I have a story about learning pronoun usage when I volunteered with the Elizabeth Warren campaign. Most family members have heard it, more than a couple times, and are getting tired of me repeating it. I probably need some new stories. That has been a key revelation of writing my autobiography. I won’t concern the reader with my well-worn story.
20-something me didn’t worry much about pronouns, or repeating stories. I felt a creative impulse that drove me to learn about our world, understand it, and then write about my understanding. In reading those 40-50 year old pages today, I found myself repeating things a lot.
A main concern I had in the 1970s was a lack of meeting and dating women. A typical journal entry went, “I am sore in need of a woman, this much is true.” That’s not all I thought about even if I repeated similar sentences in my journal. There was my writing and my job, both of which occupied most of my time and energy. Finding a mate, permanent or temporary, was never that high a priority. While there was a Crazy Sexy franchise prostitution outlet within walking distance of my quarters, I never used it. My needs weren’t that sore.
I viewed myself as a camera lens, trying to capture what was going on in broader society. Women I knew in Germany didn’t play much of a role in that.
In November 1977, I traveled by automobile to Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France with a couple I met through the Army. Strasbourg was a beautiful city with a cathedral containing many stained glass windows and dark alcoves for pensive moods. After making this trip, I decided, “I prefer to travel alone.” We tended to talk about what we already knew during the trip. It did not get me away from quotidian life enough to enable anything resembling pensive. My travel experience would likely have been worse if I had traveled with a mate.
I made a decision that if I was to learn about European culture, that needed to be my focus. I recall seeing Goya’s Los Caprichos at a museum in Darmstadt. I spent time with each of the images considering what they meant. A companion, especially an American companion, would tired of the length of time spent in the museum. No doubt we would hustle off to to the gallery cafeteria, partake in vending machine fare, and chat over coffee or wine. The people I knew weren’t that interested in the satire of a Spanish artist.
It is difficult for me to parse sexuality, gender presentation, femininity and masculinity, gender roles, and most certainly gender stereotypes. Let’s just say I prefer to stay behind the camera lens. However, if one is to engage in society in the 21st Century, staking out a territory among these things is important. It’s not just political organizers who want to know your pronouns.