Thursday, October 12, 2006

Like Water Off A Duck's Back.

So my Step-mom and Father visited this past week. I see them maybe twice a year and that works out just fine. My father and I talk about the family and gas prices then he will usually find one quirky thing I do and tease me about it for a week (this year it was the shape of my poor, over used coffee maker). It is a perfect relationship- we chitchat, with a little bit of mockery peppered in. My Step-mom is very different. She is very articulate, well rounded and loves to hear herself have a discussion. So when she talks, you sit and nod while she explains, then she explains again from another angle. And in her very persuasive, around the mountain way she will tell you what is best for your life. She is the queen of euphemisms.
I am the most sensitive girl on the planet. If my husband says to me “boy, it’s been a while since you have been to the gym, do you not have time right now?” I am ruined for the next couple of days. Or if my ex- boyfriend -who decided to write a blog of our whole long, tedious, and tragic story of a relationship- then post it online, I get a bit self-conscious. But my step-mom saying “ Minneapolis is the most wonderful place to raise a family and it would be a shame for the kids if you moved the whole family on a whim…” right after I told her that I wanted to move and start my new life in a city that caters to a particular career I was thinking of having… Well that is just dream squishing!

My husband told me this story when we first met:
Two sages, one young and one old, were silently walking in the forest. They came to a river and standing there was a woman figuring out how she was going to cross. She asked for help and the older sage picked her up and carried her across, the younger sage followed. The woman thanked him and they went their separate ways. The sages walked on for quite a while in silence and then the younger one said to the older “ It was inappropriate that you carried that woman across the river”.
The older sage replied, “ Why are you still carrying her?”

There is nothing more I would like if I could be thick skinned. To let these comments wash off of me and walk away. So it got me thinking, if the euphemisms were hard, how would I handle the truth? Just a decent conversation between two adults telling each other how they felt. Could I handle it? So I tried it. I talked, he talked, we were honest and to the point. I cried then I walked away. I new the truth and there were no misinterpretations. I have got to believe that is better- but in the end they both hurt.

Euphemisms may protect our feelings on the small stuff that, for some reason, still affect our happiness. But what about the big stuff? People’s perceptions of what is important are so different and that line between the big and small stuff is so gray- we are dooming ourselves to more white lies about bigger issues just to spare our feelings. When did we become afraid of feelings? We don’t need protection from them we need to embrace them and learn from them- then we can stop carrying them.
Are our words losing their power? As language evolves we are bombarded with catchy phrases and cleaver twists of common words. But is the impact of them then changed to a shallow, cool version of the words rich history? Words that can be traced back to their Latin roots and have withstood the test of time- retaining value through wars and depressions, scholarly discoveries and exploration. They are now reduced to a bumbling chain of syllables that a lot of people do not understand much less respect. Or is this the modern twist on the evolution of a word?

The hip-hop culture is famous for reworking words or coming up with completely new words. And although slang has always played a part in history, the hip-hop artists are taking it to a new level; the words are changing so fast and so far from their origins, that it is almost a new language- a person needs to be encircled in it to keep up. But why do they do this? Does it give the culture validity when a language accompanies it? I believe hip-hop is more then just the music, the bling-bling and the alliance to their hometown. It has become a lifestyle, and every lifestyle comes with standards. Kind of like a class standard, the middle class has behaviors and language that they are accustom to, as do the upper and lower classes. The hip-hop community has taken words and made them their own, giving them relevance in that pretence. The gay lifestyle has a culture and language, as do republicans and democrats, and certainly religions have a lifestyle and wording that is significant to their beliefs. When grouped together for whatever reason (interests, social status, religion, upbringing, etc.) we develop a repertoire, our gesturing become similar, and our language is assimilated, we become familiar and accepted. If we look at lifestyles with the same respects as class then slang is a acceptable way of speaking to each other and the integrity of the word is intact.

I believe the power in a word is determined with how it is said, in what pretence and how it is received. If those three things are authentic then a word retains its history and, although many may not like where words are evolving to, slang is a respectable part of our language.
In the article by Mary Jane Smetanka “College students are wired, but can they connect?” she discusses the devotion and dependence this generation has on technology, and if it is a positive influence.

These days we cannot go anywhere and not see a laptop, cell phone or Blackberry. We have intertwined these items into our lives making them necessary tools to navigate ourselves through this world. We have connected ourselves to this web of information, communication and friendships- but our connection is through short blurbs of words and symbols, and through images of little cartoon faces showing our emotion. We are essentially doing to ourselves what cartoons and video games are doing to our children, shortening our attention span as well as killing any sort of depth in our thoughts and conversations. Can a cyberspace rapport replace an intimate or social connection?

Through all the ways to connect: e-mail, text messaging, online chatting, etc. I think the strangest one is the social alliance on websites like Myspace, Friendster, facebook and youtube. The interesting thing about socializing online is your identity can be embellished or distorted and that is perfectly normal. We post our perfect pictures and fill out our perfect profiles and we come up with cleaver comments- we are whoever we want to be.
I miss hanging out with people and getting to know all their idiosyncrasies and uniqueness; online we are just a bunch of boring, pretty faces saying mind-numbing things. The art of text messaging is just as bad; shortening a conversation to a series of one line, shallow banters. Of course there are exceptions, noted in the article, Kayeed Abdulali says “instant messaging is an amazing tool that allows him to stay in touch with family and friends from Tanzania and England to India and Spain”. And the U of M sophomore Sara Genrich said “ it’s like a substitute for hanging out with friends. This year, I don’t have time to do that”. This technology is a wonderful tool and when used to aid our lives, in school or the workplace, saves a lot of time. But when it becomes all consuming and we exchange going to the bar with friends Friday night, or going to the coffee shop with your best friend to vent about your week, we lose intimacy. When I have time to spend with friends I want the whole package.

That being said I need to come clean that I have checked my e-mail numerous times while writing this paper, my I-pod is sitting to the right of my laptop and my phone is to the left. I am ready to connect…