I received an email today. Well, I received a lot of emails today; most of them were trying to sell me something or reminding me to pay a bill, but the specific email that I am referring to was from someone who reads my blog on a regular basis. This individual was complimentary, which is awesome. But, they did point out a few things that they would like me to do less and they were pretty clear about it. Normally, I would address these complaints individually and privately. But, since it’s the first morsel of hate mail I have received in my blogging career, I’m broadcasting it and considering having the correspondence bronzed.
They first asked that I stop using the F-bomb in any and all of its forms; sighting that there are far more appropriate words in our language that I could use to get my point across. This request made me suspect that the email might have been sent by my mother under an assumed name. I have been using a form of the English language my whole life and I have found that there is sometimes no other word that is more appropriate than the F-word. It’s a person, place, and a thing. My words may not be suitable for all audiences, especially if that audience is offended by the word “fuck”. This isn’t The World According To Scarp through the filter of someone else’s tidy, child-friendly vocabulary. These are my thoughts and I take full responsibility for them. I am not Canadian and am not programed to be polite or phrase everything I say, that may be offensive, in the form of a question, eh?
After I was told to keep the potty mouth in check, the author of this email then went on to reprimand me for using the word “retard” and/or “tard” in some of my entries. I find this to be hilarious, wait…I’ll explain. They included a very personal story about growing up in a home with a Learning Disabled brother or something, and asked that I be more sensitive to his issues. I’m very sorry that this reader (or anyone else) took exception to my verbiage. Now, I normally don’t feel obligated to explain my actions to another living soul. If I do, it’s because I want to and I respect you enough to feel that you deserve a recap of my thought process. In one of these instances I was quoting another person, in the other, I was quoting my sometimes very politically incorrect inner monologue. I could stop here with the explanations and make this my shortest blog entry to date, but I’m not going to.
You see, Gentle Reader, I use these words because I can. I’m not claiming I use them in the “it’s a free country, protecting my First Amendments rights” sense. No, I use them in the “it’s sometimes acceptable for an African-American person to call another African-American person the N-word, but you don’t dare utter this epithet if you’re a compassionate Honky” sense. What I’m saying here is…many, many years ago I was diagnosed by a team of very qualified doctors with a Learning Disability. I am technically a certified “retard” and I have the papers to prove it.
My mother, who is a teacher and has been presented with all kinds of lazy and improperly motivated children throughout her career, realized there was something very wrong with my cognitive abilities somewhere around the second grade. Mostly, I wasn’t on par in the Math and Spelling areas, but there were other things, too. By the time I was eight, I had not mastered the most basic of skills that my peers had. I was still unable to tell time on a clock with hands or discern my right from my left. No matter what my parents did to push or present the subjects in a manner that I could grasp, I just wasn’t picking up what they were putting down.
I spent entire school years discouraged, trying to make numbers make sense and loathing Friday’s because there would be a spelling test that I knew I would not be able to pass. My parents did all that they could to assist me. They bought flash cards, word puzzles, and cassette tapes with multiplication times tables sung to irritating music. I wore a watch with hands on it and bright colors that spelled out how to tell time. They hired math tutors, who made me delicious peanut butter and cracker snacks after an hour long session of not getting through to me. On the way to school before a spelling test my father would quiz me, after helping me study the whole week before, only to find that the information simply wasn’t there. It didn’t matter how they tried to help me; it was like there was a Teflon coating on the part of my brain that was supposed to absorb this material.
When it became apparent that my intellectual development was not an issue of maturity, eyesight, sleep patterns, cycles of the moon or any other reason that could be adjusted; I was sent to a child psychologist. This was an interesting experience; I talked about my feelings, looked at some pictures and went through a battery of tests that I don’t remember the details of. When the testing was complete, my parents were given a piece of paper that dictated how I was to be educated for the next ten years. This piece of paper basically said I was very smart, but learned things completely backwards; making anything presented to me that had to be learned in logical sequence…totally effing alien. Great, thanks Doc, I was eight and could have told you that.
