Thursday, October 14, 2004

Vagina will do just fine, thank you.

So maybe I've been a bit tough on the old boy. You know who I mean: my man A.H., in his 60-somethings. And maybe not. He seems to frequently mention either sexual organs or sexual acts, and I cannot determine whether he is simply being frank, which is something I would find refreshing, mature, healthy, and interesting, or if he's being lechy. (I don't mean lecso-esque, but rather lecherous). This is a difficult situation. If I react vehemently to one of his apparently gratuitous or offensive references, then I not only risk offending him, but I could potentially shut the door on an honest intellectual exchange. To further complicate matters, there is the language barrier. Here is an example:

In Hungarian, there is a really cool slang word for a girl: csaj (it sounds almost like the tea drink Chai when pronounced, as "cs" makes a "ch" as in "church" sound in Hungarian). Maybe you have to know a little Hungarian to understand why it's a cool word, or hear it used by some young Hungarians. But as far as I know, we don't have anything equivalent in English. The closest thing I can come up with would be "chics," but of course that word is dated.

So he wanted to know about slang words for girls in English. And he asked me about "pussy." I said no, that doesn't refer to the female herself. He told me that he met some theater people in New York who were in fact using the word pussy in this manner, as a synonym for "girl." I said, "OK, but that's not the common usage. Normally it's used--" and he said, "I know, for your little friend between your legs." I was creeped out, but I let it go. But soon after, we were looking at the sculptural relief in the Kalvin ter metro station. It's supposed to symbolize the gate to the old medieval wall that was nearby, but it does not accomplish this very well: the relief features a vertically-shaped fissure of sorts. Again, he made reference to the work resembling, "your little friend between your legs." This time, I said, "I'm not six years old. 'Vagina' or 'vulva' will do just fine, thank you." He explained to me that they don't use this word in Hungarian. Not that the word "vagina" doesn't exist, but that it's used in a strictly clinical context, and indeed, some would say that it has a clinical connotation in English as well.

So, is A.H.
a) a lech
b) simply a man of candor, or
c) is he at a disadvantage as a non-native English speaker?

I don't know which, and I wish to be just. But if it becomes something more uncomfortable, I will toss Justice on her ass. Here's a lesson I learned: If you let someone touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable or if you allow him to violate you in some other way without protest, you will regret it far more than you will regret offending him with a rebuff. Here's how I learned it:

Back in 1997, the Economist and I had just finished undergrad and we were backpacking about Europe. We flew into Cairo, where we hired a guide for three days. We thought we were prepared for Egypt: we had our phony wedding rings, our hats, our tuberculosis innoculations, and we even had iodine to defunkify the water. What we were not prepared for was negotiating constantly between respect for a foreign culture and its people and self-preservation. We were in a bus, making our way across the desert to the Pyramids, and our guide touched my thighs while talking to me. He did it in such a way that it seemed he must behave in this manner with every female. I was extremely uncomfortable, but I was frightened of offending or angering him, and I said nothing. I have always regretted it, but as a result I resolved to never let anything like that happen again.

The Economist and I spoke of this incident recently when she was here in Budapest. I believe it marked her in a similar way. It came up when we were at Mumus, and a Hungarian guy would not leave us alone. I tried polite. I tried calm but stern. He persisted, he grabbed my arm, and I reacted violently: I shoved him away from me, and said loudly, "Do not touch me." He left.

There is a moment that I love in the movie Holy Smoke!: Harvey Keitel plays the American cult-exiter P.J. Waters who comes to Australia to deprogram Kate Winslet's character, Ruth Baron. To this end, they are isolated in the Australian outback. Ruth is understandably defiant. P.J. grabs Ruth by the arm, and she pulls away, growling, "My body is mine." And of course, there is the implication that her mind is hers as well.

