My local newspaper published an essay I wrote about the uncomfortable conversations I’ve had as a father of girls. The essay is a collection of vignettes of these weird interactions and my internal ideations of killing the people putting me through them.
Of course, the newspaper printed a much more sanitized version of it. I was okay with it because I understand that a newspaper’s audience is not the same as the audience who regularly reads my writing, which effortlessly swings back and forth from the nostalgic to the maniacal.
A week or so after it was published, I received an email from a reader.
The reader complimented me on how much she enjoyed the article. The compliments were top and bottom like a good sandwich criticism should be and smacked right there in the middle, like the filling of an Oreo cookie, was the reason for the email.
The reader felt dismayed at my use of the word ‘cojones’ and told me how I should seek to eradicate this word from my vocabulary as a girls’ father.
The word cojones, in her view, implies that only men can have courage because they are the only ones that have testicles.
This is the section she is referring to.
I called my childhood best friend in Colombia. He has a daughter who is now five. I figured that if somebody has had to deal with this is him. Indeed, he had. People kept trying to marry his daughter off. I asked him how he dealt with it, and he told me he developed two ways to do it.
If the kid was not there, he would tell the interested party, “when he is of age, send me his tax returns so I can verify his assets and estate.” And then he would move on away from the people.
If the kid was there, he would look at the kid intently until everybody was uncomfortable, and then he would look back at the parents and simply say, “no. He is too ugly.”
I am not sure I have the cojones to pull these responses.
I appreciated the feedback. After all, she found a way to find me and took the time to write the email. I thought about it, and then I talked about it with my wife.
And after much thought and deliberation, I concluded that, given the opportunity, I would do it again.
I will never use cojones to describe courage for the general population. I don’t think I ever have, but I can’t remember. However, I can commit to doing my best at never doing it in the future.
But the word is an appropriate word to have in this essay because of cultural reasons and, at times, out of the understanding of imperialistic exports promoted so much by the progressive elites in the United States and Europe.
- My friend’s response to the situation was brash. I don’t know many women who would actually respond to a situation like this in this way. I don’t know many women who would look at a baby and call it ugly. I can’t still get my wife to admit that many ugly babies are parading the world. The response was distasteful. It was funny but distasteful. You could say that it highlights elements of toxic masculinity that are prevalent in the Latino culture.
- The word is still very much used in Spanish. This point highlights to me the authoritarian and tyrannical need of progressive movements to eliminate idiosyncracies of cultures they don’t see aligning with — in this case, the ingrained culture of the Spanish language.
- The word is funny, and it makes light of the situation and my awkwardness in not being able to do the same thing my friend did; highlighting the need for changing how we talk about women and raising women. The value assignment made about that statement is in the reader’s interpretation, not the text. The use of the word could’ve been easily read as derisive.
- We can’t annihilate the individual. I consider myself a progressive mostly because I am an individualist who believes people should be able to do with their lives whatever they damn please. But where these current progressive movements always lose me is in their need to annihilate individuals and their individual experiences. We can’t go around the world sanitizing the dictionary, so we can not only eliminate cojones out of the colloquial but also eliminate out of existence those who have them. If I was born with cojones, why should I feel guilty about that? I would never tell a woman not to write about tatas. What would Kristine Laco talk about?
- Americans and Europeans look at everyone who is not that and think of them as brutes. And maybe that’s what we are. Savages in need of education, clothing, and colonics. But no understanding happens without acknowledging that cultures are different and maybe that the way we look at the world is not how everyone looks at it.
I loved getting this email. I really did. Because it helped me think about many of my frustrations with the progressive movements, their constant need to control the language, the need to control who gets to talk, the need to cancel who speaks out of party lines, and the dismissal of the evidence that language does not create forward movements, policies and actions do.
But it also enriched me.
I often discussed problematic issues of language. I have talked about how I will do my best to never use the word bitch as an insult or referring to anyone or any situation.
As a result of that email, I will never use the word cojones when referring to courage as it would apply to the general population.
But this is a good reflection to see how we are constantly policing language and how, in the process, we eliminate, alienate, and disenfranchise allies which was highlighted in the fact that the reader didn’t have any issues with my idealizing about killing a chauvinist white middle-age pig with a golf iron.
Still, she did with the fact that I have cojones, or in that particular situation, I didn’t.