My foment of the moment concerns personhood – my personal reflections on moving from “I” to “She” – as in when
- The clerk asks my young colleague “What does she think?” of the lumpy garment I’m not going to buy anyway since she obviously doesn’t know I’m there.” . or
- A stranger asks my adult son, “Would she mind if we…” when I’d be quite able to express my own opinion of their ridiculous idea, or
- A casual companion inquires of a younger friend “Did she know (x)?” — which I probably did and wouldn’t admit if I did.
Yes, one option is to shop, eat, live, and otherwise do everything alone – the problem is that the unaccompanied TP can expect to be ignored altogether. Alone or with others, the negative impact of categorization as an invisible Third Person (TP) does not sit well with this functioning, if aging, First Person (FP). This attitude is exacerbated by the fact that TP status almost universally to grey-haired women, seldom to silver haired men.
For all my long life I have known women who exuded FP-ness well into their senior years. They were vital parents and relatives, colleagues, and friends. When the clerk or waitress nodded to my diminutive mother and asked me what she wanted, I bristled while my mom, the customer, glowered in righteous FP defiance – and did not darken that door again. A commanding presence 5-footer my mother could quell a student uprising with a withering glance. She and her friends were FPs long after their allotted time.
Today’s FPs would re-rank them as de-facto TPs. After all, thee FP’s have marinated all their lives in a tempero- and ego-centric environment ruled by “I”, “me” “mine” and “now.”
Eons ago, when we TP’s were in high school we learned about the Malthusian Theory. I recall calculating at the time that my generation would need thinning out by war or pestilence. The clear alternative, euthanasia, seemed in my youth an inevitable possibility for my generation Now I reflect that relegation to TP non-status is a socially acceptable form of euthanasia – out of sight, out of mind.
When children need attention they act out, an appropriate model for TPers, I’ve concluded. Though some folks, even English majors, find his message morbid, Dylan Thomas inspires me to embrace the liberating anonymity of Third Personhood when he writes for his father and for TPs of generations to come:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Sounds good to me. And so I intend to rage against all manner of atrocities, including at random:
- pig-headed elected officials who can’t think for themselves, much less the voters
- rude bus riders
- opinion leaders who aver that the cost of war has nothing to do with the cost of Medicare the pompous media who ignore, distort, or fail to check the facts
- traffickers- drugs, children, and more
- religious leaders who distort history while they prey hapless laity
- game-playing education institutions that rob but do not teach
- those who deny global warning
- individuals and institutions that fail to nurture the children and youth who will soon enough take the place of today’s FP’s
- anything else that denies full humanity to others.
My hope is not so much as to rave and rage but to channel the energy. My eyes aren’t so good anymore, but I still have a vision. That vision rests on the hope that the FP/TP world will dissolve into a robust Second Person world of “we” and “us” and “our”. Awareness of language is a necessary if insufficient first step in the right direction.