I cuss–now, a lot less than before I had children, but I still do a decent job of it.
I blame it on my profession. No, I was never a sailor–just a journalist. As writers we love words, all words and we enjoy exercising our vocabularies whenever possible. We like to be specific. For example, when the modem doesn’t work for a couple of minutes it’s “that darn thing.” When it quits working altogether and despite buying four different new ones and talking to half the population of India on the “Help Line” you’re still not connected to the internet, it’s the “God-damn, f-ing piece of shit.” About half-way through my decade in the newsroom, the advertising department had t-shirt made up that said: “How Can We Help You?” The newsroom came up with our own motto: “What the Hell do you Want?” That’s actually how we answered the phone on deadline and basically anytime after 4 p.m.
But now I’m a mother, and a college instructor and I move in more polite circles. And because of this change of status, I now do my swearing in private and with far less frequency. Of course under stress the old salty language surfaces. Which is how my oldest daughter first heard the f-bomb at the ripe old age of 2.
“What does that mean Mama?”
“You mean ‘duck” sweetie? Didn’t you see the duck crossing the road?”
She of course couldn’t wait for her baby sister to get old enough to learn the “bad word that rhymes with truck.”
All of this leads me to the scene of the crime: a holiday luncheon for all of the girls in my youngest daughter’s kindergarten class. The girls were so sweet sitting around the table nibbling on snowman-shaped sandwiches and sipping apple cider. I heard them starting to tee-hee about something. Apparently one of the girls called one of the other girls the “s word” (Stupid). Then they moved on to the “d word” (dumb) and some other forbidden vocab; each word eliciting a higher pitch of giggles. Then the group really starts laughing and I hear it: “the f word.” I drop my cucumber slice and run over to the table to change the subject, hoping I was in time–later that afternoon I find out I wasn’t.
“Sweetie, I heard all you girls giggling about the ‘f word,’ what was that all about?”
“Well Mama, guess what?” she looks up at me with her big expectant 5-year-old eyes. “None of the other girls knew what the ‘f word’ is.”
“Oh, no. You didn’t…..”
The look of pride on her face told me that yes, she did.
Yet another moment when I can’t blame her, because she was simply being her mother’s daughter.