I was a child of the 80s and a teen of the 90s. (If you’re wondering, I’m 30.) I guess each generation has its own set of choice words, like “groovy” as far back as the 60s. I absolutely loved growing up in the 90s and will be a Pearl Jam fan for life, but it wasn’t until I had kids that I started thinking about my 90s vocabulary.
In elementary school, middle school, and even high school, it was totally normal to use words like “retarded” and “gay” to describe anything abnormal, lame, distasteful, ridiculous, stupid, and the list goes on. I’m talking about day-to-day life and the words I used without even thinking. Even into my adult life, I still let the words slip. Old habits die hard, especially with popular words from your generation.
If my day was a total clusterfuck, and the line at the gas station was out the door, I’d describe it as “retarded.” If I hated an old sweater I found in my closet, I’d say it looked “gay.” Of course, there wasn’t hate in my heart when I was saying these words, and for years, I didn’t think anything of it. Also, to prove my generational point, I’ve heard most of my friends and husband say these words too.
A close friend of mine has a sister who is gay and married. His sister is awesome and also happens to have a great sense of humor. As he tells it, she started a friendly confrontation about his casual use of the word “gay.”
He said something along the lines of, “Ugh, my computer is running slow. GAY!”
She bantered back something like, “And how is your computer gay exactly? Is it sexually attracted to other computers of the same model?”
My friend laughed and said, “No, of course not. I just mean that my computer is shitty and lame and… Well, this is awkward.”
So, that’s an example of a healthy family engaging in a friendly confrontation about the misuse of the word “gay.” Contrary to popular belief, calling something gay shouldn’t mean that it is shitty and lame. For many people I know, a word like this is simply an afterthought and something that you might say when you’re frustrated.