I received many wonderful cards for my recent birthday. I, who rarely sends cards out on birthdays (I prefer an out of nowhere/surprise type card), was blessed to get so many moving notes. (My daughter’s made me cry. In a good way). But I keep coming back to the one that has made me laugh the loudest while also making me think about language — specifically the connotations of words and how some that are derogatory in one context are inclusive and loving in another.
On the front of the card is a woman in cowgirl garb, the expression on her face one of resignation but with mixed with a large dose of mischief. If I had to translate the look on her face, it’d be something like this: C’mon, now, you know we’re here for the same reason… The inside of the card reads, in plain Courier font: “honey, you ain’t the only ho at this hoedown! happy birthday!”
Context is needed here, as this is what this post is about, right? My girlfriend who sent this card is one I’ve known over 20 years. We’ve recently reconnected, and our visit was one that defied time — it was as if the silence beget by years of lives in other states, relationships, and respective professional positions evaporated. We laughed. We drank, we ate, we (or she) got lost finding my house, as I’m sure I will when I go to hers. We traded memories (something I find irritating when others do it, but gracious did we laugh and recall). I wrote her a poem, recalling how she taught me the beauty of dancing alone, totally in the moment with no cares for those around.
Yet even though I find the card hilarious, especially when paired with the expression on the woman’s face, I could not stop the preacher’s kid (PK and teacher, if I’m honest) voice in me asking how I could be okay with that WORD? Ho!?!?!? But for the me NOW, the mature woman who knows when to disregard this voice, “ho” transforms into the most loving word of all. It conveys that a sister is speaking to another sister. It conveys the love and acceptance of a girlfriend of over 20 years calling me out for every thing I am (flaws and all), along with herself. And that’s the thing right there — that’s what the word does: it offers inclusion –– something we all yearn for, whether we admit it or not. She and I are both ho’s and we will both be at that figurative last hoedown together, cowgirl hats on with lots of glitter eye concealer. There may even be a bit of competition, but the most powerful message is this: you are not alone. What a gift to give, especially from one woman to another! I / We are not alone.
Now crank up that music, ho, and let’s get to dancing!