Friday, September 9, 2011

Either You Are, or You're Not

Yesterday, Momma looked closely at the face of our almost-14-year-old daughter and asked, “Are you wearing eye liner?” (Per our rules, she shouldn’t yet.) The response: “A little.” This isn’t really a valid answer for a yes/no question. Actually, it’s an answer, but it’s the same as “yes.”

It’s sort of like pregnancy—you can’t be barely pregnant, or somewhat pregnant, or extremely pregnant. It’s binary; you’re in one of two discrete states. Black or white, no shades of gray.*

I'd guess not, and definitely not.
While reading a Rachel Ray magazine recently, Momma kept asking me to look up various cooking terms and ingredients. We like good food but don't have a strong culinary vocabulary. She asked me, “What’s EVOO?” I checked the e-dictionary on my MacBook and replied, “Oh, of course! Extra Virgin Olive Oil.” You have regular olive oil, and the virgin kind. But wait… there’s also EXTRA virgin.

How can something be more or less virgin than something else? I’m honestly not sure whether I came up with this in my own head or heard it from some stand-up comedian, but I’m picturing a brand of olive oil that advertises itself as SUPER ULTRA virgin—it has never so much as spoken to a man. (If it’s not my original thought and you know who said it, please let me know so I can credit him.) “Mother Teresa Brand. You won’t find anything more virgin.”

Maybe it’s different with oil, but when we’re talking about people, you either are or you’re not. There’s no sort-of. And we want Sarah to stay on the right side of that line. To that end, we impose rules, like the one about eye makeup. Because we don’t want her to get even a little bit pregnant.

* A binary (yes/no) question is one that can be answered with a single transistor, a light switch, or Roger Ebert's thumb.

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