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That Is So Gay

Did anyone else listen to "Hibernia Beach" on Live 105 back in the day? It was this gay-themed radio show that they used to broadcast on Sunday nights. Well, I used to listen to it a lot while I tried to cram in those final few Calculus problems before bedtime. Of all the topics discussed on the show (ranging from political to sexual), one topic has always remained most distinct in my mind. It was the night that the on-air DJs bantered over the colloquial use of the term “gay” to indicate distaste.

It seems that around the mid 90s (or maybe even before that, for all I know), teenagers began referring to things as “gay”. Actually, let me be more precise. Straight teenagers began referring to things as “gay”. On the playground, at the courtyard, in the cafeteria, you began to hear more and more the phrase “That is so gay.” What exactly were these kids referring to as “gay?” Well, to be sure, they weren’t pointing at Richard Simmons.

Sometime, somewhere, the word “gay” became synonymous with “stupid”, “bad”, “lame” and “pathetic”. If somebody received a poor grade for a test they undoubtedly didn’t study for, it was “gay”. If our star quarterback missed a game because he was suspended for having skipped too much school, it was “gay”. If someone showed up wearing the same top you got on clearance from Contempt Casuals, it was “gay.” All of a sudden, homework was gay. Pop quizzes were gay. Missing the bus in the morning was gay. Cottage cheese day in the cafeteria was gay.

Recently, as is my luck, I happened to be privy to the following discourse between two, I’m sure otherwise very intelligent, teenagers.

Teen A: "Hey."
Teen B: "Hey."
Teen A: "Guess what."
Teen B: "What?"
Teen A: "They picked me for jury duty!"
Teen B: "What?"
Teen A: "They picked me for jury duty! How fucking GAY is that?"
Teen B: "Whoa. That is gay."

Can someone tell me exactly what is so distinctly "gay" about serving your civic duty as a juror? Is it the leather, butless chaps they force you to wear upon entering a courtroom? Perhaps it's the glowing disco ball hanging from the ceiling that spins around each time the judge bangs his pink, diamond encrusted gavel? No? How about the 12 angry men of the proverbially hung jury, dressed up to the nines in Armani, Prada, Gucci, Pucci, and spandex tees?

You see, it’s not that I mind people referring to things as gay. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade, right? Frozen cosmos with pink umbrellas -- gay. Pink, fuzzy dice with pictures of Jesus and Madonna (no, not that one) on the dashboard -- gay. Big, shiny disco ball hanging from ceiling next to stirrups and leather restraints -- gay. Rainbow tie-dye, denim cutoffs, black leather jacket -- gay. Every single Cher CD -- gay. Clay Aiken -- gay. But what exactly is so gay about an unfortunate situation?

I suppose the larger problem has less to do with a general misnomer than it does with an ignorance of what we mean when we use certain words. For instance, “bitch” and “ass hole” are hardly gender neutral terms. Why is it ok for a man to be a powerful go-getter, but once a woman starts going after what she wants, she’s a “bitch"? For that matter, words like “jerk,” “suck” and “blow” are all used to indicate things that, well…suck. But is it mere coincidence that they’re all things at which gay men purportedly excel?

Could it be that, in these post-Isaiah Washington times, we might just all be a bit too sensitive when it comes to name-calling and derogatory connotations? Perhaps that’s the case. Perhaps not. That isn’t for me to say. All I know is that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That is until I know what they mean.