You don’t get to do that

Stick and stones may break my.. Yeah, yeah – that one. Bones. Names won’t hurt. Etc.

We called bull on this a long time ago, right?

Unless you’re throwing an actual log chances are your bones will be fine and the idea that names can’t hurt is simply not true.

Language is one of the most powerful forces the human race has ever created. And considering words themselves are completely intangible, it’s quite profound the effect they can have.

As a society we have given words their power. We’ve allowed them to have the impact that they do by collectively buying into what they stand to represent. This isn’t a fault or anything – it’s fundamentally the way language works.

For example, the F word is only as powerful as the response people give it. If you take exception to it, it will make you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t, you’ll barely notice it.

I’m not writing this to try and democratise swearing. If anything I’m just as sold on the stigma of certain words as most people. I still find the C bomb prickly and for the sake of testing the theory I tried typing it into this sentence instead of censoring it and it really didn’t feel right.

My point is, if we can accept this idea that we allow language to have the power over us that it does we can start to use it as a tool to decide what we let affect us – words or otherwise.

Which brings me to this line a friend and I pretty much used as a mantra for the whole of 2011. We were both young, single, and enjoying the freedom of those two things combined.

Needless to say the roller coaster of dates and relationships we had that year didn’t always end in A+ chivalry. Let’s just call a spade a spade, boys in their mid twenties can be jerks.

During one of our late night rants – probably over a guy who’d pulled some said jerk move – one of us burst out “I mean, you just don’t get to do that!”

I wish I could audio record that, because the emphasis on “do” is really what takes this sentence from being a simple statement to one of the best go to lines ever.

“You don’t get to doooo that!”

“You don’t get to DO that!”

I’m not sure what it was but this sentence just became so liberating.

Rather than allowing something that was really not cool to upset us, we threw that line at it and almost instantly it seemed to dilute whatever it was that had upset us in the first place.

I suppose if you break out what it really stands for it’s a version of saying “you don’t get to make me feel that way, you don’t get to have that power over me”. It was just articulated in a slightly less righteous, repeat-affirmation-in-the-mirror kind of way.

Like, dude, you don’t get to do that.

Ultimately, the not so cool things that other people do or say will always pack a punch; that’s language. And while I’m not saying we should go full Fort Knox on our emotions, it’s important to understand that we do have an element of control on how much power we let things have.

For my friend and me “you don’t get to do that” was this control. It was the royal middle finger to everything we didn’t want to let get to us.

Just this morning I text her to say I was writing this post. It was met with “hahaha” and then both of us trying to remember which event of 2011 had caused this line to come about. Neither of us could remember specifically. A boy. Probably? Maybe? We’re not sure.

Which really just goes to show that whatever the thing was that had gotten to us at the time wasn’t powerful enough to hold any significance or even be remembered a few years down the track.

You know, it just didn’t get to DO that.

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