Friday, June 29, 2012

Bad words

OK, people, let’s talk about the potty mouth.  I am a Jersey girl, born in Philadelphia, but bred in good ol’ peach orchard, corn farm South Jersey.  We use the F-bomb like other people use… um, all other adjectives and adverbs.  And verbs.  And exclamations.  And nouns.  Am I missing any parts of speech?  We use it gleefully, angrily, creatively.  My current favorite exclamation is “Holy f***-weasels.”  I remember when I moved to California, I had to learn that other people did not use the F-word as casually as I did.  It had more power for them, more intensity.  For me, it’s just a word.  A fun word, a useful word.  Yeah, a bad word, but not like BAD bad.  Not like the C-word.  Other than racial slurs, which have no acceptable role in my life at all, the C-word was the only word that managed to retain its taboo power.  I don’t use that one.  (Unless I am really, really, really mad, and even then, my politically correct feminist side judges me harshly for deeming a word for the female anatomy the dirtiest word I know.  It still is though.  Can’t help it.  Intellectually, I could try to reclaim it, but emotionally, c*** is the dirtiest, most viscerally loaded word I can think of.)

So that’s me.  I swear.  I swear kind of a lot.  Pretty casually.  I swear in front of my kids.  I tried not to for about 5 minutes, but it was a lost cause.  So I have just taught them that those are words that only grown-ups are allowed to say.  I still recall my then three-year-old son saying “I can’t find the fruckin’ remote.”  (Fruckin’, his amalgam of f***in’ and friggin’, which I tried as a substitute for a while, until I realized that kids aren’t allowed to say friggin’ either, so I might as well not bother.)  We corrected him.  “Honey, don’t say ‘fruckin.’”  “But yes,” he explained calmly, “I say it when I can’t find something.  When you can’t find something, you say, ‘where’s that fruckin’ thing?’”

Hilarity.  Yes.  Yes, love, we do say that.  You’re totally right.  Excellent inductive reasoning.  We reminded him that kids are not allowed to say that word, didn’t make a big deal about it, just said it was a grown-up word.  Maybe that will bite us on that ass when they’re 13 (or, you know, 8), and start swearing to seem grown-up.  But you know what?  I really don’t care.  I don’t.  If they don’t swear in front of their teachers and don’t swear in front of anyone who will judge me, whatever.  I just don’t care that much. My kids tell me that when they are grown-up, they will drink coffee and wine and they will be allowed to say “fruckin.’”  Yeah, kids, pretty much.  Those are the perks.  (Both the saying it and the doing it.)  On the down side, you have to do laundry and pay taxes and grocery shop and make a budget and have a job and stuff.  But yeah, you get coffee, wine, and f***in'.

I remember before I had children, I would be around school age kids and say something like “crap,” or “shut up,” or “stupid,” and the kids would squeal about how I had said a bad word.  I mildly and silently judged their parents.  Come on, people, I thought to myself.  Stupid is a bad word?  Seriously?  Lame.

You all see where this is going, don’t you?

Yeah, this week, I designated “stupid” as a bad word in our house.  Sigh.  I am that mom.  I am just so bloody fruckin’ sick of hearing them call each other, each other’s drawings, each other’s TV shows, each other’s outfits “stupid.”  It clearly has some kind of power for them, like bad word power, and I have just had enough.  The nasty tone with which they use the word, the whining that follows from the wronged party.  I’d honestly rather they just F-bomb.  F-bombs are a victimless crime.

Shut up has also been banned.  I remember the first time I heard one of them say it, and I asked, “Where did you hear that?”  From me.  They had heard it from me.  I would have sworn that I had never said “shut up” to my kids, but I had.  I paid attention, and yes, when I asked them to “Ssssh” three or four times, either when I was on the phone or trying to have an important conversation with my husband for five seconds, and they continued to badger me, I would say “Shut up.”  Guilt.  So I told the kids that no one should ever say “shut up,” not even Mommy, and that they are allowed to remind me if I ever say it.

It hasn’t come up much since, maybe once or twice since they brought it to my attention, but oh, the glee on their faces when Mommy gets angry enough to bust out a “shut up,” and they are allowed to scold me.  It’s like Christmas and their birthday rolled into one.  They are so happy that they get to correct me for a change.  Their righteously indignant joy usually defuses whatever situation got me impatient enough to use the S-U on them in the first place, so that’s a bonus.

I am not ashamed of my F-bombs.  But I am ashamed of every single time I have said “shut up” to my kids, and I would never dream of calling them “stupid.”  Those are the bad words.  Those school age kids and their parents were right all along.  Words have power, and shut up, stupid, ugly (also banned in our house)… those words are far more harmful than me busting out a “Holy f***-weasels” when something crazy happens.  So I’m gonna continue to let my potty-mouth flag fly.  My kids will probably F-bomb early and often.  I’m good with that.  I care much more about words designed to hurt.  Those are the bad words, and they’re not welcome in my house.

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