I grew up in a world where it became very important to be sensitive to others, to be conscious of what one says in terms of race, religion, nationality, gender. Words are important and if you utter the wrong ones, even innocently, you can be minced. I grew up in the North, post-Civil Rights, and attended integrated public schools and gender-balanced institutions of higher learning. Obscenities were bleeped on TV and Clarence Thomas was on trial for sexual harassment. My world started in a sensitive place, it's grown even more so.
Suddenly, it feels like the pendulum has swung the other direction-- a complete reaction to interpersonal sensitivity. I've entered (somewhat involuntarily, but hey, I had them) the world of teenagers. Words that have always been so powerful and negative, well, suddenly they're terms of endearment. I borrowed an iPod the other day to jog with-- Golly Gee, Wally-- 1800 downloaded songs and they each consisted of the same three obscene words chanted over and over. All I can figure is this culture irreverence-- perhaps best personified by the ugly and inept words of Don Imus-- is a cultural backlash to a world where being politically correct has become so important, so hammered into us.
I read an article not long ago in the Baltimore Sun-- it was about an entrepreneurial young man whose Internet T-shirt business had taken off. What an industrious young man. I went to the website, curious. Here's one of the shirts he sells:
You get the idea.
Mostly, the teenage world seems to have some feel for when and where-- they utter the unthinkable words and phrases amongst themselves, they understand (or so I'm told) their own code-- they keep this world hidden, and well they should. I may be wrong, but the rules all seem fuzzy as to who can say what to whom, where and when. Probably, and I may just be old, Mr. Brady, it would be fine if T shirts didn't announce the insensitivity of the wearer.
The good news is that I found some Led Zeppelin tunes on the iPod. There's still hope.