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English Is My Ex


Unrequited Love Language

One day, Kevin asked me, “Is it difficult?” I did not know what he meant, so I looked at him quizzically.  He repeated, “Is it difficult, you know, being right all of the time?”

What can I say?  It is a curse or a gift or both. You know what they say about marriage: one person is right all of the time and the other is the husband.  Actually, I just THINK I am right all of the time, and that can be very difficult indeed.  If I know I am wrong, though, I will take ownership of it, unlike some who never meet their inner locus of control.

Back before I was a school counselor, I was a high school English teacher, and I think I had a pretty good grasp on the subject I taught. I majored in English and minored in journalism in college and never had below an A, and I passed the five certification tests in Oklahoma on the first try. Before you quit reading this because you are fed up with what appears to be my bragging, let me assure you that it is the foreshadowing for my getting knocked down several pegs.

This is how that happened.  When Kevin got his doctorate, I took pride in being his proofreader for his papers and even his dissertation. I was glad to be able to help him, and he did well in his classes and published several articles, so I felt pretty good about our combined abilities. Then my kids got old enough to need my proofreading help. Again, I could not help with subjects like pre-cal, but I could teach them how to proof and improve their writing, most of the time. There were a few times that I did not completely agree with everything their teachers did along the way, but I made sure I let the kids do their own writing and keep their own ideas and voice in the work. A couple of times the papers were figuratively torn apart, and most of it was a difference of opinion on stylization, so I could let it go and just agree to disagree. However, when Kevin’s book was accepted for publication by OU Press (Yay…side note: shameless plug for the publication of Prelude to the Dust Bowl which will be on shelves in July), I experienced something completely different.  Kevin and I had both proofed the book several times.  Then Kevin’s mother, who is an ABD in English with several master’s degrees, including a Master of Letters from the prestigious Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont, proofed the book at least three times.  Kevin’s step-father has an English degree from the University of Chicago, a law degree from Yale, and a Master of Letters from Breadloaf as well. He proofed the book at least three times. Then the book was sent out to five different experts for reading, and they all made their edits and suggestions. However, when the book finally went to the assigned editor for final edits before production, she hacked and butchered, and Kevin had to fight for things he thought germane enough to the topic to keep. I came to the conclusion through all of this that if you put twenty experts in English in a room with a book, there would be twenty different opinions on what is correct and not correct and what is good or not good. Sure, they would all find the egregious errors such as fragments and run-on sentences, but when it comes to stylization and nuance, there would be debates more heated than anything in a presidential campaign. I hate to be wrong, so it prompted me to vent in the following paragraph.  For my English teacher friends:  I am aware that my tight rope dance between voices and romantic love and platonic love are not perfect, but a rant does tend to veer from proper writing, which just goes to enhance my point even more. The main thing here is that, although it is not funny, I did enjoy using figurative language.

On another note, if either of my adult children had posted something publicly with profanity in it, I would have scolded them for cursing in a public forum. Thus, I have used a vulgar term, and I will accept the public admonishments from my offspring and any others whom I have offended.

When you fall into the web of love, there is a feeling of euphoric safety as you initially think you cannot fall from where you are.  Then the reality of the spider creeps in as it dawns on you that there is betrayal in this web.  Safety has been delusion; it is a web of lies and deceit, and a piece of you will be gone forever as the spider devours you, imposing its wants and needs on you. That happened to me, not with a high school crush or a potential spouse, but with my vocation. Just as Athena sprang forth from the head of Zeus fully armored, I sprang forth from diapers as a loquacious toddler, and the talking never slowed! I have always been attracted to language. English is a sexy beast and this girl was enamored with her just as a young girl idolizes Wonder Woman. The golden lasso of language revealed the truths of life to me in the written word. The bracelets fired with the super power of the laser-sharp tongue. I longed to be “THE” shit, and English gave me the coveted article. For a while, I skirted the heavens in her metaphorical jet.  There were puns and word play.  Adjectives made me giddy.  Wit was the constant fix I craved.  Figurative language had me in the write shape, and my participles were no longer dangling; I was a crazed disciple of hyperbole. I readily admit that onomatopoeia gave me a buzz. Then irony came into my story.  After devoting my creative energies into this unilingual obsession, I saw the writing on the wall.  English is fickle, and I discovered that she woos the world and convinces all of those hanging on in her inner sanctum, as well as the groupies slinking in the shadows of her periphery, that each of them has the omniscient point of view.  I studied the rules, I knew some exceptions, and my first conjugation was in her verbage. But other disciples believed that they knew more than I did: that their points of view were each the standard by which we all should communicate. I discovered that others had risen to the top of her command only to be edited by underlings, who argued that personal style did not meet the call of the Queen’s English. The fan club were all promised the presidency, and although we believed that there could be only one, we were subjected to criticisms without objectivity.  I happened upon a writing with voice, a story told by a master.  I watched as the Queen’s army imprisoned the work for more than grammar and punctuation and a rule here or there.  I watched as each officer slaughtered and decapitated anything that made the writing unique until they had all forced their will upon the story, killing creativity, destroying any evidence of the life in word pictures that had made the rhetoric appealing to the third-word countries, and only accessible to elitists and language snobs. The world was now in black and white. Where was the local color? I was traumatized by this experience.  I knew that there was a war of words out there, but I did not realize that enemy is not defined. I had to accept it. English refuses to truly love me back.  It was a sad day when I gave up the fight. I had to realize that everyone’s a critic, and whomever has last word is the self-professed, yet recognized “author-ity”.



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