Friday, February 5, 2010

Dadgummit BLAH!

My parents don’t swear. Or curse. Or use profanity. Or whatever you want to call it. Well, one time, when the ceiling under the upstairs bathroom went crashing on to the entryway floor, my Dad said, “S—t.” But he said it in a very restrained, understated fashion.

I don’t remember any particular time when I became aware of foul language, of words you should or shouldn’t say in certain circumstances or with certain audiences. I just never did it because it never occurred to me, probably since I never heard it at home. But at some point in Junior High the occasional naughty word started to slip into my discourse with friends. Lightning didn’t immediately remove me from the face of the planet as a result, so I figured it wasn’t so awful.

At one point, either I said a bad word at home or I was discussing such words with my family at the dinner table and my father made the statement that using foul language wasn’t so much an evil unto itself, but if you had to resort to using swear words to make a point, it just showed that you had a limited vocabulary.

Brilliant though this sort of reverse psychology might have been with another child, with me, it completely backfired. I was the straight-A's, goody-two-shoes, teacher’s pet at school and got absolutely no respect. Any time I would use a word longer than two syllables in a conversation with my classmates, someone would sneer, “S.A.T. word!” Could it be that tossing an occasional profanity into my interactions with my peers might dumb me down enough to avoid persecution?

One afternoon, as I was going through my locker in the eighth grade wing, I dropped the F-bomb. I honestly can’t remember why. All I know is that Neva Jones stopped dead in her tracks, whirled around and near shouted, “Did Rebekah Fergus just say F—k?” The incredulity in her eyes and the wide grin on her face were instantly intoxicating.

It was all downhill from there.

Mind you, I am generally cognizant of my environment and do a fairly decent job of choosing my audience. I have made a valiant effort not to expand my children’s vocabulary along the lines of R-rated movie dialog and seem to be doing alright. The last thing I want is to be the father from A Christmas Story.

But when I get together with Sue for any extended period of time, I start to wonder if there aren’t more than fifteen or so words in all of the English language. (I’m a terrible influence on her—she’s so much better about it than I am, but within a few hours, I’ve dragged her down to my level). And I have to admit that when I’m extremely angry, it’s much harder to self-censor. So I had to choke on my bad parenting the other day when, in the midst of a meltdown, Eiledon wailed, “Why do I HAVE to set the damn table?!?!” I changed my middle name to ‘hypocrite’ and sent her to her room. Yowtch.

Here’s hoping she passes her S.A.T.s before it’s too late.

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