Teaching new parts of speech to six year olds is not an easy task. In Kindergarten, they learned that words are letters put together in a certain order and have meaning. They learn that print moves from left to right. They learn that sentences are words put together in a certain order to make sense, and that all sentences start with a capital letter and end with punctuation. That’s a tall order of learning for a kid trying to remember to not eat boogers. Just one year later, they have been introduced to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns. Meanwhile they are still being reminded that snot is not a snack.
The blue hat is on the big table, I wrote on the board. “Find the describing words in that sentence,” I asked the class.
“Why?” said a smarty-pants in the front row, who had a very good reason for sitting in the front row.
“Because you need to know describing words and how to use them,” I replied, “There might be four hats in the room, and you need to tell someone which hat to get for you so that you can go outside.”
“I’ll just get my own hat.”
I was considering the use of adjectives today when I was waiting to hear the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality. You see, I hold the ridiculous thought that my son will someday need my assistance in planning his wedding, and I simply needed to know the SCOTUS decision so I could gather venue ideas. My son, however, was not tucked in beside me on the couch awaiting the news. He is at a music festival 7 hours away, likely still asleep in his car, or at least barely awake, trying to remember where he lost his left shoe. He’s away from home, being 19.
Four years ago, when Logan came out to me, I wasn’t sure how to be the mom of a “gay kid.” A month later, when I was still bitching at him to pick up his laundry and put a damn dish in the dishwasher now and then, I realized my “gay kid” was, very simply, just a kid. There’s not really a special skill set to being the mom of a guy who dates guys. Love the kid, nag about personal responsibility, complain about the price of a tux at prom time, worry about grades when he doesn’t, and try not to eye roll when he asks for gas money. I found that I didn’t generally refer to him as my “gay son”, but that I dropped the adjective. He’s my son.
Side note: I live in Indiana. We’re supposed to be friendly folks, Hoosier Hospitality and all. Ironically, we are the state from which the governor proposed a law that would legally allow businesses to discriminate against people based upon a religious belief. Fortunately it was “amended” (basically neutered) after much public outcry and threats of financial devastation. But during this time, we basically showed our ass to the world, leaving an asterisk above our state’s name declaring us the place that thinks of “gay marriage” as “the abomination of a horrible mortal sin.”
So here in the Midwest, it’s still common to refer to the marriage of two people of the same sex as “gay marriage.” I simply prefer to think of it as, you know, “marriage.”
I’m taken back to that day in my classroom, being asked by my student why we need to find the describing words. “Gay marriage.” “Black church members.” “White cops.” “Hispanic gangs.” “Female workers.” Why can’t we just have marriage, church members, cops, gangs, and workers? Why should it matter whom a person loves, or the color of a person’s skin, a person’s ethnicity or gender?
The response to my student about the blue hat on the big table was that we need to classify, or identify, certain things in order to make our meaning more clear. It is a basic human need to classify some things. “Don’t eat the red berries from the second tree; they are poison and will kill you,” said the cave man. (It probably just sounded like “Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh,”, but whatever.) For our physical survival, we must clarify what is dangerous and what is not. I am not suggesting that adjectives are completely bad or unnecessary. I’m not suggesting hair product is completely bad or unnecessary, either, but too much of it leads to unsavory results.
Unlike the red berries on the second tree, being gay isn’t life threatening. So let’s drop the classification. We no longer have water fountains that are “for colored people”, and thank god for that. Water fountains are simply places that people get drinks. I think we should get rid of the term “gay bars” as well, and think of them as simply places that people get drinks. And herpes. Like all other bars.
Think of what a world would be like if we just thought of people as people, and made our judgements of others based upon things other than skin color, physical appearance or abilities, love interest, gender, or ethnicity. We could look right into a person’s soul and determine “goodness” or “badness” based upon actions, intentions, and words. Sure, there would still be assholes in the world, but this would be based upon something more concrete, like whether they have no regard for human life or if they leave empty carts in the middle of parking lots. You know, the really important, moral compassy kind of stuff.
Photo source: blogs.reuters.com