My daughter was talking about one of her best friends who goes by the name Lenny and prefers the pronoun “they”. I discovered that it made me feel uncomfortable. I have nothing against people choosing their descriptors but in the moment of the conversation it felt awkward, and I was trying to figure out why.
Finally, this morning I realized it is because of the ‘is/are‘ English rules which I learned in school. When I was taught English if you were talking about someone using he, she, their name, or saying “that person” you always used IS. Likewise, if you said they you had to use are, and most of the time ‘they are’ was a plural statement but last night my daughter was using it in the singular and it just felt off.
She had pointed out prior that they did get used in singular such as “they lost their wallet, I hope they come back to get it”. And I agreed, but my epiphany fits with this. The wallet statement is devoid of the is/are connundrum.
So, I’m going to give some examples of where I realized I was feeling the”wrongness” in the moment.
Like her wallet example, I’m used to: “They dropped their item, I hope they realize they lost it and come back for it.” And “Are they going to the show?”
But last night it was more: “They get scared easily; they are easily frightened by…; they came around the corner and screamed from being startled; they don’t really like scary things but we convinced them to do two haunted houses”
The phrases being said sounded plural, like she was talking about multiple people, but it was just the one friend. It really did feel off and somewhat confusing. I personally would have rather heard “Lenny” repeated throughout.
So after a good night’s sleep, I finally figured out the-how of my glitch with using “they” as a singular pronoun…. Now I just have to figure out how to make my brain okay with language rules learned in early elementary.
I’m certain it doesn’t help that being dyslexic. I struggled with learning language rules in a repeatable sort of way. It also doesn’t help that I learned to hate being wrong at an early age, getting things wrong meant bad grades and the wrath of my father screaming at me that I can do better. So I worked 3 times as hard to avoid that. It means once I understood something I really locked it away in a don’t-fuck-up sort-of-way. It’s extra hard to change something learned young in that manner.
Not impossible, just really really difficult.
I’ve fixed lots of things, this will eventually be another. Or maybe I’m not alone and someone is already working on an English-speaking-rules adjustment.
May you understand your hiccups with verbal speed bumps. May you see how to make things okay for yourself so they can be okay for others. May you find a way around every broken element of your psyche. May you fix your brain to fix your life. Above all may you know that the divine loves and supports you in all that you do.
And today’s Abraham quote:
Every religion on the planet, and there are so many more than you are even aware of, has the potential of absolute thriving. But when you think that you must prove that you have the only one that is right—and you use your condemnation to push against the others—your condemnation separates you from your own Connection that, before your condemnation, you were finding in your own religion.
Excerpted from Boston, MA on 10/2/04
(and Abraham and Jerry)