Dienstag, 19. März 2013

gendery words and wordy gender

I believe that years ago, I wrote on this blog about speaking a masculine Swiss-German. My teacher, after all, is a fella.
This morning I went down to the basement for a demonstration of the top-modern washer-dryer in our basement. Despite the fact that one of the people who work at home here is a man, the basement was full of the female neighbors. This pissed me off. Ivo is typically responsible for laundry in our house, but Ivo isn't here. As a control freak, I feel responsible for everything, so new or extra responsibilities make me cranky. I wasn't looking forward to this demo.
As soon as it began, I realized that I'd never really truly used the Swiss-German words for laundry. Not properly at least;"Kochwasch" for example. Not only that, but female speech in Swiss-German uses far more words in the diminutive. They have special words for wrinkly clothes,  the filth that builds up in the washer, the residue that builds up in the detergent dispenser the, the filth that builds up on the rubber lip around the dryer door.

In class the other day, one of my students said that "cats are more lady-like and dogs are more like men." When I asked why he thought for a long time and said, "Yeah because 'die cat and der dog'."
"I see," I said. "But in English, it's the cat and the dog." "And if I want to ask about him or her?" he asked. I explained that, if we can't tell the gender straight away, then we refer to it as an it. The student then had no answer for why dogs are male and cats are female. "But that feels right, yeah?" he asked. And it does. It feels right.
Bridges feel female to me. Spiders too. I remember the moment when bees stopped being male in my mind and became female. I'm so excited about my new class full of absolute beginners. Gonna bring them a whole universe of neuter. 

Donnerstag, 14. März 2013

The Vatican

This Tuesday, nearly my whole class was out sick or stuck at work. Only one student was able to come, so we had a private lesson. I then proceeded to break nearly every rule of teaching. We talked about religion, illness and moral questions. The student told me about her time at a catholic boarding school. Afterwards, she healed by spending a year in Italy learning the language.
Somehow, we got to talking about the vatican. I mentioned visiting with my husband the first year we were married. My great-aunt had given us the wedding gift, that our names were read at every mass for the first year of our marriage.
"I got there and I saw the marble and the statues and the gold and I felt...."
My student began to nod her head. I thought, "shit, she's going to think I'm talking about a positive emotional reaction."
I finished: "more upset, more disgusted, more crushed than I'd expected."
To my surprise, the student continued nodding. "It's horrific." she said.
And it is.
I looked around and was shaking with anger, thinking of the crusades, of the poor people who go without and the teachings that the church supposedly believes in.
In the past few weeks, I've been constantly reminded of that feeling.

Montag, 11. März 2013

This cliché: good cop bad cop

Having a puppy means being strong, patient and a disciplinarian. I spend the majority of time with Penny in our household and so I own the lion's share of the responsibility for Penny's obedience. This makes me "bad cop."
I prefer being bad cop to being "en Hündler." When we first started talking about getting a dog, this was a slur that was bandied about by our loved ones. The term describes a "dog person" but with the characteristics an American would ascribe a "cat person."; a person who only thinks of their dog and becomes defined by them. The use of this term in early doors makes me twinge every time I notice how often I'm posting about Penny on Facebook. It also makes us aware that we should never use the lil' pendulum as an excuse to not go out.
In addition, an old habit of mine is to not get too close. I'd hoped that my role as bad cop would help me create distance from her. Sadly, however, her constant trips to the doctor have proven that I am indeed close. Meantime, hours spent with her means that I also experience the lion's share of the negative aspects of puppyhood: the nasty habits of eating grotty things, the stubborn days, the unpleasant interactions with alcoholics (the more peripheral edema the better as far as she's concerned.)
Now Ivo is away and I am both cops together. This contains all of the parts at the same time. When I leave her to go to work, I leave her with a special treat. I bought her a valentine's day gift and we cuddled on that day and watched a romantic comedy. Yesterday I had the blues for a moment. I got on the floor and played with her and she made me laugh and laugh as she climbed me and cuddled with me. I realized that this would not have been my instinct in the past. Normally such fun play with Penny is reserved for Ivo, who, upon coming home, hasn't just had to force and cajole her to be a good puppy.
As with so many things, this is one of the experiences of Ivo's absence that help me learn and grow in the meantime.