I was on my very best behavior last week. I had an ENTIRE DINNER with STRANGERS and SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE and I didn't say fuck or goddamn one time. I also didn't sweat through my skirt or fling my steak across the table as I was trying to cut it. I was a motherfucking adult, doing motherfucking adult things, and I even DRANK AN ENTIRE GLASS OF WINE while doing all of those things.
But now, the fallout is here, my friends. Last night I was dicing beets (as one does) and one of them slipped off the kitchen counter, bounced off my leg and hit the floor where it was met with delight by my beet-loving dog.
"SHIT," I exclaimed. "GODDAMN BEET. Stupidfuckingdog."
My kids looked up, non-plussed, and then went back to their
I woke up this morning and the very first words out of my mouth with each stretch? "[deep sigh] goddamn… motherfucker… shitballs… ahhhh…."
I know there's a school of thought that people should not swear. It isn't a classy thing. It is ruinous to the ears of our precious youth. It is dirty and inappropriate in almost every scenario. It's not ladylike, blah, blah.
But the worst criticism? The one that really stabs me through my heart? That it's lazy.
I've tried to use the lazy thing before, with my oldest son. I tried to explain to him that swearing is a tool for people who don't have a good descriptive vocabulary. It's a crutch for humor. It's settling for an easy laugh, or an easy exclamation. Why swear when you can exercise your creativity?
The look on his face during this lecture was clear: "This is bullshit and you know it."
I did know it. I had to stop half-way through my diatribe and admit that I didn't really believe anything I was saying. I mean, swearing can be lazy, but it's not always lazy. It's just like anything, really. You have to learn nuance and timing. You have to figure out the unspoken rules so that you can then break them with relish. Swearing is an art. It can be poetry.
I admitted to my son I was giving him the "Swearing is Laziness" lecture as a duty to Motherhood In General, a kind of check mark next to the Tell Your Children Not To Say Bad Words box on the list of everything you have to tell your children.
Really, though, I don't think swearing is lazy. If done right, I think it's poetically emphatic. Do I want my children calling each other fuckfaces? Hell no. Am I am going to punish one of them for yelling SHIT when they stub their toe? Hell no. The trick is, teaching them the intricacies of when swearing is OK and when it's not. Why will it earn you a detention in school but only an eyeroll at home? Why should I keep the fucknards and asshats to a minimum while having a professional dinner?
Can you teach nuance? Appropriateness? The feel of a room? I don't know. I think much of that is just plain sense. And teaching kids to use sense is a bit of a fruitless endeavor. You learn from doing. You learn from fucking up. I might be fucking up by writing this very blog post! And I certainly have encountered adults who have never learned anything about intricacies or nuances. Letting loose with a string of epithets in the middle of Toys R Us? Not cool, bro. Letting loose with a string of epithets while describing the Toys R Us guy to your friends? Better.
So what am I getting at? I don't really know. I mean, I guess the over all thing I think about when I think about my foul mouth is "know your audience." Is that teachable? I think it is. But it's also flexible and testable. I don't need to be the mom with the 5-year-old yelling GODDAMN IT every time he falls off the tire swing, but on the other hand, I'm OK with being the mom of the five-year-old who is learning comic timing by inserting the word fart into surprising moments of conversation. Do we talk about how that's OK at home, but probably not OK at school? Yes. Do we talk about why? Yes. Do I laugh just as hard as he does? Yes. Do I pat him on the back and call him a clever fuckface? No. See? I know my audience.
At the end of the professional dinner wherein I drank wine and still managed to keep my conversation mostly pertinent and lacking in cocksuckery, the night wrapped with someone telling a funny story that included a punchline expletive. It was a surprise and we all had a genuine laugh. The storyteller tested the waters, let loose, and it was OK. And so now I'm left to wonder… did my dinner manners hide something about me from my counterparts? Was I a disingenuous dinner guest for not revealing this part of myself? Or was I right to have a protective instinct? Perhaps my audience at dinner was a different audience than the storyteller's, even though we were sitting with the same people. Knowing your audience is just as intricate and nuanced as the swearing itself.
Just something I've been thinking about as I spend my day looking at my to-do list, yelling, "Shit!" and then continuing to procrastinate.
It's hard to be a motherfucking adult, isn't it? Damn.