Euphemism of the Day

George Carlin once had a great piece about euphemisms and how we use them to weaken and water-down things that are bad. While we don’t feel as bad about them anymore, we do a great injustice to those situations and states and the people who endure them. It really is an excellent piece, and so I thought I would take note from the great philosopher, Mr. Carlin, and discuss a euphemism that certainly applies to my life today. It does not, however, have the great social power that Carlin’s discussion had. But any of you who have dabbled through a quarter-life crisis will still relate, I am sure.

Transition, when applied to one’s life. As in, “Little Tommy is just living at home for a while again as he transitions to the next phase of life.” Yeah, Little Tommy is 38 and eats cheese puffs in his parents basement playing World of Warcraft for 16 hours a day, stopping only to wash his face and fingers in Mountain Dew.

Disclaimer: There is nothing wrong with the following things: being 38, basements, parents, cheese puffs (I happen to be a fan myself), Mountain Dew, or video games. It is the unique unification of these things that often has disturbing and undateable results.

Transition sounds nice. Just as springtime could be considered the transition between the harsh winter and the welcoming summer. But even from the weather we learn what transition really means.

I have no idea what the hell is going on.

There. That’s the big secret. That’s what “transition” means. It isn’t some great metamorphosis (at least not intentional) into something bigger and better than you already are. Let’s examine the weather example first before we extrapolate this idea to the life of a quarter-lived Mugwump.

Springtime in Minnesota- the transition from winter to summer. In a planned, gradient-esque manner, as we often think of a transition, springtime would be marked by a steady increase in temperature, getting slightly warmer each day than the day before. It would perhaps get slightly sunnier each day in a similar fashion. Regardless, it would continue to make forward progress towards the warm, sunny, watermelon-y summer we love. But it doesn’t do that. Instead, we get a first peek at summer with a nice, balmy 60 degree day. Things green up a little– how lovely the slight breeze through our hair feels. We may even brave driving with the window down. Ahh, the transition starts and we begin to look forward to the steady climb towards summer.

The following 30 days, starting around the middle of April go something like this: blazing hot, rain, rain, rain, barely above freezing, ahhhh 65, BLIZZARD WARNING, blazing hot, winds that make jet engine blasts feel slight and delicate, torrential downpour followed by freezing rain, hot and humid, hot and humid, snow, ahhh 65. Lather, rinse, repeat. For weeks.

All of a sudden your closet is bursting at the seams because in the same day you may wear a tank top and shorts, a sweater, a snow suit, your swim suit, and have to change your socks six times because your shoes keep filling with snow/water/ice. This is not a transition; this is a laundry-costs-a-dollar-a-load nightmare.

And all these cute “transitions” in life we all fawn over as if we are caterpillars becoming butterflies are no less chaotic. By the way, a lot of caterpillars get eaten in their little coccoons while becoming butterflies. Think about it, chewy gooey middle and a crunchy outer shell. What predator wouldn’t eat that?! Not so romantic anymore, is it?

The life “transition” of a modern mugwump is that awkward stage (marked by the sum of the years between birth and death) where things are chaotic and stressful and stupid decisions seem right and the right decisions seem stupid. But, secretly, it is kind of fun. I am beginning to feel that transition, for me, is not a series of phases that bridge the gap from one big thing to the next. The crave for change and novelty in my life is so strong that I think I will probably transition forever.* This changing from one thing to the next, it isn’t gentle and fun like we think transitions should be. And what a joke to discuss the idea that moving from childhood to adulthood feels natural and comes easily.

George Carlin discussed shell shock in his euphemism skit, and how we call it all kinds of things that got cuter and cuter as the years went on. Shell shock, battle fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder. As if shell shock was similar to having too much to do in a short amount of time at work, please. It is our basic language restructuring that lets us downplay what other people are going through when we could not possibly understand their situation. Maybe if we called transition what it really was (“absolute nightmarish chaos” works for me) some of us students wouldn’t get so much flack for “putting off the real world” or “having it easy.” There is nothing unreal or easy about racking up thousands of dollars in student loan debt to write grant proposals that are 50% of your grade in a must-pass in order to go on fashion. It is sometimes a very vulnerable feeling to know that amid all the chaos your chewy gooey middle isn’t well protected.

*I had a friend read/edit this before it went up and she said “Aaaahahaha, you’ll always have a gooey middle, then.” Thanks, pass the bag of Oreos.

PS. I apologize that this post is a bit disjointed– I wrote it over several days, section by section. It doesn’t flow well all the time, but I still wanted to share. Perhaps it is simply a good reflection of the week’s craziness.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s