Regular Poem: Guys and …?

6 Apr

she says
we don’t call grown men
boys
so we shouldn’t call
grown women
girls
and her argument is sound
and my feminist hackles
are rising with hers
growing in the same field
fertilized by the same
patriarchy
but before i can elizabeth cady stanton
myself into a frenzy
i realize

i do call grown men boys
but more often
dudes
or most often
guys

because man is too weighty for many
dudes
i encounter

i try then to think of analogous terms
for females
and they’re mostly
ladies
to me
but sometimes
women
or
girls
hardly ever chicks
once in a while
gals

“this girl i know”
might be someone my age or younger
“this gal i know”
indeterminate, but sticks in the back of my mouth, i probably owe her money
“this lady i know”
someone awesome: probably
outspoken with a thousand brooches and can pull off gauchos or
a homicide lieutenant or
plays piano like a dream
“this woman i know”
that’s so clinical
dripping with disdain

“this boy i know”
could be anybody, probably cute
“this dude i know”
could be anybody, probably stupid
“this guy i know”
could be anybody, neutral
“this man i know”
sounds dirty to me
like i’m stealing somebody’s husband

now let’s play with modifiers and modes,
connotations and maybe some annotations

“good girl”
she teaches sunday school, bakes
cupcakes for the fire department, does
the Right Thing
any age lawful good
“bad girl”
smokes, drinks, carouses, sasses
red lipstick and stilettos
any age chaotic neutral
“good woman”
a good girl but even more noble
and self-sacrificing
makes your teeth ache and your heart clench
(i know one and i don’t know
whether i want to hug her straight to death
embrace her so tightly and then kill us both with my longsword
tristan and isolde style
or
stare lovingly at her
until she catches me
and then rib her about something
so she knows i’m still me
instead of the drooling sycophant
i become when i think too much
about how wonderful she is)
“bad woman” and “bad lady”
femme fatale, lurking
in black and white tableaus
ready for murder and seduction and fraud
“good gal”
fun to party with, straight shooter
maybe a western sharpshooter in fact

“good boy”
see good girl
“bad boy”
see bad girl
“good man”
probably a dad or a deacon or both
“bad man”
see bad woman
“good guy”
generic male who is generally conscientious,
listens and talks thoughtfully,
tries
“bad guy”
opposite of good guy, also manipulative
maybe sinister
“good dude”
like a good guy but kind of dumb
“bad dude”
like a bad guy but kind of dumb

maybe all
these connotations
are colored by my own
internalized mysogyny
but
i don’t see
on the silver screen of my mind
a girl
as excusively a child
and therefore
devalue the women i call girls
because i myself am a girl
to myself
in a lot of contexts
and sometimes a woman
w
o
m
a
n
sometimes a lady
sometimes a gal
and sometimes a lot of other words
i try not to use
because i don’t philosophically agree
with gendered insults

but i also don’t
see boy
as exclusively a child
and a lot of other people don’t
either

maybe i listen to too much county western music
where everybody’s
the boys around here
and good old boys

far be it from me
to suggest
country western music
is anywhere near as progessive
as this lady thinks everything
ought to be

(“this lady”
someone respectable but to be disagreed with)

and also far be it from me
to suggest
everyone
shares my dialect
and singular sensibilities

and there’s the crux
of the problem

when that guy says girl in reference to a grown woman
he probably means something different
and thinks something different
than that man who says girl in reference to a grown woman
who means something different
than that lady who says girl in reference to a grown woman

so we’re back
to her argument
that we ought not do it
but we’re also back to my argument
of individual responsibility
and we’re back to the perennial argument
about language

and how it evolves
and influences

i’d like to do a study
of the usage of girl
in other languages

but i’m too much of a dude

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