Apparently middle-school boys these days use the word "gay" as an all-purpose pejorative. My 13-year old girl, who is not given to political or philosophical disputations (at least not with me) came home yesterday in a high dudgeon, as the result of a series of in-person and electronic conversations she and her friends had with S., an eighth-grade boy.
The disputes raged all over the map, from global warming to the meaning of American freedom. My daughter disdains this misuse of the word "gay," but was especially put out because S. told her best friend, whose mother is ill with metastasized cancer, that cancer is a trivial problem compared to global warming, because the latter could kill so many more people. Then S. started to argue that homosexuality was unnatural, a defensible position, but one that to my daughter (and a Mormon friend) was beyond the pale.
She proceeded to read aloud to me several pages of an angry exchange one of her friends had with S., and ranted for a good half hour, even after having ranted to her mother before.
What struck me is not so much the content of the conversation, but the novelty of seeing this younger daughter become so exercised over questions at least partly political and philosophical. She's been more of a social butterfly and a performer than a ponderer or a debater. Suddenly she's plunging with passion into grown-up issues.
She's young (13, going on 14) and her philosophic rage has a girlish cuteness about it, but is quite real. To her father, a sometime controvert, the emergence of these interests and this passion (as well as her instinctive defense of her friend's welfare, which is nothing new), is like seeing her take her first steps, or beginning to read.