Favorite Emotions

Every language is inadequate in terms of the vocabulary of emotion.

Complex emotions have always drawn me into their embrace, wrapped around me, woven themselves through me like a detailed tapestry whose design is, by necessity, as unique to me as it is to each and every one of us. To say you are happy or sad, excited or bored, in love or enraged, is to oversimplify your emotional state. Any genuine, fully-explored emotion is bound to be so complicated that it cannot truly be labeled. These feelings can only be described, and will only be understood by those who take the time to listen.

There is no adequate term for that feeling of intense pride and love mixed with the fear and bittersweet envy you feel for the young people in your life whom you know will soar higher and fly further than you ever did. Excelsior, dear ones! Don’t fly too close to the sun, but please do get a better look at it than I have.

And what do you call that laughter through tears moment when someone gazes into your most intimate pain and relates to you and it so well that they’re able to blast you out of it with a well-aimed, yet compassionate and humorously cynical barb? And then there’s that sharp, fleeting emotion that comes directly after that, which makes you think, “Dammit, do not make me laugh about this!” even as you are thinking, “I love you for making me laugh about this!”

Disappointment is not an adequate word for the feeling you get when someone sees something within you, or something that they believe is missing from you, when you know that conclusion is patently false, but there’s nothing you can do to change their minds. It’s never pleasant to be misunderstood by someone you hold in high esteem.

Even if a scary movie makes you jump or even scream, that feeling isn’t fear, per se. There’s an exciting frisson that ripples through it because you know you chose this experience, and therefore it’s also an adventure. Pure, distilled terror is something I have felt more than once, and I can assure you, it ain’t no movie.

I absolutely love that sense that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to do, and that your whole messy, beautiful life is what has led you to this moment. I’ve only had that feeling a few times in my life, and I’m glad of that, because it makes the experience all the more precious when it does wash over me. If anything truly does flash before your eyes when you are dying, I genuinely believe that these particular moments must surely be included. That’s why I don’t fear natural death, despite the fact that I don’t want to rush it along.

The reason I was inspired to write this post is that I was experiencing yet another of my favorite emotions: that feeling of shock, awe, admiration and surprise that you get when you discover that there is another facet of a friend’s personality that reveals a talent, passion, or expertise that you never expected existed. That complex cake of emotions is heavily frosted with a feeling of excitement that you’ve now got the opportunity to explore this other aspect of your friend, and that by doing so, you will learn even more about him or her, and by extension, you’ll learn more about yourself.

So it was today, when I was chatting away with my dear friend Areiel, perhaps the most global human being I know. He casually mentioned that in addition to the amazing life he leads that I know about, which is filled with a deep love for his family, a job that allows him to travel a great deal, and one that lets him effect positive change in the world as we know it, he also has a radio show.

Wait. What?

I mean, I knew he had an intense love of music, but I did not know that he had been a radio DJ in his early 20’s, and now, 35 years later, he has picked it back up again. And he has combined that avocation with his love of travel and his natural ability to teach, to create a show entitled Musical Highways, which you can listen to here.

And listen you should. Not only do his musical highways lead you all over the world, but Areiel also gives you a lot of background information about the music he’s featuring in that episode. I guarantee you will hear from artists you’ve never heard before, and you’ll learn oodles of stuff in the process. That is a delicious musical treat indeed.

I’m not sure Areiel considers himself a teacher, but he has taught me much over the years. We have talked about politics, philosophy, music, art, travel, and a whole host of other subjects. He has given me some excellent advice. He never fails to cause me to look at the world in ways I may not have considered independently. Because of that, this feeling I had in learning that the man also has another side to him that I have yet to explore is akin to discovering that you’ve somehow overlooked one of the very best books written by your favorite author.

English may have a higher word count than any other language, but it still is inadequate in terms of the vocabulary of emotion. But it would be a daunting task, indeed, to get the emotional recipe exactly right for every person and every mood. The very intricacy of emotions is what I love about them most, even during those quite frequent and frustrating moments when I realize that the very complexity of these emotions means that I am being utterly misunderstood by those around me.

