Linzie Hunter for Reader's Digest
“Don’t be stife with the bacon.”
I said this to my teenage son while he was picking perfectly cooked strips of pig fat out of a pan. I knew he was planning to allot me only one slice, adding the rest to his heaping plate.
He turned from the stove, eyes hard, and I was sure we were going to have the Bacon Fight. Instead he said, “Please don’t ever say that word again.”
A quick trip to urbandictionary.com provides several meanings for stife. My son and his friends employ its third definition: “used to mean stingy in the very negative sense.” I’ve done my due diligence, and in my view, that’s my initiation fee. But to my boys, I’m barging up the ladder to the tree house, blatantly ignoring the sign that says KEEP OUT.
In fact, there are seven words I am not permitted to utter in front of my kids, who are 16 and 21: stife, clutch, fire, dope, swag, fo’ shizzle, and chill.
When my older son and his friends are together, listening to them is like trying to decipher the clicking of the Bantu. I take in conversations as if they were pieces of music, having no real idea if they’re complaining about finals or making plans for Saturday. But their dialogue feels alive, and I love it. It feels as if I’m witnessing the evolution of language.
I hold out my plate and meet my son’s eyes. “More bacon, please,” I say, as if he hadn’t just kicked me out of the clubhouse. We both know this isn’t really about bacon. It’s about connecting. He knows he’s being stingy, but he doles out a slice—and it is fresh, in every sense of the word.