I cannot tell you how many times I have been called retarded. Maybe a billion times. In elementary school I suppose my friends and I must have called each other retards an average of sixty times a day. Some days it could be sixty times an hour. My older sister used to do an impression of a “cripple” with a speech impediment that would have me on the floor with laughter. It was our inside joke of sorts, where she would do her impression and try to touch me while I fled for my life.
And the short bus never drove by without someone saying, “there’s your ride.”
None of us were ever offended. Not once. At least, not for any reason that was directly related to the word itself. Why? Because it was always used in humor among friends. Did we know kids who were developmentally or physically disabled? Of course we did. When we were young and cruel we would accuse each other of wanting to marry that kid.
That was in secret. We never said cruel things to his/her face or in front of adults. We knew better. And as we got older, we thankfully became too embarrassed to use an innocent in our ridicule of each other anymore. Because we grew up, and because we were kind and considerate people who understood that it was a terrible thing to do. But the word “retard” remained.
The word had no personal attachments. It was just that thing we had been saying to each other forever. Always while laughing. Always with friends. Always without thinking. Then one day I found out it was something people are no longer supposed to say. And my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. Continue reading