Sunday, July 17, 2011
I'll Swear On A Stack of Holy Bibles
I swear like a whore being thrown from an airplane.
It's always come naturally to me. My Dad always cursed around us. I don't remember a time, ever, when language was curtailed to protect our young ears.
With my Dad, many sentences begin with "God damn it..." and end with "...this fucking thing!" For example, "God Damn it, these gardeners with their leaf blowers, I'd like to strangle the people who make these FUCKING things!" This same sentence construction can be altered for the holidays, "God damn fucking Christmas tree lights, always tangled, always have to buy them new, these fucking things." Merry Christmas.
Or, for a younger audience, upon assembling the birthday toy, "These directions are bullshit, honey, I mean it, just bullshit. It's all just CHICKEN SHIT." I'd wander away to play with something already assembled, something slightly less chicken-shitty.
I remember going to sleep away camp when I was eight, where I shared a bunk with a whiny, bossy, know-it-all, tattle-tale named Diane. She was a whistle blower of the worst kind. You'd be passing out equal portions of smuggled contraband, like Trident, or M&M's and she'd rat you out with her mouth still full. So I called her a fucking-idiot-tattle-tale-shithead. Later that night I was so homesick I wet my bed.
I've always found swearing to be delightful and descriptive and vaguely soothing. Maybe because the chances were good, considering there were changing tables to be assembled and curtain rods to be hung, my dad was swearing to me in the womb. I'm sure indelicate language was daily counterpoint to my mother's own life-giving heartbeat as I prepared to beat my path into the light and noise.
I was recently talking to one of my husband's oldest friends. From everything I've witnessed this man is a flawless dad. Vild admits, he's really ruining it for the rest of us because this sweet man cooks and cleans and says nice things to his wife. He's genuine and helpful and what's worse, he clearly enjoys being a father. I've never once seen him run away to hide from his kids or shirk a parental duty. I mention him because he and I were talking abstractly about swearing and he said he never swears in front of his kids, to which I exclaimed, "You're shitting me!" Kids everywhere.
He comforted me by saying, "Yes, but you don't drop the F-bomb." And I stared at my feet and mumbled, "Naaaahh, I don't do that." But of course I do. I have done. I will do. This may seem like splitting a cunt hair, but I would never say it directed at my children. I would never ever say, "Look you little fuckers, clean up your rooms!" But if I stub my ankle bone on that pointed metal bed frame again, I will always scream, "God Fucking DAMN it, mother-fucking fuck fuck!!!" and I don't feel too bad about it. I feel its the least my ankle deserves under the circumstances.
This past year I made a resolution to curb the profanity. I did so only because my kids were rolling their eyes and turning my name into a six beat word. Maaaaahhhhhm! So I decided to make a swear jar. Many have been called. The fee was a quarter for the S-word and fifty cents for the F-bomb. My kids LOVED the idea because I told them they'd get half the money and the other half we'd give to charity. I figured it would take about ten bucks to kick the habit. It started out slowly, I was really considering my words. Something would slip and I'd ashamedly get out my purse. It was good. The system was making me more aware.
Pretty soon there was close to fifteen thousand dollars in the jar. I'd wake up in the morning and if I'd had a bad sleep, or I just felt a bad day looming, I'd throw a fiver in before I'd even had coffee.
My plan backfired.
My kiddos often come to me to ask about the profanity of certain words. "Mom, is crap a bad word?" And to my ear, crap is a really good word. I can think of no better word to describe, for example, the contents of Bed, Bath and Beyond. Also, it sounds kind of mild and all right to me. Crap. Aw crap. That thing that broke right out of the package is craptastic. "Mom, is Jesus a bad word?" My answer: You can't say Jesus, because I don't understand the rules surrounding Jesus.
Here's where it gets really complicated. "Mom, can I say Friggin'?"
Ok, so 'friggin' and frickin' and freakin' are words invented by a team of fakers trying not to get busted for saying 'fucking', am I right? So its a place holder. They say, friggin' terrorists, blah blah blah (because they're church goers and their ass-grabbing priest might object). But we all know what they're not saying, don't we? These kinds of things get all metaphysical on my ass. What IS language? If you substitute cho-chi for vagina, are we not all still imagining your fur wallet? Honestly, If I say friggin' in front of the kindergarten class, is that ok? Nice to freakin' meetchya Mr. President? Am I still good? Can my kids say frickin' in front of other people's kids? Because they really wont be fooling anyone when they proclaim that putting on their friggin' shoes is a total pain in the tushie. So aren't all these rules arbitrary and dynamic?
I don't hold back on language of any kind. I don't dumb down my vocabulary for them. If I mean languid, I don't say pooped. If I want them to be exemplary, I don't ask them to be good doobies. No, they don't always know what I'm talking about. Sometimes I have to break it down. Flaccid, honey, means lacking firmness.
I don't want to hear my kids say fuck. I really don't. And so far they haven't. I think mostly because I've worn the sheen off the poor word. The other reason I don't want them to say it, though, is because I don't feel like they've yet learned the true grace and heft of language. Their vocabulary is still relatively small, their reading skills are yet developing. They don't really get it about how deftly words can be used to hurt, to humble or to exalt. I think when they do, when they can impress me with the use of words not found in the slang dictionary, then I wont really mind if they toss a few thousand fucks my way.