I am the product of laissez faire parenting. I watched many, many “R” rated movies and hours of cable television as a child. My choices were never screened or much noticed. As a result, I have an abiding love of profanity. I studied it’s use by the greats: Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Connelly, Eddie Murphy, to name but a few. My siblings and I engaged in it as a bonding exercise, and in my twenties, I became a line cook, where I honed my skills.
Now, I have a toddler. I can’t even spell curse words in my own home without having them repeated in a tiny innocent voice, which needless to say sounds awful.
When my husband and I find ourselves alone together, we curse like sailors, but it’s not the same anymore. It’s sounds hollow. On Twitter, I follow a funny, well known comedian, and every so often I am tempted to message her: @lizzwinstead, do you not know that you have 13-yr-old beekeeping follower? Can you tone down the foul language? I wince when I think of kids reading an f-bomb in a compound word.
Of course, I remember being twelve and thinking how silly it was for adults to get uptight about swearing. (But I’d never had the experience of seeing a profane rant coming from a pre-pubescent girl from an adult perspective.) You cannot prevent kids from cussing, it’s like trying to stop them from talking altogether. A favorite high school teacher of mine used to tell a joke that illustrated people need dirty words, if they don’t have them, they’ll invent them. (Sorry, can’t remember the joke well enough to tell it.)
Here’s a little speech I’m preparing to give to Nora, some years hence:
Honey, swearing has a place, but it’s limited. Not in class, not at work, not among people you think might be offended –or unappreciative. It can give people a negative opinion of you to hear you cursing before they know you well. It’s fine to swear with your friends, and we all swear occasionally, for emphasis. But remember to hear yourself when you do it. And don’t over do it.
Then we’ll sit down together and watch Ricky Gervais in the Office and laugh until our cheeks ache. Oh, bad words can be so, so good.