Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Swear

I’m driving through Philly, headed South on 12th Street. To the right of me, there’s a UPS truck stopped and standing. To the left, a full line of traffic. There’s no room to swerve and by the time it registers that my passenger-side mirror is going to smack the truck, it’s already flying into the air and shattering into a million shards of glass on the street. “Shit SHIT SHIT!” I exclaim.

From the back seat I hear, “Oh no! Fuck! FUCK! FUCK!”

That isn’t my husband, back there, with a mouth like a truck driver. That’s my 18-month old daughter.

I need help. I can’t stop swearing.

Motherhood has not changed me in this regard. I have always loved to swear. I love words in general, but cuss words, with their taboo meaning, their vaguely onomatopoetic quality, their infinite permutations of usage, I find them to be so incisive. So perfect. So deeply satisfying. I have not been able to give them up. I’ve tried replacing them with other things, but in moments of anger, pain, frustration, or shock…there’s nothing like good fuck. Or a good shit for that matter.

Part of my problem is I don’t feel a strong enough impetus to renounce this portion of my vocabulary. I don’t get what’s wrong with swearing. Why is it so bad for children—for anyone—to swear? Sophia seems to find it just as pragmatic and satisfying as I do. Why do these words evoke such horror? Why do they imply ignorance or poor parenting? Don’t we need profanity to describe important slivers of human experience? As long as one does not swear at another person (which, I’m vehemently opposed to and never do), how is it harmful?

Kevin, who does not think it’s okay to swear in front of Sophia, posed this scenario: Imagine Sophia goes to nursery school. She falls down on the playground and says “O no! Fuck! FUCK! FUCK!” in front of her friends. Then all of her little playmates go home and stub their toes (or have some similar mishap) and exclaim (perfectly appropriately), “O no! Fuck! FUCK! FUCK!” in front of their parents. The parents are angry that after all this time of resisting the impulse to say “fuck,” someone else has gone and said it in front of their kid. So, enraged they demand retribution from the teacher, who has no choice but to expel Typhoid Sophia. She gets blacklisted from preschool and never learns appropriate 3-year-old language.

Perhaps, in order for Sophia to grow up conforming to societal norms and getting invited to play dates, I’ve got to kick the habit. But I haven’t a clue how to do it. And I’m afraid it might already be too late. Fuck.

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