Cliches are cliches for a reason. They’re rooted in truth. When I was a kid, the saying was, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That mantra is beautiful.
I understand what happened, I really do. I grew up in the ’90s and early 2000’s and people were mean. Especially when the internet became a common household commodity. Once people were connected 24/7, and with the anonymity the internet provided, people were able to unleash their thoughts unfiltered.
We’re all fucked in the head to various degrees. Especially those of us who grew up in broken homes, and lived in poverty. Dark humor is how we roll. It is common among police, EMTs, and military to have a twisted sense of humor.
Once you see something enough, you become desensitized, and you need to dig deeper to get a reaction. It’s like porn. If you watch missionary porn and that’s all, you’ll be aroused. However, once you start going down the rabbit hole and exploring some of the…stranger sides of porn — missionary just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Now, for those who never left the missionary level of porn, they’ll look at the rest of us like we’re psychopaths, but that’s just because they don’t “get it.” That’s the same when it comes to humor or speech in general.
Here is the only trigger warning you’re going to get. If you’re already offended, click off this article because I’m taking the gloves off from here on out.
I grew up in the Boston area in the ’90s. Let me rephrase — I grew up poor in the Boston area in the ’90s. My little hoodlum friends and I used to call each other the meanest names. It wasn’t malicious, it was funny. We would dig into each other and roast each other to no end until we all were rolling on the ground laughing.
My friends were mostly Black, Spanish, and Asian. We made racial jokes.
Me to my black friend: I never understood why they called black people black until I met Leandro. You know what I mean? Like you’re really just brown, but Leandro is black black.
My black friend: Nah, that n*gga is navy blue.
We teased each other’s families.
My Asian friend to me: Wait? So your brother, you, and your sister all have different dads?
My Asian friend: Damn! So your mom is like a rooster except instead of saying “Cock-a-doodle-doo” she says “Any-cock-will-do!”
We made fun of our poverty.
My Spanish friend: Yo momma so poor I stepped on her cigarette and she said, “Who turned off the heat?”
My Black friend: Well yo momma so poor ducks throw bread at her.
Me: Well yo momma so poor the front and back door are on the same hinge.
This goes on for a long time.
We didn’t filter ourselves at all. We used words like gay, fag, homo, and retard frivolously. They were just words and had no malicious intent towards homosexuals or the mentally disabled.
In fact, the most common definition for each of those words was “stupid.” If someone in our group said, “Hey, you guys want to go to the zoo this weekend?” Someone would say, “No, the zoo is retarded.” The zoo is clearly not mentally disabled…that wouldn’t even make sense.
Look, I get it, it’s nice to be nice. Nobody likes to get their feelings hurt. However, what happened to “toughen up your leather?” We’re all in control of one thing in this world — ourselves. If you don’t like what I say to you, you can choose to walk away from me or dish it back.
How did we get to a place where people can say, “That offends me!” and now there must be a change? Cancel culture stems from a good heart. People just want people to treat each other nicely. However, it fails to understand the different environments of others.
People who grew up in traumatic environments need dark humor to survive. They need friends they can tease. They toughen each other up so they can deal with their surroundings.
Not only was I poor and from Boston, but I also joined the military as a young adult. My entire life has been in survival mode and I would never have made it out alive if it weren’t for my asshole friends calling me a fag for wearing a stupid shirt. I thank them for it and I know they appreciate me too.
I understand compromise. Two weeks after I got out of the military, I was a full-time college on the GI bill. It wasn’t long into the semester when the veteran’s office called me down to chat.
“Hey! Come on in, have a seat,” they said.
“Is everything okay?” I asked, sensing I fucked up somehow.
“Yes, don’t worry. We just wanted to talk to you about something. We understand that transitioning to civilian life is difficult, but you have to understand your classmates weren’t in the military. You can’t call them ass clowns.”
I laughed. “I don’t mean anything by it.”
“We get it, but your classmates don’t. They don’t have thick skin like us. Do us a favor and tone it down, ok? The school frowns upon that type of language.”
The point is, I came to understand that people have different backgrounds and different levels of tolerance. However, as I went through school, I learned there wasn’t an effort to meet half-way. People were expecting us “assholes” to cater to their delicate sensibilities. Where is the effort on the other side to meet in the middle?
Not everything requires a reaction, or in today’s case, an overreaction. Words are just words — it’s up to you to be offended by them. I’m not saying you need to develop leather skin like mine, but if you’re as brittle as a potato chip — toughen up a little bit.