I’ve always read with a smile the Washington Post contest results where readers submit alternative meanings for common words. Among last year’s winners were:
Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs;
Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent;
Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
I’ve made my own alternative definitions on occasion, but never as clever and never as succinct as those in the Post. For instance:
Affluence, to me, isn’t when I own a boat or a plane. It’s the day I can call the painter rather than make a trip to Home Depot for a can of paint, a new roller, and some sandpaper.
Drag queen doesn’t conjure images of the likes of Miss Take, Lotta Lips, or Boobs Forsale. Instead, I see Elizabeth with a royal tiara and a fortune in satin and sable trailing her royal rump. Now, that’s a drag queen.
Nirvana, while often used as a rough equivalent of Valhalla, Heaven, or whatever blessed hereafter you choose to name, for me isn’t the Webster definition: the state of perfect blessedness achieved by the extinction of individual existence and by the absorption of the soul into the supreme spirit. Instead, nirvana for me is the time in the future when my homosexuality is of no importance to anyone but me. Webster, I’m sure is correct, but I like my definition better. I’ve dreamed of the day when my homosexuality would be of no importance to my boss, my pastor or rabbi, my co-workers and friends, or to my family members. And now, possibly nirvana may be approaching.
David Carr in the Business Day section of the New York Times (Oct. 28, 2013) wrote, Gawker Kicks Open the Closet, but Its Disclosure Barely Reverberates. Gawker, for the uninitiated like me, is a news and gossip site based in Manhattan. They reported recently that Shepard Smith, a Fox news anchor, supposedly yelled at a waitress in a Chelsea bar. The horror of it all was that Mr. Smith was in the bar with another man. Would you believe such a thing? In a bar—with another man? Horrors!! The innuendo intended by Gawker was that Mr. Smith is gay, and that Fox, as a conservative icon, is duplicitous in employing a gay newscaster.
Anderson Cooper’s acknowledgment that he was gay a year or so ago caused a mild ripple of publicity and public interest. But there was no change in his ratings or in how people saw him. The outing of Mr. Shepard has resulted in a collective yawn from Fox followers and the public at large. The reason according to Mr. Carr is that, “The culture has moved on. People see other people who happen to be gay at their workplaces, in their schools, and on their televisions. Somewhere along the way, what was once a scarlet letter became just another consonant in the personal resume. And now that gay marriage is a fact of life, a person’s sexual orientation is not only not news, its not very interesting.”
Even Bill O’Reilly, a Fox favorite, seems to have “moved on.” While he once suggested that same sex marriage might lead to relationships between humans and turtles, he now says the government should not decide who should marry. “The compelling argument is on the side of the homosexuals,” according to O’Reilly. “We’re Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else.” Never in my darkest dreams did I think I would quote O’Reilly in a positive sense.
But if Carr is right, possibly my nirvana is near—the time when the soul-searching, heart-rending proclamation of I’m gay by young or old, celebrity or commoner, will receive a resounding, “So what?” Now that’s nirvana.