Thursday, March 12, 2009

lady to woman

as one grows up, there are all kinds of shifts in word usage, some subtle, others fraught with awkwardness and even anxiety. these shifts are done to signify maturity. i remember at a certain age, probably between 11 and 14, growing aware that the word "lady," which i used to refer to adult females, indicated childishness. but i felt strange saying the word "woman."

i don't know why this was so. is it because i did not feel myself a "man," woman's counterpart? was i unwilling to take on the role of adult? did use of the word "woman" indicate, at least implicitly, an adult sexuality i was loathe to admit?

over time i forced myself to use it, and got used to it.

there are all kinds of words for which one can recall an early pang of oddity or novelty -- words one thought were always only meant for other, older people, but which all of a sudden were on the tip of one's tongue. "wonderful," "delightful," and such words, i can recall viewing with some disdain for their gushing sentiment, their softness, their overripe adulthood. but then i used them in time. although, to be honest, i will still rarely use them in speaking -- "wonderful" still strikes me as overblown, a cheap plug, too soft for meaning. on the other hand, i use "nice" which is even more vague than wonderful. but "nice" is more reserved, laconic, which i feel more comfortable with.

with slang, i am always suspicious of words that take everyone by storm: awesome, grody, wicked at various times in the 80s. "sweet," "rockin" in the 90s. but it seems that once the tide passed, i was (am) only too eager to snap them up and use them myself. maybe this only shows that my disdain for the words is false, indicating in fact a secret desire to be like everyone else. and once it is fading, my secret desire can be fulfilled.

but i think that interest has passed. i cringed hearing my nephew say "its all good" a few years ago. phrases like this, whether derived from hip hop or country, disgust me as much as crazes for mediocre singers or "musicians." isn't it the same mad desire to love something along with millions of others, regardless of the quality of the loved object?

maybe after a certain age, that longing for connection with others has been satiated, and one turns a more chilly, discerning eye on the things being hoisted up for desire or admiration. most "sex symbols," frankly, make me gag (another past slang word) -- look at pamela anderson, britney, reese, angelina, whoever up close, and you see either bizarrely, grotesquely exaggerated facial features (pamela, angelina), or utterly common ones.

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