Last evening at a gallery opening, a friend told me of his daughter’s reaction to a joke entitled How To Call Someone a Bastard. The joke revolved around a minister referring to an offending persons parents as never having been married. The daughter was all steamed up about the fact that the joke was on a back page of a church bulletin. One might think that this young woman was offended at the connotation of the word, bastard. However, in this case, it was the denotation of the word, “person born out of wed-lock”.
The daughter of my friend has a three –month- old child conceived and born without the benefit of marriage. Being part of a generation bathed in affirmation, this mother resents any person or any institution labeling her child a word that has a specific meaning, but that connotes a very bad person. So, she used Jerry Springer tactics to stir ire in her father and others against the joke in the church bulletin – not the best nor the most realistic approach.
The irony is that this young woman chose to have a child out-of-wedlock. Granted, the majority of the adults in the Western world no long shun nor ostracize a woman and her child living without a husband or father. The age of the “Scarlet Letter” is long over. However, a single parent family has a difficult row to hoe. This may be the first time that this family will respond to or ignore the offending word. Be assured that the child will hear the word deliberately stated to hurt him many times in school yards and in playing fields. Both mother and child need to toughen up. To achieve its full potential, this family needs to put on blinders to destructive rhetoric and to set realistic, altruistic goals for itself. Overcoming obstacles to any worthy goal makes one strong!