1. archaic derogatory
a person born of parents not married to each other.
synonyms: illegitimate child, child born out of wedlock
I was not married to HOS when we became pregnant with Charlotte. We remain unmarried. But this post isn’t about our marital status. This blog is about ignorance.
One of my co-workers was teasing a new hire about whether or not another team member had children. I told her to ignore him, and jokingly told her I’m the only one in the department with an illegitimate child. The woman who sits next to me laughingly said, “Don’t you mean a bastard child.”
If upon reading that you felt like someone had punched you in the gut and squeezed your heart at the same time, you may have felt a little of what I experienced. Tears quickly sprang to my eyes as I fought to recover some semblance of dignity before just losing it on someone I thought was my friend.
She was instantly regretful. She apologized all over herself, and said that she thought I would find it funny.
I think Kevin Hart is funny.
My best friend, Katy, is funny.
Labeling my daughter with a derogatory term could not be any further away from what I deem to be funny.
For the first time in my life, I felt the sting of what so many people face every day – ignorance. The old me would have lashed out with some very personal, hateful retort. I said nothing.
I let the word settle around me as I realized that, by definition, I could not deny the label that I put upon my daughter. I had just spoken the gentler words seconds before she destroyed my precious familial-perception. My daughter is illegitimate because HOS and I are not married (according to society).
So, what is the difference between bastard and illegitimate that makes all the difference?
I believe it’s a case of ignorance vs. knowledge.
It’s no different from asking the difference between n***** vs. African-American or black.
It’s not different from asking the difference between f***** vs. homosexual or gay.
All of these examples are about people who are treated differently and given derogatory titles because of something they were born into. (This is my opinion, and I do not wish to incite any debates about how someone’s sexual preferences are developed.)
My heart aches for my daughter because she will have questions as she grows older. She’ll wonder why my last name is different from hers. Kids will ask her why her parents aren’t married. Charli will be teased. Kids will make jokes about her parents. And some day, some asshole (pardon my language) will tell my precious child that her parents didn’t even want her. While fighting off the urge to hunt down this little jerk, I will console her. I’ll wipe the tears from her big blue eyes and remind her over and over that she is the greatest gift God has given me. Planned or unplanned means nothing.
While this pales in comparison to the struggles of other victims of ignorance, it is still painful. In the end, ignorance is ignorance.
I ask again, what is the difference between bastard and illegitimate that makes all the difference?
You tell me.
From this day on, I will never refer to Charlotte as anything but the loved daughter of me and HOS. I choose to define legitimacy my own way – born within a loving, trusting, monogamous couple.