It’s complicated.

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Words I Didn’t Know 20 Years Ago

I’m sick of focusing on all things political and dwelling upon the handbasket in which the world seems to be going to hell. Aren’t you? But it’s hard to keep the subject of change out of the front rooms of my cluttered mind, so I decided to think about the many things that either didn’t exist or hadn’t been named 20 years ago. I came up with quite a list.

  • Blog/Vlog/Podcast—It’s ironic that I should be blogging about this, but there you have it. We certainly have a lot more ways to get our point across than we once did.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome—I think a lot of syndromes get identified and named simply so that drug companies can sell us pills for them. I’m not saying that this malady shouldn’t be taken seriously. I’m just wondering where it was before the drug commercials told us all about it.
  • Hashtag—We used to just call that thing a “pound sign”. I still have to stop myself from calling it that. Why did we have to come up with another term? It’s the same number of syllables.
  • Fibromyalgia—I used to manage a medical library, and I remember the first day I heard this word, because I got no less than 15 inquiries about it on that day, when I had never heard of it in my life the day before. It’s like it was Athena, being born fully formed out of the head of Zeus. Or something.
  • World Wide Web—Yes, grasshopper, life was livable before the internet.
  • Emoticons and Emojis—We still managed to express ourselves without these nifty little devices. Now I can’t get through the day without encountering one, even if I have to stop and think for a minute to be able to tell them apart.
  • Tilapia—Another Zeus birth thing—one day I had never heard of this fish, and the next it was every freakin’ where. Many consider this a trash fish, but now it’s served in restaurants. I shudder to think what we’ll be eating once we’ve run through all the trash fish. (“Soylent Green is people” just popped into my head.)
  • Texting—I must confess I only acquired this skill an embarrassingly short time ago. Now I do it all the time, and think I’m the shit because of it.
  • LGBTQ—It’s not that this wasn’t a thing, and hasn’t been a thing since the dawn of mankind. It’s just that we didn’t used to have an acronym for it.
  • Credit Card Swipe Machines—Zeus birth thing number three. I was shopping one day, and every single store I went into had them, when none of them had them the day before. I had to be taught how to use it by the first cashier. And now, ironically, they’re about to go the way of the Dodo bird. Pretty soon you’ll only see chip readers. What’ll they think of next?
  • Drone—This word used to only mean a male honeybee or someone who spoke in a monotonous way. Can you imagine? It’s a different world.

Suddenly I’m feeling really, really old.


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Better Words for Women

One of my regular readers challenged me recently after reading my post, All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women. She asked me to come up with alternate vocabulary—words that weren’t disparaging or downright insulting. I think that’s an excellent idea. Challenge accepted!

For example: How about passionate instead of easy, asking for it, slutty, tease, tart, or loose?

Caring or quite likely disagreeing with you would be preferable to hysterical, hormonal, emotional, neurotic, moody, touchy, irrational, sensitive, fretting, whiny or illogical.

Disinterested in you is probably much more accurate than frigid or prude. (And deep down you probably know that already.)

Annoyed, frustrated, righteously indignant, or just mean, depending on the circumstances, would be better than huffy, bitchy, irritable, brassy, shrill, catty, headstrong, cat fight, intense, ball buster, shrew, high strung, nag, fishwife, bossy, nasty, abrasive, or pushy.

Perhaps you might consider distracted, busy or overwhelmed instead of flaky, airhead, or ditsy.

Here’s a thought: How about not commenting on age or physical appearance at all, rather than using the terms jail bait, blonde, brunette, plus sized, or little?

How about earnest or sincere instead of breathless or adoring?

Have you ever thought that perhaps someone described as too ambitious, high maintenance, or a diva is actually decisive, confident and knows what she wants?

In addition, gossipy could be communicative, mousey could be noncommunicative or undecided, and bubbly could be enthusiastic.

