U is for unicycle.
I know because a toy told me.
My daughter asked me about the validity of that statement. She wanted to know about unicycles. She couldn’t quite understand why someone would want want to ride on a means of conveyance that looked like that. More than anything, though, she wanted to know why they called it a unicycle.
To that question, I said this:
“Uni means one, so its a cycle with only one wheel. Bi means two, so a bicycle is one with two wheels.”
Innocent and unassuming, but I could have gone even further. I could have spoken about the immense amount of balance it requires or that clowns ride them quite often. I could have also called her attention to the boy who was riding one outside of the drug store in Aspen. Instead, I just made the simple delineation between two and one. There are so many things that can be made simple through the means of a good prefix. By adding a few words to the beginning of the words we use, we can be so descriptive and precise. The problem is in when we use the wrong ones.
Monocycle sounds incredibly strange. And yet, why not? We say Monocle and Monorail when there is only one and yet we use Unicycle instead. Uni somehow implies independent and freeing; it is universal and unidirectional . Mono is monotonous or monomaniacal; it stands for the worst of being a single one.
Entire debates are framed about prefixes. The debate over homo or hetero is quite serious and intrusive into our lives. The most troubling part of the debate is that there seems to be no middle ground. One prefix means same and the other means different. And yet, a bisexual is someone who is attracted to both sexes. With the logic required of a four year old to understand the differences in cycles, why isn’t a unisexual those that are attracted to only one sex?
Wouldn’t it just be easier to describe those that are engaged in singular relationships to have a singular word to describe it?
Sure, unisexual doesn’t exactly have the same entitled tone that homosexual or heterosexual has, but I think that is only because of all of the baggage that those two words have had to carry for so long. The common ground here is in the fact that a great many people are attracted to one sex over the other. If that is something to celebrate, do so. By categorizing people with only the straight or gay prefixes, unisexuality has no ability to take hold. We are caught up in trying to find ways to slice up demographics and drill down to who likes, has done, or is passionate about what. We should be looking to the unicycle for inspiration.
Whether or not a children’s game told me that U is for Unisexual or not, I don’t mind. A unicycle is independent and crowd pleasing. Unisexuality can be too. We can go anywhere and support tiny changes to the creations of the world around us. We can explore the language of us and leave behind the language of “you.”