America 3: A Sir Among Dudes

Hello. This is the 3rd article in my ‘America’ series. I apologize it’s not a funny one, but I hope you like it as much as the last.

“Yes, I am going to the office to enquire.”

“To what?”

“To enquire.”

“No, Lesley. Ask. You say I went to ask. What’s with your English?”

And that is how I got introduced to the less formal English. It took some learning because I came from a high school where you could say, in casual conversation, “…his statement is subtly reinforcing our misconstrued attitudes towards immigrants in this country.” You just couldn’t say, “…what he said makes immigrants look bad to us.”

But that is how I had to say it at Stanford. I didn’t like it at all at first, but I got used to it. However, I promised myself that, no matter how informal I got, I would never use the word, “dude.”
You can imagine my excitement when I stepped onto the intramural soccer field as a referee and everyone referred to me as ‘Sir.’ They said ‘dude’ to their teammates – including ladies – but they said ‘Sir’ to me. Never “dude.” And I loved it.

To this day, I don’t know where Americans learned to address a soccer referee with “Sir.” It didn’t matter what they were talking about. It could be: “Sir, how much time do we have left?” Or it could be: “But Sir, that’s our [expletive] ball! It’s [expletive] going this way, Sir. You’ve got to be [expletive] kidding me Sir.” Somebody could be cussing out like that, but they still felt obligated to say “Sir.” I still do not know why, but I still loved it.

One day, my title was put to the test. I was a referee in a co-ed match (with guys and girls – you know, dudes). This girl went hard into a tackle and fell. When she fell, she let out a very loud wail. She was about graduate-student age, but she wailed like a little child. I immediately stopped play, and rushed towards her.

The stage was set. All the Stanford feminists were watching me, to see if I would patronize her. Everyone else was watching to see whether I’d irk the feminists. I wanted to make sure she was okay, but at the same time taking care not to give her more attention than I would a male player. Still, I had to be gentlemanly about it. Oh being an intramural soccer referee at Stanford! (Or, is it being Lesley?)

“Are you okay?” I asked her, after she stopped crying. “Yeah I am,” she said impatiently, sounding surprisingly collected. She hadn’t gotten up yet and so I stood there waiting for her. At last, she did get up and, to my surprise, she did not show the slightest sign that she was/had been hurt. All that crying and it turned out to be nothing? That’s crazy. And funny! I thought.

“Sir, is she fine?” someone asked.

“Dude, she’s fine. I wonder what all that crying was about. Let’s play ball she’s cool,” is what I was thinking.

“Yes, she’s fine. Let’s resume playing,” is what I actually said.

I had to be a Sir about it.


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