Gold diggers, in my experience, are either grossly misunderstood or selfish con artists.

And if you think all of the above is not bad for a girl, how about just saying not bad?

Food for thought, I hope. Happy Thanksgiving.

Michelle Obama was the first person to pop into my head when I was thinking of admirable women. Who do you admire?

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All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women

Recently I had a moral disagreement with someone, so I left. Later he told me that I “stomped out in a huff”. That kind of fascinated me. First of all, I would look rather silly, at the age of 51, if I “stomped” anywhere. And here I thought I was leaving out of respect for the other person. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of 150 people, and I didn’t want there to be tension for either of us. So I took myself out of the equation.

But it did get me thinking about that phrase. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that a man stomped out in a huff. It even sounds weird. Men might retreat, or leave decisively, or take their exit or deescalate a situation, but they’re never accused of being prone to huffs.

That put me in mind of an article I read recently entitled If Women Wrote Men the Way Men Write Women, by Meg Elison. I highly recommend that you read it. It will really open your eyes to the stereotypes that we all just seem to take for granted. For example, you never hear of men gazing up adoringly at anyone. It just isn’t done.

Here are some more words or phrases that seem to only be applied to “the fairer sex.” (Ugh!)

  • Hysterical
  • Bitchy
  • Irritable
  • Brassy
  • Flaky
  • Airhead
  • Hormonal
  • Emotional
  • Tart
  • Shrill
  • Catty
  • Jail Bait
  • Blonde
  • Brunette
  • Neurotic
  • Not Bad for a Girl
  • Easy
  • Frigid
  • Asking for It
  • Moody
  • Headstrong
  • Plus Sized
  • Cat Fight
  • Gold Digger
  • Intense
  • Gossipy
  • Too Ambitious
  • Slutty
  • Little
  • Irrational
  • Touchy
  • Prude
  • Ball Buster
  • Tease
  • Sensitive
  • Loose
  • Diva
  • Shrew
  • High Strung
  • Ditsy
  • Nag
  • Fishwife
  • Bossy
  • High Maintenance
  • Nasty
  • Fretting
  • Abrasive
  • Breathless
  • Whiny
  • Pushy
  • Mousey
  • Bubbly
  • Illogical

Make no mistake. We live in a sexist society. This didn’t just happen after Trump was elected. The only difference this election made is that now there is no hiding from this fact. The people have spoken. They are okay with a leader who brags about grabbing pussies, and this has caused the scales to fall from our eyes. So now that we have a clear, unobstructed view of the disease, what are we going to do to cure it?

First of all, every woman out there should memorize the words above and strike them from her vocabulary. It’s bad enough when men use them, but it is inexcusable when we use them against each other. We have to stick together if we want to stay strong. And when anyone uses them, we all need to call that person out. We can’t move forward until this type of talk becomes socially unacceptable.

Go forth and conquer gender speech!


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I learned a new word today. I enjoy enriching my word power. But I fear that in this case my opportunity to use this term is rapidly diminishing.

sphallolalia     “sfa-lO-‘la-lE-a


  1. Flirtatious talk that leads nowhere.


From the Ancient Greek σφάλλω (sphallō, “to stumble”) and λαλιά (lalia, “talking”).

I do love to flirt. There was a time when I couldn’t get through the day without at least one good flirt. But I was younger then. Thinner. And the range of flirt-worthy men seemed much wider.

But I have always made an effort to avoid being inappropriate with my flirting. It’s all about context. I would never flirt at work. I never flirt with someone who is subordinate to me in any way. I never want to intimidate anyone or give them the creeps. I only flirt if I’m certain that at the very least it would be taken as a compliment.  If I knew you were in a relationship, I’d give you a wide berth. Unlike Trump, I’d never grab anyone. That’s not acceptable. Ever.

Flirting was fun. But I’m starting to feel that the older I get, the more awkward it becomes. That, and I’m getting pretty gun shy after years of rejection.

