“My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master.”—Ralphie from A Christmas Story
When my kids first heard this line from our favorite holiday movie, they said in unison, “Mom, look they’re talking about you.” You see, I love to cuss. Have from the time I was a pre-teen and dropped my first F-bomb in public.
I remember that evening with fond affection. It was a very frigid winter but coming from hardy stock, the cold and snow never stopped us Northern NY kids. So there I was with my white figure skates, sporting fluffy homemade blue and white yarn pom poms, twirling around the ice rink at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. I decided to show off my newly acquired skill of inserting the F-word masterfully into the conversation. Oh I felt so grown-up and chic as I whirled around the ice, skating in tandem with my girlfriends, firing off this “queen-mother of dirty words” as Ralphie said.
The F-bomb has seen me through a lot of situations in my life. Job losses, broken treasures, stupid drivers and stubbed toes. In fact, my tapestry of obscenities is legend in my family if I somehow injure myself. It begins with “Dirty rotten mother-effer…” and goes downward from there. All bets are off too when my temper gets the best of me. Though I have learned not to flip drivers off anymore as you never what they are packing and can take exception to this gesture. Yet I can flip that bird in a host of ways if I don’t think there’s danger lurking.
Our poor baby sitter Mary took a heated tongue lashing from me one Christmas when I went to her home to pick up my toddlers. She was an extraordinary sitter! Patient, organized, played fun games and made nutritious meals. She was a gem! Well, the evening before on the way home, sweet Adam, approximately 2 1/2 years old and very verbal, was enjoying the view of the streets from his car seat in our van. Suddenly he shouts, “Oh my Jesus Mommy, look at those Christmas lights!” I nearly drove off the road because a) I thought it was hysterical and b) my baby just uttered his first curse words. Surely he must have heard them from the sitter because I really did try very hard not to swear in front of the boys then.
Mary vehemently denied it and I decided to let sleeping dogs lie. Then, when I was doing something at home one day shortly thereafter, I heard myself say, “Oh my Jesus…” I never did apologize to Mary, but if you’re reading this, I was a boob and you were a goddess.
I remember losing control one afternoon when my little twin boys were particularly whiny. It had been a long day and attempts to keep the dynamic duo entertained were just not working. I didn’t want to be one of “those mothers” who swears at her sweet little ones but I could feel the explosion coming on. So down to the basement I went slamming laundry into the machine and reeling off a particularly artful string of nasty words. Ah I felt better until I looked to the stairs and saw skinny legs from the knees down, the top half of my son hidden by the staircase. He said in his pipsqueak voice, “Are you saying that about me Mommy?” Of course I lied. And also realized I probably wasn’t quite as stealthy in my habit of cussing as I had hoped.
My husband Mark reminded me that when the boys were eight, we gave them a free pass one night at dinner to recite as many swears as they could fit into 15 seconds. They pretty much mimicked my string of foul language verbatim. To their credit, to this day they only use polite language around me as they learned from their wise dad.
Sometimes I use substitute words suitable for public situations such as Sugar, Sugar Nuts, Fudge or Fudge Sticks. (I have a sweet tooth after all.) The Johnny Dangerously movie had gems such as Fargin’ Iceholes and Bastiches which have come in handy. My BFF Cindy taught me others—Cheese and Rice, Got Dandruff. From my sons, Shut The Front Door. My family often used euphemisms Judas Priest and Geezum Crow as we were good Catholics and it was a sin to use the Lord’s name in vain. My dad, a WW2 sailor however, went to confession regularly…
When my boys were preteens, I made up oral stories as a fun pastime about our dog Girl’s adventures. I would speak on her behalf of a mettlesome situation and she would utter, “Jesus…son of God.” It wasn’t a swear when she added his heritage. That Girl—she was a pisser!
And then, hallelujah! I recently read a Scientific American article that notes the scientific proof that cussing is actually therapeutic when you’re experiencing pain. Apparently the art of swearing helps us endure pain longer and triggers the always helpful flight or fight response. So now I have a legitimate excuse for my bad language—it’s medicinal and all natural.