School was frustrating for me, while my folks were standing on the sidelines encouraging me and watching as I failed, I was the one trying my hardest and falling flat on my face. Sure, there were things I excelled at, everyone is good at something. I was good at art. I found comfort in its flexibility. In the art world 7 x 9 = no one cares. Nothing I created had to make sense to anyone else; it just had to be interesting to look at. I’ve always fancied myself a writer and was put in advanced classes for this skill. I spent my days shifting between the people that were considered extraordinarily intelligent and the people that…weren’t.
I was put in many a disabled classroom setting; seated between the kid that had a misshapen head and drooled, but could spell his pants off, and the kid that was emotionally handicapped and would violently erupt when he dropped his pencil; but could add faster than a calculator. As I got older, these classes became more dangerous to attend. If you put 18 kids in a classroom, all equally misunderstood and frustrated by years of people telling them they just aren’t as smart as the other morons walking the halls, there tends to be a level of hostility and tension that words could not describe. I don’t blame the teachers; they did the best they could. I imagine it got old for them, having to continuously go over things because it was clear that we didn’t understand, but not so clear where they lost us. No, I didn’t look handicapped, but I was deemed just as damaged as the rest of my classmates with visible deformities, because my test scores said I was. I was lumped in with the children public schools weren’t intelligent enough to educate. We were made to feel stupid; sometimes unintentionally and sometimes very directly. Looking back, most of my classmates were more brilliant than the students who were rewarded with scholarships for being able to regurgitate the information previously discovered by others.
Concerned-email-sending-reader, I have put in my time. I earned the right to use the word “retard”. You can be offended by it all you want. You may have walked by your brother’s side, but you were never in his shoes and you certainly have never occupied my flip-flops. You got to sit on your ass and worry about “Bobby” and how the world should be nicer to him, while he and I (or someone just like him) were sitting in fifth period, poking fun at one another and laughing while we called each other “retard” quite freely. It’s not a derogatory term; it’s a mother-effing badge of honor. You might want to ask your brother about this word that you have taken exception to on his behalf; you may find that the word you are trying to keep me from using probably doesn’t bother him at all. No, I don’t want anyone running up to me screaming “retard” in my face angrily, but I wouldn’t want anyone screaming a word I love, like “bacon” in my face, either. He likely knows he’s different and if he’s anything like me, there’s parts of it he thoroughly enjoys. I know I’m altered; I don’t need a t-shirt or a secret hand-shake to prove that I’m not part of the herd. I am proud that I have done so much, with what other’s considered so deficient. Furthermore, I think the herd, with all of its rules and forced pleasantries, sucks.
I had teachers that called me lazy, suggested that I had a math-phobia and told me I would never go to college. I’m not slothful or afraid of anything. I’m so awesome at college; I’ve been twice. Words are simply words, they are used to convey a message; it’s up to the recipient to decide how they process this message. You can’t change the way people speak. Someone is going to offend you at some point. Trying to sanitize the thoughts of someone else is an exercise in futility; especially if you don’t know where the other party is coming from.
So what? I can’t tell time. I now have a digital clock on everything I own, my guess is it’s because a bunch of other people had the same problem navigating the nuances of the little and big hands. I was given a driver’s license by the state of Florida, even though there is that tiny issue with me and the right and left thing. I do not know my multiplication times tables past the fives, but I’m handy with a calculator, or an abacus…in a pinch. I may not able to spell the word “phlebotomy” without the aid of spell-check, but I doubt 60% of the population would fault me for this.
This is not a plea for sympathy. Don’t feel bad for me, I’m ok with it. Not knowing these things has not hindered my ability to live a full and happy life. I’ve discovered that everyone is a “retard” in one way or another…and the people that don’t think so are far more handicapped than those that embrace it.