You will not believe this, but for years I thought that the meaning of
“perverse” was being oppositional and not listening to my parents!
Really! They would sometimes say, “Why are you so perverse?” or
“That is a perverse way of looking at things!”
Here are the three definitions of “perverse” from that brown, leather
dictionary that I use at such times as these. (“The New Brittanica-
Webster Dictionary and Reference Guide,” 1974 edition, originally
Webster published first edition in 1768.) I loved the weight of it,
when I would haul it off the windowsill of my dorm room to look a
word up. I love it now,with its gold embossed letters and stripes on
The word, “perverse, adj.”
1. Turned away from what is right or good. A synonym given, “corrupt.”
Well, folks, that was not me while young. I was argumentative and may
have looked at life in a different way, but no way was I anything but a
“good girl” in most respects!
Moving on to the second meaning of the word…
2. Obstinate, in opposing what is right, reasonable or accepted. A synonym
for this second choice is “wrongheaded.”
Okay, here we may be on to something! I was taught from age four that if I
could “debate” by using numbers of points to be made, I could talk my
parents into my staying up, getting something or convincing them that
my next door neighbor girls, the Weisler’s were more normal than we were!
Truthfully, I approached parenting this same way. I allowed my children to
have a “voice” and a “vote” in family decision making. I also allowed them
to give me reasonable excuses to be allowed to buy or do something. This
gave them autonomy and power. Many people prefer to have their children
do things, “Because I said so!” But it was for me part of my parents showing
me that I was a valued member of the family with ideas to contribute.
While I was four, I would say I would take a longer nap and not be cranky the
next day if they let me stay up to see either the Miss America pageant or a
Disney show that lasted past 8 o’clock, our firm and set bedtime from age 3
until we turned 10! I hated going to bed while the sun was up in the summer
time so I would find myself telling them “the girls next door” were being
allowed to stay up (usually on weekends, this worked, since my Dad was
the only one who had to get up early Monday through Friday, in the summer.
My Mom, being a teacher, slept in as long as the 3 of us did.)
Another time, I may have been obstinate, or “perverse,” would be when I
would tell my Mom that I “needed” to go to the library before the books were
due or I “needed” to have a new bike and I would provide my babysitting
money added to their 50% contribution. If I could give more than one or
two points in the debate, they would capitulate. I was mighty fine at using
words to get my way! My brother did the same for a new tennis racket,
saying he would come up with 50% of the cost by raking neighbors’
leaves and the other one did the same for new track/running shoes.
How would my parents use the words, “Quit being so perverse?”
This was usually when they felt the arguing had gone on too long and
the debate didn’t have any original thoughts or contributions but just
those infamous words,
“BUT EVERYONE ELSE’S PARENTS ARE LETTING THEM GO!”
3. Marked by peevishness or petulance is the last definition of “perverse.”
A synonym for this choice is, “cranky.”
That may apply to any sleepy, hungry, or ornery child out there!
Did you always think that the word “perverse” meant something else!
Well, that just goes to show you, our minds as we get older are down in