While watching an episode of “Freaks and Geeks” on Netflix, I heard Jean Weir, the mother, urge her child to “drink your orange juice.” YOUR. ORANGE. JUICE.
The use of the word “your” in this context rankled through generations of foul and miserable memories. For far too long, the word “your” has been widely used by figures in authority to unfairly establish and maintain hegemony of one person over another.
DISCLAIMER: I am not, of course, referring to usages such as “your sainted mother,” “your filthy underwear,” or “that stuff in your belly button.” In these situations, I have a singular, clearly delineated, undeniable relationship to that person and those objects.
Rather, this linguistic fascism typically begins in kindergarten or first grade with a reference to “your orange juice” and then expands as the subject of this abuse grows older.
At first, it starts with “are you going to drink your orange juice before you go to school?’
Wait a sec, mom. Since when are you assuming that the orange juice belongs to me or that I even want to drink orange juice in the morning? Doesn’t the orange juice, technically, belong to everyone in the family? So, wouldn’t it be more correct to ask, “are you going to drink some orange juice before you go to school?”
However, this jeremiad does not even begin to address the equally salient issue of whether I would prefer to drink a V-8, hot tea, water, or an espresso. Use of the word “your” obliterates that discussion. Dear mother, are you trying to ensure proper hydration, ingestion of a balance of vitamins or minerals, or tighten up matriarchal control over me? Because, mom, the more you use the word combination “are you going to drink your orange juice before you go to school,” the more it seems like this is about you and not me.
Before kindergarten or first grade, I now understand, there was an assumption: you placed food and beverage in front of me in the morning and I consumed both because, well, that’s what one did. I was hungry and thirsty and you provided sustenance. Just like grandma did when you were a girl, right?
As I began to socialize with other children and, through my early education, began to learn about the world and different kinds of foods and beverages, the concept of choice entered my mind. As in, I might prefer Corn Flakes to Lucky Charms this morning, mom. Or, I think I would like half a grapefruit with the scrambled eggs and bacon you lovingly cooked for me this morning.
Or, I might just want a goddamned V-8 instead of the same fucking orange juice you place in front of my cakehole every morning like I’m some kind of eating, pissing, and shitting robot.
OUTCOME: I drank the orange juice.
And dad, who in my adolescence, would inspect my attire before leaving home to attend church on Sunday and ask, “where is your flag pin?” YOUR. FLAG. PIN.
Translation: “You have failed to attach an American flag pin to the lapel of the jacket are wearing. You will recall that I expect you to demonstrate patriotism in public by wearing an American flag lapel pin just like me. Now, go get the lapel pin that I issued you, and attach the pin to the lapel of that jacket right now so we can get to church on time.”
I had already surrendered to my father on the issue of wearing a sport coat with a tie to church, a decision that rendered me terminally uncool in the eyes of all the girls. Those girls otherwise might have deigned to talk to me, but they chose instead to talk to Chad, who was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt and jeans.
In his use of the word “your,” my father had presumed not only my patriotism and loyalty to the United States of America at an age when any healthy male is questioning everything, but also my willingness to proclaim my patriotism in public and my choice of how to proclaim my loyalty. In his use of the word “your,” he actually meant “my” or “mine.”
In using the word “your,” he attempted to gaslight me into believing that it was my choice to wear an American flag lapel pin, and that I had forgotten to transfer it to today’s jacket when, in fact, I was attempting to avoid wearing it. Maybe I would have willingly worn a San Francisco 49ers pin or a Rolling Stones pin.
OUTCOME: I attached the American flag pin to the lapel of the jacket I wore to church.
SUMMARY: Mother and Father: in the name of all that is good and holy about the American family breakfast and teen sartorial tastes, I solemnly publish and declare that I am absolved from all allegiance or obedience to the word “your,” and that all connections between this word and whatever I want to eat or drink for breakfast, especially in the comforts of my own home, and what I wear in public. As a free and independent grown man, I have full power to offer my family orange juice and clothing without use of the second person possessive. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, I pledge to you that I will never exclaim “you are not leaving this house without your Depends.”