10 Comments:

At 9:34 PM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...

your take on the situation sounds pretty right-on. from what you've described, i'd tend to lean towards his comments being on the "lech" side, but it is all about what you are comfortable with...if nothing else, it seems he knows he is being "risque." is that eastern european charm, or just gross? i don't know...

 
At 12:58 AM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

Well, yes, you're right of course: he's a lech. And I didn't write the worst of it because I was embarrassed. But the truth is that I am accountable because I have continued to meet with him. Because I do think he's an interesting person, and because he is this high-speed connection into the world of Hungarian art, poetry, architecture, and performing arts. I've seen and learned so many beautiful things through him, and I suppose he knows this is his currency.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

A more general comment: I've noticed that in (modern) German language usage there are few euphemisms used for the sexual organs, penis, vagina, for words like shit and pregnant and restroom. A restroom is referred to as the toilet (Toilette). It has, I think, to do with a general frankness in the culture for expressing things that are naturally human. A penis is a penis, a vagina is a vagina. Why call it something to disguise what is being talked about? Even in children's programs, soaps for teens, etc. you hear language like shit (Scheisse). Don't know if I'm too happy about that because my son (7) sometimes sees those, and we try to get him off of words like that. My wife bought a book for our son about the "birds and bees" which made blush, although I'm no moral conservative.

Another point: radio stations here have no problem playing songs that probably would be banned from airplay in the states because of language, e.g. f---. No one cares, (or understands what they're singing?) I think this applies to the Netherlands, also. Consolidated's "You Suck" was a minor hit there some years ago and received lots of airplay. Some movies also come out in a European and a domestic U.S. version, the Lolita of the 90's was one of these.

Maybe all this applies to Hungary and the Hungarian langauge? If so, you can interpret your experience in that context.

Footnote: In German literature of the 20's they did tend to use euphemistic language to get around describing that two persons slept together (now I'm doing it, had sex, I mean). It was kind of a coded language, probably to keep children from understanding, if they happened to read the book. There may have been censorship problems as well. Germany, at least, had something back then called the "Sittenpolizei" (translates in dict.leo.org as vice squad). They actually checked hotel rooms to see that men and women in the same room had a marriage license.

When it comes to erotic matters, I prefer language that leaves things to the imagination.

Sorry for rambling all over Europe in my comment.

 
At 5:27 PM, Blogger Mortel Studios said...

If you are offended by what your friend says, you should inform him that you are offended. If you are not quite sure how you feel about his comments, or are still not quite sure where he's coming from, you should talk about the reasons why he uses those particular symantics. Understanding where he's coming from, whether its lechery, frankness, or common culture, will help you figure out how you feel about his remarks. Maybe you have to chalk it up as the cost for interacting with this person.

Cultural differences that make you feel uncomfortable are a very touchy issue. You don't want to offend anyone that would jeopordize your stay in a foriegn place. You also have to feel comfortable about the place and yourself. In the future, whether it's in a bus in Cairo or in a bar with multicultural people, addressing their actions in a polite, inquisitive manner where you compare your cultural tendencies to the offending cultural action will usually get the message across to the offender that you feel uncomfortable about this particular action.

Now that I think about it, this might not work that well in some bars, where independent of the culture, the name of the game is to get as close to someone as you legally can. You were probably right in shoving that guy in the bar. Even on Japan's railways, they are now providing female only passenger cars to reduce the number of groping incidents.

Hope you're having a good time in Budapest, I've always wanted to visit Europe. Maybe my wife and I can save up enough money to visit Amsterdam some day.

 
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Children with ADHD

There is a perplexing state of affairs in today's society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.

Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, 'Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?'

The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.

Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, 'Oh, those are children with ADHD' or 'Those are the children who can't sit still.' Or 'That is the kid that always gets into trouble.'

These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.

So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?

Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD
� ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood
� ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term
� The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.
� ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.
� The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don't have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.
� ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to 'cause trouble' by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often.
� Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.
� Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.

The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I'll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as 'Children with ADHD'

 
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