Either - Or

I'm no genius when it comes to sociology, but I suppose I've learned a few things about life and human nature during my time here. I mean, you can't really be a character-driven author without taking a few notes along the way...

It seems to me that our society (I won't say 'world' because, having spent a bit of time in the UK and Europe, I can attest that we're more prone to do this here in the States) is growing ever more black/white, good/bad, us/them. In our defense, it's probably because we're so young as a nation. Compared to our grey-beard ancestral homelands, we're only about 14 years old and we're making all of the mistakes that teens make as we struggle to find our place in the course of human history. My point of writing this is not to delve into the political because, as you know, I steer clear of that at all costs. My point is to share with you something I've been learning for some time now, and find interesting.

We're always getting asked, "Are you a cat person or a dog person?", "Are you gay or straight?", "Do you prefer PC or Mac?" and countless other questions that demand only black and white answers. I tend to see these things as a continuum—and I despise any kind of labels that only serve to divide us as human beings—so I always reply with the question, "Why must I make a choice?"

The truth is, I like both cats and dogs; would you ask someone if they preferred moose over mountain goats? The fact that cats and dogs happen to be the most prevalent domesticated animals does not make them anything alike outside of the fact that both are 4-legged mammals, and they've, well, been domesticated. As for the gay/straight question, it's really no one's business anyway, but I've always seen the sexuality situation as an arc with a lot of degrees between one end and the other. I guess I fall somewhere around 45 degrees between the two. I have after all been married and have given birth to two children. And as far as my preference for computers is concerned, I happen to like both PC and Mac, each for their individual strengths and functionality within those areas of strength.

This enforced side-taking all comes into play in my writing life, of course, as I find myself defending my right to use adverbs and adjectives. I would no more want to over-use either of them any more than I would want to under-use them. It's a question of balance and taste, not rules set down by people trying to make concrete (language and writing trends) something that is constantly evolving and changing. The rules of today will be broken in the future as new rules take their place.

In my advanced old age I'm learning there is room for everyone. If you don't like adverbs, don't use them. If you do like them, please feel free. There are no bad adverbs, the saying goes, only bad writers. If you prefer Times New Roman to Garamond, use it. If you want cream paper instead of white, select it. If you prefer a glossy cover instead of matte, go for it. It's called style, it's called individuality, and what a boring world of literature it would be if everyone followed all these rules religiously. I never intend to buy a genuine fur coat, but I demand the right to make that decision for myself, damn it. I follow this philosophy in every choice our society tries to place on me. By imposing black/white choices on ourselves, we limit our experience of life and our capacity for fullness and personal growth.

It sounds a bit trite in today's climate of cynicism, but a house divided is destined to fall. Let us not impose these immature, divisive restrictions on the arts. If we do, civilization itself is dangerously threatened. In a society that is increasingly losing its color and flavor, it's important that we remove the mental stays and make our own choices as we allow others to make theirs. Only then can we fully enjoy what each and every one of us brings to the table.