So I’m entering a new life stage. Henceforth I won’t be initiating sphallolalia. That’s probably for the best. In retrospect it kind of sounds like a disease. But if you hit me with some sphallolalia, I’ll most likely respond in kind. Fair’s fair.


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Bad Words

I used to work with someone who would get horrified if we used the word “toilet” in the log book. As in, “The toilet overflowed and needs to be repaired.” She said that the only acceptable word to use is “commode.” Oh my. Such fragile sensibilities must get bruised quite a bit in a world where one no longer wears gloves and pillbox hats.

I’ve always been amused at people who are bothered by word use. Words, in and of themselves, have no moral, ethical or emotional content. Words are words. They have definitions. That’s it. There is no such thing as a “bad” word. Cursing doesn’t cause you to be cursed. People who get worked up by word use have an overactive need to control or feel superior.

What makes words objectionable is the intent behind them. If your intent is to shock or offend or embarrass, then that is what people should take exception to. Hate speech isn’t defined by the vocabulary. It’s a verbal expression of a person’s nefarious objective.

I once wrote a blog entry about one of my pet peeves, gender-specific curse words. Don’t ever call me a b**ch unless you want to be deleted from my life. But it’s not the word itself that bugs me. It’s the implication that adding “female” into the mix makes the insult even worse. So I’m not upset at the word, I’m upset at your mindset as you’re using it.

Words are tools. Tools can be used for good or evil, but at the end of the day, they’re just tools. It’s the hand that wields the tool that is to blame for what it creates.


[image credit: stephaniemcmillan.org]

“End of Discussion”

More than one man in my life has said that to me, and it always works. For a split second. Because I’m rendered speechless by the arrogance, the gall, the unbelievable nerve that it takes to even conceive of that sentence, let alone utter it out loud.

It seems to be part of the collective unconscious that allows certain men to think that they have the right to stop women from speaking, that it is they who get to determine when we are and are not allowed to express ourselves. At the very least they must have learned it at the knees of their fathers, and they failed to realize that some lessons are best ignored.

But when you think about it, it makes sense. Study after study suggests that women are much more capable of communicating than men. I read once that on an average day, women use 20,000 words, whereas men only use 7,000. So if you’re going to try to take away a woman’s superior strength, and you already know that you’re most likely picking on someone who is not your own size, then you would naturally go right for her ability to speak, wouldn’t you? That is, if you’re so insecure that you require that kind of a leg up in order to feel as if you’ve “won” a debate. “End of discussion” is the communication equivalent of hitting below the belt. It’s beating a woman down by trying to handicap her very essence.

Here’s the thing that always stuns me about this flawed logic: do you honestly think that pulling the “end of discussion” card won’t permanently damage your relationship with the woman in question in some fundamental way? It may not be evident on the surface, but deep down when a woman is disrespected like that, she doesn’t forget it. She knows that in your soul you think you are superior, and that you believe that you have the right to squelch all communication, and that you can pull that stupidity again whenever the mood strikes you. Every time she speaks from that point forward, the implication is that she has to have your permission. But unbeknownst to you, you have chopped yourself off at the balls, because once you have done this, you have cracked the very foundation of your relationship. On some level, your partner will have lost respect for you. And once that has happened, it is extremely hard to get it back.

And the irony is that ironing things out requires communication. Once you have thwarted that, you may get the momentary peace and quiet that you crave, but the problem not only does not go away, it increases by a factor of ten. Open and polite communication is the pedestal upon which every healthy relationship stands.

Before I get blasted for this particular blog entry, please understand that I do realize that the vast majority of men do not fall within this category. Most are more cultured and respectful than that. Most are capable of civilized conversation. Most know how to have a reasonable discussion without things accelerating to the point where “end of discussion” is the only “weapon” upon which they can draw. In fact, most men do not feel the need to draw weapons of any sort on someone they love.

Real men do not beat their women, either. End of discussion.


(Image credit: flurtsite.com)