Modernity and Its Pains in the Butt

One of the many vexing things about this modern world is all the neologisms one has to keep up with. In just the past week we’ve had to become familiar with such awful-sounding phrases as “butt dialing,” “throuples,” and “revenge porn.”
“Butt dialing” is apparently what happens when ¬†you have one of those fancy “smart phones” in a back pocket and somehow squirm around in such a way that you inadvertently call up a number the device has somehow memorized. We’re not sure how that happens, as we have an old fashioned “flip phone,” which is an onerous enough concession to the modern world, but that’s what we’re told. Our Dad actually helped us to the latest jive a while back after our brother dialed him up that way. It’s been much in the news lately, because President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani wound up “butt dialing” a couple of reporters and leaving suspicious and cryptic voice mail messages about Ukraine and former Vice President and potential Democratic nominee Joe Biden and something about needing a few hundred thousand dollars in a hurry.
The current rules of journalistic ethics don’t require reporters to keep “butt dialed” voice mail messages off-the-record, so Giuliani’s rants were all over the cable news and the late night comedy shows. By now Giuliani has bigger troubles than the ridicule he’s received, but he’s done the world no favor by making “butt dialing” a permanent part of the lexicon.
A “throuple” is apparently an exclusive and ongoing menage a trois, and that newly coined word has been in the news lately because recently resigned California Rep. Katie Hill was involved in such a relationship with a staffer and the staffer’s husband. Hill campaigned as an openly bisexual candidate, and given California and the Democratic party she probably would have survived the scandal, despite the inner-office and power imbalance dynamics that have ruined the careers of so many male politicians, but there was also a naked cell phone picture of her smoking a bong in the shower with her female paramour. Given California and the Democratic party she might have survived that, but careful viewers noticed a small tattoo of a Nazi-era Iron Cross on her pelvic area, and it was too much intersectionality even for a California Democrat.
We have no idea who gave the picture to a little-known anti-Democrat pro-Trump web site, which then passed it on to the United Kingdom’s salacious Fleet Street tabloids, which took an unusual interest in a freshman congresswoman from far-off California and was not constrained by America’s more puritan standards for photographs that appear on the front page. One can only assume it was someone Hill would share a naked and bong-smoking moment with, and “revenge porn” is what the young folks call it when someone spitefully disseminates racy pictures of someone else taken in happier times. In announcing her resignation Hill said she would devote herself to the cause of banning “revenge porn,” and we wish her enough success that the cacophonous phrase falls out of use.
For all their unfortunate effects on the public discourse, at least none of these newfangled words will affect us personally. We’ll not own one of the stupid “smart phones” until they stop selling any other kind of phone, and even then we would never put such an expensive device in our back pockets. “Throuples” are out of the question at our age, as we’ve already had more than enough trouble with the old-fashioned couples arrangement. We’ve always been rather camera shy, too, even with our most intimate acquaintances, so any racy pictures you see of us on the internet are fakes, and we can assure you we’ve never even met any of the Kardashians..
Even so, it’s a rather dreary modern world we have to get around in.

— Bud Norman

Netflixing, Chillin’ and Feelin’ the Bern

(Scene opens with a MIDDLE AGED MAN sitting on a park bench looking with a perplexed expression at a laptop computer. He notices a YOUNG WOMAN walking by.)
MAM: Pardon me, miss.
YW: Yes?
MAM: You look to be a rather young woman.
YW: Thank you.
MAM: Well, I didn’t mean that as a compliment, but you’re welcome. Actually, I was thinking you might be able to provide me some assistance, if you can spare me just a moment of your time.
YW: All right, what can I do for you?
MAM: A young woman of my acquaintance has sent me one of those electronic mail messages on my computer thingamajig, and I’m hoping you can help me make some sense of it, because she speaks in the latest jive.
YW: Jive?
MAM: You know, the latest hep-cat lingo.
YW: Hep-cat? Lingo?
MAM: She speaks in an unfamiliar young people’s argot.
YW: Oh, an argot. A specialized idiomatic vocabulary peculiar to a particular group or class of people. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. So what does she say?
MAM: Well, she starts out by inviting me to “Netflix and chill.” What on earth could that possibly mean?
YW: Ooh, that sounds promising.
MAM: Really?
YW: Yes, she’s asking you over to watch something on Netflix, which is an on-line streaming service …
MAM: I’m familiar with the company, I just didn’t know it was a verb.
YW: … and she wants to “chill,” so you know what that means.
MAM: That’s a synonym for “relax,” I believe. As in, “chillin’ like a chili bean.”
YW: That’s not bad, actually.
MAM: Thanks. I remember overhearing a black man say that once.
YW: Wow, how cool is that?
MAM: Well, Netflixing and chilling sounds harmless enough, I must say, even if the gerund form of that noun really grates on my ears.
YW: Oh, but it’s more than that. An invitation to Netflix and chill has certain, you know, implications.
MAM: You mean like “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” implications?
YW: Maybe, depending on whatever the hell it is you’re talking about. It’s kind of like way back in the olden days when a would woman invite a man up for a drink.
MAM: Ah, good times. I’m a little worried, though, that in this next like she says she’s “Feelin’ the Bern.” Because she doesn’t say where she’s feeling it, and at my age I’d hate to catch anything.
YW: Don’t worry, that just means she’s an enthusiastic supporter of the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. You have heard of him, haven’t you?
MAM: But of course. I do try to keep up on the latest political news. It’s an ingrained habit from back when I held out some hope about that stuff.
YW: So you know he’s leading the revolution that’s going to bring about perfect economic justice, and not only make those billionaires pay for their crimes but also my multi-cultural studies degree.
MAM: Yes, and that’s all well and good, I suppose, but then again, he is a pinko, you know.
YW: Really?
MAM: You mean you hadn’t noticed?
YW: No, not at all. What’s a pinko? Is that some kind of gay thing?
MAM: Well, no, not necessarily. A pinko is anyone who might not be fully a Red, but he’s Red enough that he’s pink.
YW: Oh. And by “Red,” do you mean “red state”? Because Bernie’s from Vermont, so he’s certainly not one of those.
MAM: No, no, by “Red” I mean “Commie.”
YW: Commie?

MAM: You know, a communist.
YW: Oh. And that’s a bad thing?
MAM: Well, people used to think so, back in the good old days when a woman would just invite you up for a drink and you didn’t have to mess around with Netflixing and chilling and all these other damn neologisms. Oh, well, what difference, at this point, does it make? This young woman of my acquaintance also says she’s planning to “tweet” me soon, so I guess that sounds pretty promising as well.
YW: Sorry, but that’s not as promising at it sounds.
MAM: Oh, well. There’s also a bunch of pound sign this and Instagram that, and something about something called a “meme,” and bunch of initials like “YOLO” and “BLM” and it all looks like those indecipherable vanity license plates.
YW: You’ll get the hang of it.
MAM: I was just starting to get the hang of CB slang.
YW: Don’t worry about it. Just Netflix and chill, that’s my advice, if you know what I mean.
MAM: I’m not sure I do at all.
YW: I’m sure you don’t, but the best of luck to you.
MAM: You, too, and ten-four, good buddy.
YW: What?
MAM: Never mind.
(Lights fade.)

— Bud Norman