Tag Archives: Gentleman

Left

I’m walking with my bike in the hands, about to cross the De Cleqstraat. A young man nears on foot from the left.

He has pitch black hair, neatly combed and worked to the right with gel. His thick black glasses, dark eyebrows, dark eyes and half shaven black beard give him a typical contemporary “Amsterdam intellectual” look. He’s tallish. On his chest, a nonchalant bright bleech-yellow blouse. His pants are turquoise, equally light-hearted and very adequately adapted to this summer’s morning. On his feet, not-quite-flip-flops, appearing as if they cost him a couple of hundreds of euros. I’d classify him as a semi post-hipsterist or the like. One thing I know for sure: I hate this man.

Traffic law in Amsterdam belongs not so much to the strongest as to the one with the best ability to combine what’s spatially possible with what’s socially acceptable and -when cops are around- what’s allowed. In other words: because it’s common knowledge that if you spend half of your day biking around, you want to get home as soon as you possibly can, you can bend the rules as long as you keep smiling. Fellow road users can therefore count on courtesy beyond the written rules, especially when that is assumed to benefit both. It’s giving and taking so to speak. A game with ethics, really. And of course, one gives a beautiful young lady more than a cranky old bastard.

So this semi post-hipsterist, let’s call him Lord Adolph, is heading towards me from the left, say on a meter. We are in a dubious traffic situation. He’s determined to cut me off. Gentleman as I am, I shortly stop to let him pass. No thanks, no smile, not even a glance… nothing. Slightly frustrated, of the opinion that one second was more than enough and eager to forget him as soon as possible, I take my next step. My bike scrapes his heel.

I turn my face towards Lord Adolph and watch him turn his. His dark eyebrows point downward. “O sorry, man!” I say with an innocent tone “that was not my intention”. As his face contracts further, I feel relief for not having to hear his voice.

A myope at a hundred meters would have perceived the grin on my face by the time I crossed the street. Of all the accidents I caused, I don’t believe any has left me feeling this satisfied.

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Word missing

What is the first thing you want to know if someone has a baby? Boy or girl, right? Can you tell me why?

How do you address a stranger on the street? By their gender. Ever did it wrong? How did you feel?

The only alternative for he or she is it. There is no universal way to mention or address someone without using the sex. If you know any culture where that’s possible, please, enlighten me. Even our names, carried as the definition of ourselves, are often sex-specific. Whether you are a boy or a girl at birth has enormous implications even at the very instant, while the differences only become relevant years later. Our gender precedes us! We are conditioned to the bone.

Imagine the impact on our mind. As soon as we familiarize with conceptual thought, we have to get used to the fact that we are undeniably different than half of the people in our lives. Our belief in this split goes deep: at some point, all of us have to prove that we are the man or the woman that we are. For status and satisfaction.

I’m not calling men and women equal, I’m merely wondering how deep this division goes. Every time I interact with an unknown, I am reminded about my sex. What if there was a neutral way to address a person? On the street, in a letter, on the phone? What if addressing people neutrally was mainstream? In a world with asexual words, would a boy still be a boy, and a girl a girl?

The division between men and women is not as fundamental as we are making it seem. While I leave the assessment of the severeness of this global psychosis up to you, I note that I am not the only one who would feel for solving the misconception. The abbreviation Mrx. has been brought up. Nobody knows how to pronounce it, let alone if it is legit to use, but it exists. Gender-neutral language is being developed as a set of ways to avoid the box. Gender-role transcendence, gay marriage and androgyny more popular than ever. The movement is as fragile as it’s young, but it gives a hint.

I think we need that word.