You know what pisses me off? When people say things like, “You could say the same thing so beautifully without the swearing.”
Uh, no, Karen. I actually can’t, and I wouldn’t want to. That’s like choosing between a bland dish with no salt or spices, and a wonderfully seasoned dish with layers of flavor. Cuss words are the flavoring of vernacular, and I’m salty AF.
I deal with words for a living. It is literally my job to have a command of the English language, to have a sizable vocabulary and know how to use it. And dammit, I will forever maintain that swear words are an important — dare I say integral — part of that vocabulary.
Sure, there are rules surrounding their use; I’m not gonna rock up to parent-teacher conferences and greet my kid’s teacher with “Mrs. Hightower! How the fuck are ya?!” As much as I don’t understand why someone would be offended by “foul” language, I can respect it, so there are times when I refrain.
But there are also times when I just have to let it fly. There’s just no substitute for the value of a well-placed “fuck” when, for example, I drop a glass and it shatters on the floor. Saying “frack” or “fudge” just diminishes the impact of the sentiment. “What the flip” ain’t gonna cut it. There’s a reason they call it an F-bomb. Every other F may as well just stand for “feather pillow.”
Anyway, I’ve never tried to hide my sweary ways from my kids. They know who I am. And because who am I does not include being a hypocrite, I’ve never told them not to cuss. But they also know that in our house, we have three distinct rules around cussing: Don’t swear at each other (saying “shit” when you’re disappointed is fine; saying “You’re a bitch” when you’re mad is most certainly not), don’t cuss when we have company, and no curse words in public. In the privacy of our own home (unless we have visitors — see rule #2), colorful language flows so freely that we don’t even notice.
But I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t notice until my family challenged me to stop cussing for 24 solid hours.
We were having dinner one night, roasting each other with good-natured insults, when someone came up with the idea to go around the table and say what each person couldn’t go a full day without doing. For one of my sons, it was eating junk food; for another, it was watching YouTube. But when it came to me, the decision was both instantaneous and unanimous. All four of my kids were like, “Mom! You couldn’t go a day without cussing!”
I shit you not, my first reaction was “What the hell?!” But I bit my tongue, lest I prove them right, and scoffed, “Psssh. Challenge accepted.”
“I’ll bet you $100 you can’t do it,” my husband laughed.
What. The fuck. “I don’t cuss that much,” I said. “I hope you have that hundred bucks ready, because at this time tomorrow, you’re gonna be handing it over, pal.”
And there began my 24-hour journey masquerading as a person who doesn’t swear.
After dinner, my husband went out to water the garden, and came in a few minutes with a massive zucchini that had apparently been overlooked in our daily garden checks. I mean, the thing was gargantuan — substantially bigger than my forearm.
“Holy shit!” I cried. “Kids, look at this big-ass zucchini!”
And there ended my 24-hour (uh, 24-minute?) journey, as everyone laughed themselves half to death at my slip-up. What can I say? It was a huge fucking zucchini, and I was excited.
So from there, rather than make me refrain altogether, my family decided just to keep a running tally of how many times I cussed in a day. But I told them I still wanted to try, even though I’d already lost the bet. I made a conscious effort to tone down my language. Or so I thought. Really, though, all the challenge did was underscore how naturally curse words flow out of my mouth. Like breath.
“Fuck!” I cried when I looked at our overflowing outdoor garbage can and realized we’d missed trash day.
“Piece of shit!” I groused when I missed a move while playing “Just Dance” on our Nintendo Switch.
“Turn down the damn volume!” I yelled upstairs when my son’s music was too loud.
I even cussed out loud, to myself, in the shower. Twice. “Mother fucker!” I gasped when the soap slid off its tray and clattered to the shower floor, startling me. And “What the hell?!” I blurted in irritation when I dropped my razor and the blade popped off the handle.
Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson about myself throughout the acceptance (and subsequent loss) of this challenge. But if you think the lesson is that I have no willpower and need to tone down my language, you’re dead-ass wrong. Yeah, I swear a lot, but it’s a part of me. I use words like “decanter” and “behoove” and “modicum,” with a little bit of “shit” and “fuck” thrown in. It just makes my vocabulary that much richer. And as long as it doesn’t bother the people who love me, IDGAF what anyone else thinks of it.
But now I owe my husband a hundred bucks. Damn it.