There are things I cannot say. Not because I object to the language or because I can’t get my mouth around the words. There are things I cannot say because I sound like an idiot when I say them.
My 16-year-old stepdaughter, Sophie, used to say, “Oh, hell to the no.” A lot. I can’t say it a little.
She also calls people, “My Dude.” It’s endearing when she does it. Not so for me. I sound the way a late-middle-aged man looks when he drinks too much at a wedding and suddenly thinks he can dance.
She calls some people “extra” which I thought meant they were over the top. Nope. I looked it up and it means they’re unnecessary. Ouch. And good one.
My favourite is “throw shade.” I love that phrase. I think it’s evocative, which is decidedly uncool of me. I love the image of throwing shade.
But I can’t say it.
I tend to pick up contemporary colloquialisms a bit late too. Maybe people are still saying it but there was a time when it seemed like everyone under 30 was saying, “I know right?”
I can’t even get away with saying phrases like that ironically. But sometimes I say them anyway.
I don’t mean to but once in a while a phrase will tumble out and as I hear it I want to suck it back in but it’s always too late.
The words hang in the air like a little toot during a pause in conversation at a dinner party. Everyone heard it. No one knows what to do with it.
So I try to cover it up with more words. Casual, easy words but not teenage casual, easy words.
When I was a teenager I had a friend who was pretty cool. She was a runaway named Debbie and she used to say, “Right on,” with a nod while she took a drag from an Export A. It was her way of saying, “that’s cool.”
Sometimes she’d come to my house when I wasn’t home and just wait for me in the kitchen. My grandmother would make her a sandwich and ply her with cheezies.
On one occasion while we headed out the door my grandmother asked where we were going. I can’t remember what I said but I won’t forget my grandmother’s response: “Right on.”
Except she didn’t say it in the cool, casual way Debbie said it. She said it with enthusiasm. “Right on!” She said it like she was responding to a protestor yelling into a bull horn. Not cool. I remember thinking it was cute.
Something happens when you hit a certain age at some point you have to drop the slang. I’m not sure exactly when it happens. It could have happened when I was 30 or even younger. But I didn’t care then because my generation wasn’t old yet. And we knew it.
It doesn’t do to speak teenage girl when you have orthotics. When I pick it up I need to shake it off like a stranger-chewed piece of gum stuck to my palm after riding a sketchy escalator.
When you’re middle age. You have to express middle age things in middle age language.
When did I get so uncool, man?