Sunday, September 01, 2013

I swear

I swear.

I do. Cross my heart.

Of course, I don't swear nearly as much as I used to back in high school, but I still lace my lexicon with a complicated pattern of curse words from time to time.

My foul mouth amuses my husband no end. He smiles and tells me I'm just like a truck driver, and tries to shush me when the words echo around the family room during morning cartoons.

He likes to think he can control the mouth his mother probably tried to wash out with soap here and there during his childhood. But he's no saint. If I swear when I wake up late, or stub my toe, or hear Matt Lauer's voice first-thing, before my morning coffee; he swears for no apparent reason whatsoever.

Though who am I to judge?

I swear when I'm happy. When I'm sad. When I'm excited. When words fail me.

Of course, I've tried to temper my tongue around the children (other people's children to be specific) and folks I don't know too well.

The idea that too much salty talk has a tendency to shrink the impact of other interwoven words – the way salt dehydrates a slug – was not entirely lost on me.

But I didn't cotton to the notion that words – in and of themselves – could be bad. Not entirely.

They are merely inappropriate for the time or company.

There are words we can't use in front of teachers or employers or grandparents.

Especially grandparents.

Keeping our mouths closed while chewing, and our elbows off the table are challenging enough. Peppering polite dinner conversation with impolite language might put regular breathing in peril.

Of course, there are words we NEVER say. Words that don't belong to us or that cause pain for no particular reason. There are phrases we should wean ourselves from because they can affect our thinking. …

I can't. ...

I'm bored. …

I am stupid. …

You are stupid ….

These are the things I try to impress upon my children.

That there are things we don't say, and things we try not to think, but we can't shut out every unpleasant thing.

So when an expletive slips out from the center of their cherubic cheeks, I don't suck in my breath and shrilly demand to know where they heard such things.

I know where they heard it. Everyone knows. They hear it over breakfast in the morning … on the way to the bus … while I'm cooking dinner … and when they're brushing their teeth. Anywhere accidents happen or dawdling occurs, four-letter words are always there to punctuate the response.

In some ways, I suppose, I think of these little stabs of the tongue as an inoculation of sorts. An immunization against the searing nature of harsh words.

Say it often enough … it will lose its meaning.

I toyed with the idea of giving them a swear word on their first double-digit birthday. A curse word they could use at home to their hearts' content.

Somehow, such a gift seemed hollow and overly contrived.

Cursing, I think, is all about taking, not about giving.

But that's not entirely true either.

Anyone who has ever used one knows that a well-placed curse word can be as satisfying (and relaxing) as a cup of tea and a mid-afternoon nap. It can also seem empowering:

Ittybit: “Mom … I know you told me NOT to wear my new school clothes, and I did … and I got ink on them … but you don't have to worry. I got the ink out.

Mom: “How did you get it out?”

Ittybit: Soap, hot water and curse words.

Mom: It really worked?

Ittybit: Totally! I swear!

1 comment:

valeri blossom said...

i thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing (and swearing). i could not have said any of this better than you, though i feel ALL of it, right down to the total shrug and nonchalance when my littles let something slip, which they hardly do. nobody's immune but my boys verge on those kids that tell adults how they should conduct themselves. you know the ones. in fact, earlier today, my seven year old came into another room, where i'd just let something slip after hitting my wrist on my desk, simply to let me know that if he had a dollar for every time i said shit or goddamn, he'd be a millionaire.