Recently, a friend of mine referred to his mother as an asshole. I was astonished. I have never even thought that about my mother, and I can hardly imagine someone thinking such a thing. You might think your dad is an asshole, but your mom? That was really beyond me, so I questioned my friend about it. Had she done something deliberately to harm him? He said that she hadn’t, but she had done something ostensibly to help him by which he was both annoyed and insulted. Still, I thought, asshole? An asshole is someone who doesn’t care about you or about your feelings. An asshole will never try to help you. Assholes will go out of their way to put you down in order to elevate themselves, and no amount of humiliation on your part is too small. Is this really something you think about your mom? I asked my husband for his opinion. He said, “Women can’t be assholes. Only men can be assholes.” Whether that is a linguistic analysis or some kind of benevolent sexism I don’t know. I brought this up again with my friend. Did he really think his mother was an asshole? Wasn’t it likely that she was just ignorant of how what she said would make him feel? “Yeah,” he said, “but when you’re angry, you call people bad names.” Well, I don’t–that is, unless the name is accurate. In the end, I had to realize that perhaps I am just lucky to have a mother about whom no one could say such things. I’m sorry that there are families in which that is not the case.