For a long time now, I’ve been trying to live my life by two simple rules. The first is as long as people aren’t hurting each other, let them do what it takes to be happy. Gay marriage, transgender rights, your religion…whatever. As long as it doesn’t hurt someone else, why should I stop you from feeling complete?
I have 4,961 VetPrep questions to get through to pass my boards. How would I even have time to get upset that gay people are getting married?
The second rule that I’ve tried to follow is don’t be a dick.
No one wants to be like Scott.
For a while, I thought that if you followed those two rules then things would be simple. But by trying to just follow those guidelines I ended up giving myself some problems. You see, I’ve long had a complex where I’m terrified of being being a bad person and hurting others. Because I don’t want to be a bad person, I also tend to get very defensive when I feel like I’ve done something that hurt someone.
For example, my girlfriend Louise is pursuing a graduate degree in gender studies. She’ll often bring up things that society does that can degrade women or people of color. This instantly makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong or that I’ve been a bad person (even though she’s not talking about me specifically). I don’t want to break rule number two so I try to prove that she’s wrong. It’s something I’m not proud of and been working on.
That’s why I was happy with myself today when I was able to realize and easily admit that I (and much of our society) has been saying something very offensive to women for pretty much ever.
I’ve recently noticed that when people talk about an adult male, they usually say, “guy.”
As in, “This guy is headed to prom.”
Yet when people talk about an adult female, they usually use the word, “girl.”
As in, “This girl loves that sly capybara.”
I was talking to my friend today (we’ll call her Andrea) about how odd this is. Let’s break it down. There are three major ways to refer to each gender. There’s the adult man and woman. There’s the adult guy and gal. Then there’s the child boy and girl.
So why do we routinely use the adult “guy” to refer to grown men but the child “girl” to refer to grown women?
It’s odd; society has always consistently treated women with respect.
Instead of getting defensive, I was able to quickly admit that this is really messed up. It’s not as outright offensive as calling someone a racial slur or anything, but it’s very prevalent and just another little thing society does that adds up to wear women down.
So like I said earlier, I feel like like Ryan from a few months ago would have gotten defensive and tried to justify this because I didn’t want to feel like a dick. I think our society in general has the same problem. We don’t want to admit that we’ve done something clearly wrong because we don’t want to feel like Scott up there.
Such as when people refuse to change the name of The Redskins; it is literally a racial slur.
So what’s the trick to admitting that we’ve done something wrong without feeling like we’re inherently a dick? I think I’ve recently figured it out and I’ve incorporated into my third rule that guides me.
We’re going to accidentally be dicks sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we are dicks.
We’re all human and we’re all going to screw up. We need to aspire to be good to each other but realize we can’t do that all the time. We also need to realize that making a mistake now and then doesn’t make us a bad person. We just need to admit when we’ve mess up, learn from it, and make up for it. If you sincerely do that, then you’re not a dick at all. You’ve actually helped yourself grow and will probably help other people realize not to do that dickish thing in the future.
Life’s all about mistakes. Everybody knows that childhood is filled with time-outs and being sent to bed early that teaches you what not to do. But turning into an adult doesn’t suddenly mean you’re going to know everything and do everything right all the time. We’re all going to keep making mistakes, keep learning, and keep growing. That’s how we improve ourselves and society. But if that’s going to work, we have to accept that we screw up sometimes. And we also have to accept that it doesn’t make us bad people. When we realize that, we can admit our mistakes, own up to them, and move on as better people.
So I’m going to call my female friends gals from now on. Not only does it seem like the right thing to do, but it sounds cooler too.