I love swearing. I love it. I love to say out loud all the dirty, inappropriate, socially frowned upon words. I swear even when I don’t have to. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs (anymore) so the only thing I do that is kind of bad ass is swear. I know exactly when I started too. It was third grade. We were all gathered around to watch Mount St. Mullens (the volcano that our teacher Mrs. Mullen had made) explode. As the homemade lava came slowly gurgling up the kid next to me said “F-word!” And I had never heard that word before, but the feeling that came over me just hearing it was incredible. I couldn’t wait to use this word!! Ofcourse, I had no idea how to use it in the context of a sentence. And I knew that it wasn’t a word that I could ask a grown up about, and asking the kid who had turned me on to it may well have earned me years of ridicule. I was on my own with this one.
In my home growing up, there was no swearing allowed. It was the same in all of my friends houses also. Crap was considered a swear word back then.When you went to a kid’s house and their parent or older sibling said “crap” you knew you were in a tough house, a house where real life was happening, gritty and all. But in my house, I wasn’t allowed to say “rats” or “jeeze” or “shoot”. I kid you not. “Shoot” could be used only in the case of severe crisis like dropping food on the floor or breaking a very expensive item or major car accident. Even “darn” was frowned upon. It was like the sky opened up and lightning struck me the first time I hard my mother say “SHIT!” as she opened the oven door (where she stored all of her Tupperware) and realized that I had turned on the lower oven rather than the upper oven and all of the plastic had warped, some of it dripping onto the bottom of the oven. I was pretty sure she was going to drop dead and I was going to go deaf. I had never heard such language in my life, but I knew it was really, really bad. What happens when someone says something as bad as “shit”? Nothing. Well, except me getting in trouble for melting her entire collection of Tupperware. Lesson learned. Do not keep plastics in the oven. Shit was right!
My parents best friend “Aunt” Rose was a typical Irish Catholic who’s favorite expression was “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!” I tired that once when the cat scratched me and was quickly reminded that we are Lutheran, not Irish Catholic so it wasn’t going to fly. My dad was really an Episcopalian by nature but my mother had converted him and he became Lutheran in name only.I mean, he was a sunday school teacher, and hosted the men’s groups and was best buddies with our pastor, but when the cat walked through the paint tray as he was painting the trim in the funeral home he let out with “JUDAS PRIEST!!” I figured that would be most appropriate to shout when I spilled an entire jar of glue in sunday school….not so much.
But really the F-word was my gateway, it was the word that gave me power, it gave me comfort. It gave me the ability to shock. I was powerful when I used this word. And it was the worst word in the swearing dictionary(or so I thought at the time). Like I said I had no idea how to use it so I just walked around randomly saying “F-word”. My friends told me I wasn’t allowed to use that word. It was a SWEAR word and we all knew that we kids are not allowed to swear. Especially THAT word. On the playground I would get the “OOooooooo” when I would let it fly. I loved the way it sounded, I loved the reaction it got, I loved the way I felt when I said it. I have heard alcoholics talk abut the feeling they got the first time they took a drink. Like suddenly all was right with the world and they finally belonged and they had found the missing piece. That is exactly how I felt the first time I said “F-word”. Like I had found the thing that completed me.
Funny thing was, in elementary school, on the Iowa Test, I always scored the highest on the vocabulary part. In 5th grade I had the vocabulary of a college senior. And that was minus the swear words I had acquired by that point. And yeah, there were always a few kids who would make fun of my large vocabulary. Maybe that is why I loved to swear. I could use big words in sentences which didn’t impress the other 9 year olds. But watch their eyes grow wide when I dared to say “F-word!” Still, not in any context, just the word. Like showing off a dirty picture or a tampon. Shock and awe. I dared to say what they wouldn’t. OOOooooo is right F-worders!!!!
I am all grown up now (well, kinda) and I still enjoy the F-word. I am a mother and I live in polite society so I cannot use the F-word very often. I sill love to say it when talking with close friends, when I can be myself unrestrained. And it is really great when my friends use it too. Like we are sharing a dirty little secret. Because if our parents knew, or our children knew, or God forbid our neighbors knew that we use the F-word in daily conversations about grocery shopping, hair cuts and vacuuming they would probably kick us out of life.
I am not campaigning here for legalization of the F-word. It is a dirty word. It is not fit for children to say outloud, or grandparents. I don’t want to hear it being uttered on Hannah Montana. I like it’s semi-underground usage. I like that it is a dark, shady word. Makes it all the better to say. Cool people swear. Really cool people say the F-word. I was sitting with a woman who is 75 years old as she was telling the story of her life thus far and she dropped the F-bomb right at the end. I think I watched everyone else’s jaws drop and a few people actually physically cringed. Me? I stood up and yelled “Hell YEAH!!!!” And did a little dance. She is my favorite person in that group.
It is the best when the person you KNOW would never ever say the F-word does. That is like watching someone be human. It is earthy and sharp and it gets a person’s attention like nothing else. You know it does. I don’t think swearing is for everyone. Some people do not enjoy it. Just like many people do not enjoy drinking, or reading science fiction or keeping pets. It is an individual choice, thank God. My kids do not swear at all. Even when I hear them chatting with their friends (oblivious to me standing on the other side of the closed door with a glass to my ear, a technique I learned from my friend’s older sister who also taught me the “Walkin Down Canal St.” song…) they say things like “Oh dear.” and “How funny!” I guess it skips a generation.
I have tried to give up this habit of mine. I tried when the kids were little. I tried to insulate them from my potty mouth. But the older they got, the more things happened that just called for a “F-word!!” I have justified my swearing to myself by understanding it is part of who I am. I understand how to use the F-word now. I like to replace everyday words with the F-word just to make myself laugh. It is a bad habit, but not nearly as bad as some of the habits I have dropped over the years. I may still outgrow this. But in the meantime, I will enjoy the fuck out of it!!!