When Madi was in ninth grade, she came home and was telling me about her English teacher. This woman was the epitome of a “Grammar Nazi.“ She was horrendous. Madi was telling me about picayune little rules that the teacher declared she would not tolerate being broken .
In a deeply misguided attempt to connect with this teacher, Madi told her that I teach grammar for the SAT. As the blood drained from my face, I looked at Madi and whispered, “What have you done?“ Madi‘s face was ashen when she too realized she had just raised the bar on what kind of language would now be required of her specifically!
I come from a long line of grammar sticklers. When I was little, I thought my last name was Lee because I heard it so much. Me: “He runs quick.“ Mom: “Lee“. Turns out instead of
L-e-e, it was L - Y, as in, he runs quickLY!
When I would say I was done with my homework, my mom would poke me in the arm and tell me a roast is done; you are finished. So I come by it honestly.
As I’m sure you can imagine, the new pronoun usage makes me a little crazy from a grammar standpoint. When people say they, I expect multiple people.
I was pondering how this new line of thinking has really divided older people from the youth. But hasn’t it always been this way?
The generational divide. Hippies. Long hair. Peace vs. War. Music. When Elvis came on the scene, tv programs would only show him from the waist up. People actually smashed record albums in protest. Now he's an icon. The list goes on and on. Young people pushing for change and older people holding fast to be established. There is something to be said for both points of view usually.
This morning I read something that shone a different light on things. Catholic priest (and favorite author of mine), Richard Rohr wrote that people who have had turbulent or destructive relationships with their dads sometimes struggle with the male idea of God the Father because it brings negative feelings and reactions associated with their earthly fathers, and that makes total sense.
Father Richard went on to say that, as Catholics, such people are sometimes more comfortable praying to Mary (or the feminine), but if not, they can focus on certain traits of Jesus that are typically associated more often with women: caring for and tending to the sick, feeding people, teaching, loving the children.
Rohr writes, “Although Jesus was clearly of the masculine gender, The Christ is beyond gender.” If Christ or God is bigger than the idea of male/female, it leads me to think we might need to look at the pronoun issue a little closer.
We all have some traits and abilities that are more closely aligned with the opposite sex. No one can exhibit traits that are strictly male or completely female. For instance, Rosey Greer is considered one of the best offensive lines in pro football history, yet he did needlepoint and knitting. Closer to home, Paul is better at furniture placement and decorating than I am, and I am better at yard work.
There are a lot of issues dealing with identifying and pronouns that the kids are embracing that I don’t believe in or possibly even understand thoroughly, but I do know that most wisdom advocates an open mind.
The idea of a plural word describing a singular person still drives me crazy, but the idea that we are all a mixture of characteristics, both male and female, is worth a deeper gaze.
Maybe instead of ostracizing people who are not like we are, we should shift the view from they/them to we/us. Maybe those whippersnappers are onto something after all.