For the first time in 5 1/2 years, I wanted to refuse a sale to someone on Jac & Elsie.
The reason? Her username included the word “retard” in it. That is under no circumstances acceptable.
Perhaps I am especially sensitive to the word because my brother has autism. Being autistic is different from being retarded, but the latter seems to be a catch-all term ignorant people use to describe anyone with a cognitive impairment. It is never said kindly. It almost always has a nasty oomph behind it, unless it’s said in hushed tones over dinner, as if dropping your voice can take the sting out of an ugly word.
Despite the fact that I should know better, I am still surprised when I hear people say it. And I hear it often–a grown man will call himself “retarded” because he made a mistake. A young woman making fun of her friend says, “You’re such a retard.”
Just typing that makes me recoil. The muscles in my upper arms tense. The back of my neck stiffens. My eyes narrow.
I Googled the buyer’s full username and learned it is actually the name of a band. I’m not sure if that’s better–she’s not calling anyone a retard, but just referencing a band she likes–or if it’s worse: It means a group of adults thought it was a good idea to promote themselves, their ideals, their music, and their work under a name seeping with judgment and meanness.
I have corrected people for using the word, and it’s usually met with a nose wrinkle and, “Oh, sorry. No offense.” I have yet to tell someone to his or her face that tacking “no offense” onto an insult or harsh truth in no way erases the offense. It doesn’t even make the speaker seem sorry, just defensive. It, whether purposely or not, throws the issue back at me. As though by sharing that I am offended, I am the one to cause discomfort.
In an effort to right a wrong, I offer you this list of alternatives. I don’t usually condone name-calling, but if you must, using something absurd or ridiculous tends to not only get your point across but also lighten the mood.
Instead of “I’m such a retard,” might I offer up:
- I’m such a dipshit.
- I’m such a ding dong.
- I’m such a dingbat.
Instead of “That’s retarded,” how about:
- That’s crazypants.
- That’s ridiculous.
- That’s silly.
You’ll note that in none of those suggestions would you be mistaken for an ignorant dickhead.
Unless, of course, you specifically mean, “I have subnormal intellectual functioning that originated during my developmental period, and my intelligence quotient is below 67,” per the National Institute of Health. Then, by all means, call yourself retarded. Let’s just be accurate about it, shall we?