking to someone who suffered a loss? Again, use “I’m sorry”. When is “I’m sorry” not appropriate? “I’m sorry” is not appropriate if you aren’t fucking sorry. If you start a sentence with “I’m sorry” and end with something shitty like “but Janice in accounting looks like she puts her makeup on with a putty knife”, then you aren’t sorry. You’re just mean. Also, don’t say “sorry” when asking for help or when you disagree with someone. We don’t have to apologize for existing or having opinions. Say you are sorry when you are actually sorry.
Here’s the thing. We don’t have to let anyone dictate to us what words are appropriate for us to use. The concept is ridiculous. We can express ourselves in any manner we desire. We can use words that help us feel empowered. We can use any turn of phrase to make ourselves heard.
I am not saying that we should have carte blanche to all the words. Words of hatred and divisiveness and exclusion have no business in anyone’s vocabulary. Words spoken to manipulate, denigrate, or betray should be swallowed and forgotten. Those words aside, putting constraints our language is silly and I hope that no one is surprised if we choose to ignore those constraints.
Peace and out.
About the author
Find out more about Michelle and get more funny, insightful posts over at her blog Rubber Shoes in Hell http://www.rubbershoesinhell.com/about-rsih/
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