The “B” word

I am becoming more aware of generational differences since my mother moved back into the area Fall 2014. For example, the number of medical and general maintenance appointments triples after a certain age. Last week we went to a mani-pedi appointment which sounds like a luxury but is actually essential when one cannot see one’s nails. We participated in a two hour opthamology appointment with a one hour follow-up two days later.

I noticed that my mother’s concept of age has telescoped through the years. She talks about women in their nineties as if they are in a completely different generation than her own. It is hard for her to fathom that anyone is capable of functioning past 90. She acts as if 90 is decades away from her own age of 87. At the other end, she describes 85 year olds as “younger women”.  I am barely pubescent at 60.

This brings me to a conversation during peer supervision at work last week. There are nine clinicians, three men and six women. Our ages range from staff in their 30’s to staff in their 60’s. No one in between with the exception of our new male clinician, Bill who is 45 years old. For some reason we were talking about the word “bitch”. It would really help if I could remember how the subject arose, but that is another story. My supervisor, age 65, stated that she really dislikes the word and will not use it for any reason. It’s offensive, she said. I nodded my head. I use it as the female version of asshole. The younger women said that they don’t find bitch offensive at all.  In fact, they use it as a compliment. As in being in touch with one’s inner bitch or one’s true strong self. It is the opposite of ladylike which is not a compliment and denotes subservience to the male sex.

Then I happened to watch Richard Pryor last night who did a riff about visiting Africa. It was a life-changing experience. He was overwhelmed by the sheer number of black people.  Pryor said we were the first people and that has been verified by white anthroplogists. Then he said there are no n…..s in Africa. He made a pact with himself to no longer use the “n” word which he famously used for all of his career until that moment.

I don’t know if there are parallels between the “b” word and the “n” word. Clearly, language is used to codify and oppress others. Sometimes it helps to own it and sometimes you are just playing into the man’s hand. I should mention that I also watched a Downton Abbey episode which has been highlighting the female characters’ emergence from carefully prescribed subjugation to male dominance. They are coming into their own inner bitches.