I swear – a lot – too much in fact, to a point where I am now embarrassing my kids (oh, and my husband – he told me to add that in)! And before you call Child Protective Services on me, let me quickly point out that I’m not swearing at my kids, I’m swearing around them – a subtle but necessary distinction. Here is an illustrative conversation with my 9 year old daughter:
Maya: Mom, you just said the S word!!
Maya: No, the other S word!
Me: Shit? Hey, shit is not a bad word – it’s a physiologic function, everyone shits, it’s a byproduct of eating and if you don’t then bad things can happen! Like that dude whose colon is on display at that museum in Philly.
Maya: MOTHER!! JUST STOP SAYING IT!!
I’d blame my swearing habits on my father – who used to be in the Navy, but truthfully the strongest language I have ever heard him use is “bloody hell” – which is still my go-to swear. I also like “holy shitballs”, “fricking” – because I think it’s milder than my all-time favorite – “fuuuuccckkkk”! Yes, I can be quite classy when I try.
I think swearing can be great as a pressure release mechanism, like when you stub your toe, or you run out of clean underwear, or you buy the salted sticks of butter instead of unsalted. Some stressful situations just lend themselves to an expletive laden rant. Like running out of toilet paper, someone beating you to the last brownie, trying to find anything at Walmart.
But when swearing becomes punctuation, something to fill a lull in conversation, an I-don’t-know-how-to-express-myself-so-I’m-just-going-to-cuss exercise, then you may want to reexamine that strategy. While colorful language can certainly enhance the expression of irritation – it doesn’t really add much in the way of insult to the object of your anger. Also, call me old fashioned but I’d like to teach my kids how to be clever when delivering verbal abuse.
Its easy to tell someone – “You’re a fucking idiot!” Easy….but lazy. I mean, how much more of an impact can you make if you say
-“You have elevated ignorance to an art form”,
-“You are proof that some carbon-based life forms should just be used as alternate forms of energy”,
-“You are the litmus test by which, one day, we will measure sheer stupidity”,
-“Your usefulness has ended – rather like the life of a male praying mantis the nanosecond after copulation”,
-“The universe called, they want their atoms back”.
Now, these alternate insults are nowhere close to being as good as Shakespeare – that guy knew how to deliver abuse!! On the other hand, I guarantee that the receiver is not going to be able to return the favor till the next day – you’ve effectively reduced him/her to a jerk-store frequenting George Castanza – which can be very satisfying.
But on those days that my kids are driving me crazy and people are cutting me off in the middle of the road and customer service representatives are making my life hell, I am going to use my favorite swear word, and comfort myself that I’m still a good parent because, hey fuck it – at least I’m not doing meth…yet.