You Kiss your Mutha with that foul mouth?? A Few Words on Bad Words
Like, over this winter, when in March, the thermometer in my car reached below zero for the umpteenth time this winter, I cursed to myself “I’m so f#%#ing sick of being F@#king cold!!”
When one drops a 28 oz. can of crushed organic tomatoes from the fourth shelf of one’s food pantry onto a bare foot, oh yeah, it feels so good to curse away the pain.
But there is a time and a place for cursing, and knowing that time and place is a lesson in growing up.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from my son’s high school. It was a man. He was a dean. I knew this wasn’t going to be good.
“I had an interesting conversation with your son today, he is a very intelligent fellow with a lot to say.”
Yeah, yeah, I know that, but why are you calling me? What did he do?
The official report from the hallway incident: My son was shouting curses at girls in the hallway as he left the cafeteria on his lunch period. A teacher, who did not teach my son and didn’t know him from a hole in the wall, was not pleased with his salty language.
Being the writer and parent of a kid with special needs that I am, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and listened.
“Your son was caught by a teacher loudly calling some girls “Hey you b%#$%ches, hey you m*^%*rf$@$$rs!”
I was calm, I was not defensive. He continued.
“We don’t tolerate language like that in our school.” Meaning, I derived, that, “your family is new to town, I don’t know what went down in your schools in New York, but this is not tolerated here. ”
What could I do? I apologized for his foul-mouthed behavior and said, “of course he will” when the dean explained he would have to sit in detention for two days after school.
But there had to be another side. My son is a sociable guy trying to make his way in a new school in a new town. At 15, he likes the ladies. In fact, he gravitates to girls as close friends more than boys, because girls can be more intuitive.
They just get him more at this phase of his life.
The dean continued, saying that my son said this had something to do with an exchange that started the night before on Facebook.
Facebook? Really? Was he reacting then to being bullied on Facebook to a point where he lashed out in school?
My mind quickly thought of ending Facebook privileges may be a fitting punishment.
But I took a deep breath and decided to listen to my son’s side of the story. So glad I did.
It turns out that the two girls happened to be friendly with my son. The girls and my son have a little game at night on Facebook on creating little nicknames for each other that happen to include very bad naughty words. To my son’s defense, it was the girls writing the foul words on each other’s Facebook walls, not my son.
So, in my son’s mind, why not continue this friendly jousting exchange at school? How many times in adolescence did we add foul language to our vocabulary to look cool, to fit in, to feel a kinship with others?
The girls were cursing at my son in that hallway just as much he. But he is taller. And louder. And wears a dapper fedora. So of course, he was the one to get caught.
Overall, I think we send our children mixed messages on cursing.
Come on, Mr. Dean, as adolescents, we all cursed. Even as an adult, adults curse. A lot.
- In the 1990’s, I worked on an account for IBM. My account team – my supervisor, my client, my co-w0rkers, were mostly men. If I had a quarter for every F bomb dropped in a routine conference call between my boss and our client, a marketing director at IBM, I could have paid for that day’s round trip commuter ticket from Manhattan back to my house in New Jersey.
- I landed a job interview for the public radio/TV station in Rocheter. I don’t know if he was fooling, but a station manager asked me how I feel about cursing in the workplace, because during stressful fundraising weeks, they curse a lot.
Even now, when out with new groups of women, there is a certain feeling of trust and intimacy when you can let your guard down and let some curse words fly!
Look at the words and expressions which are now socially acceptable in general company and in the media which were not a generation ago. I don’t need to foul up this post, you know which ones they are.
Just last month, child star Jason Bateman released the subversive comedy Bad Words in his directorial debut. It stars Bateman as an antisocial 40 year old who finds a loophole allowing him to enter a spelling bee. There, he befriends an adolescent boy and they share all sorts of conversations which involve curse words.
I did not see this movie. What I did see, with my 10 year old younger son the other night, was a stand-up routine by Ellen Degeneres on HBO. It was side-splitting funny. And completely clean. Not a single foul word.
In the end, I am glad my son’s cursing was not malicious and was not a result of the fact that what I feared, that he was being bullied. It was just all in good fun. I don’t condone the potty mouth, but it was all in good fun.
Is there a proper time to curse? Do we send our kids mixed messages about cursing? What do you think? And, keep it clean.