Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Calling A Spade A Spade

When I was a kid, bad language was a big deal.

My mother, I think acutely aware that our economic status already conferred a certaint amount of disdain upon us, was determined that we comport ourselves in a dignified manner. Just because we were poor, didn't mean we were trashy, and she meant to make sure that nobody could ever level such a charge against us.

She was fighting a losing battle with my Dad, (not a bad guy, my Dad, just a little rought around the edges) but she was determined to cultivate some sense of civility and decorum in her children.

For example, we were not allowed to say "fart".

She would have preferred that we not acknowledge flatulence at all, except to excuse ourselves, but being children, the volume, density and fragrance all had to be remarked upon. We were to say "pass gas". Usually, we complied, but sometimes, we rebelled by saying, "cut the cheese" because it was much funnier. It wasn't "fart" and so, we got around her edict on a technicality.

Obviously, swear words were verbotten.

One time, when he was very, very angry (and, as I realized later on when I was adult, very likely stressed beyond his breaking point) my dad said the "F" word.

That really made our jaws drop.

I remember looking at him, flush with anger, and being stunned at the profanity. My sisters and I, who had been complaining about supper (Goulash...ew), were startled into meekness. We ate every wretched bite and did our chores without a word that evening. The power of that word frightened me then.

As a child, I never heard my mother swear. But years later, when trying to salvage my disaster of a wedding, she said the "F" word on the phone. I was so taken aback that I choked on the wine I was drinking and narrowly missed drenching one of my bridesmaids. It was shocking for it's incongruity; my mother, dressed in a beautiful ivory gown, flawlessly coiffed, tastefully made-up, dropping the f bomb.


The constraints placed upon me as a child have resulted in me being less than judicious with my use of profanity now. Truthfully, it's my achilles heel. I swear like a sailor, particularly in the car.

My children mock me. On a recent outing, I grumbled about some driver doing something, which set my kids off. They began to recite my most infamous epithets in dueling falsettos. They laughed uproariously and then Pubescent One said,

"Geez Mom, roadrage much?"

But you see, swearing prevents me from using my vehicle as a weapon. Instead of aiming my two ton blue missile at those who wrong me in a trafficular manner, I just swear. I feel better, and nobody gets hurt. They don't even hear me.

My kids swear too. I know I should be more concerned about it, but honestly, I'm just not. Swearing helps me relieve tension and diffuse stress. It feels good to let one fly when one feels as if they might spontaneously combust at any moment. I firmly believe in the therapeutic properties of the f word. And I would much rather one of them let go with some good old fashioned imprecation than punch someone or knock over a liquore store.

I really take issue more with words like "retard" and "idiot" and "fatso". Words that demean and demoralize are of far more concern to me than the words that have been arbitrarily assigned the power of taboo.

Now...language is a barometer. I understand that. If you go around using speech peppered with profanity, people assume things about your character. And, injudicious use of profanity can occlude the meaning and intent of our words. Nobody wants that.

I don't use profanity in social or professional situations. I take great care to ascertain whether casual acquaintances will be offended before offering even the tamest curse word. And when I have something really important to say, I don't muddle my message with misplaced invective.

I've explained all that to my children, and really, I think they understand. But sometimes a life lesson is much more salient that wisdom imparted by dear old Mom. Diminutive One found out the hard way last year when he let fly with a particularly offensive tidbit in the lunchroom. Funny, but offensive.

It's a mistake he has not repeated.

So anyway...

Language is what we make of it. I think, if we forbid these words, we give them too much power. Language, as a tool, is cathartic. And swear words are just words. They don't really hurt anybody. I find it strange and ironic that we don't get nearly as outraged by words that truly wound.

My son was treated like a criminal when he said "suck my balls". (In case you are unfamiliar with the circumstances of that particular incident, you can read about it here.) But a classmate who called him a fatso was only asked to issue an apology. There were no punitive repercussions.

Does that strike anybody else as just a little fucked up?

Yesterday, I was pre-menstrual and felt a migraine looming. Pubescent One was hormonal in an entirely different way.

Volatile combination, that.

Finally, I exploded.

"You've been a giant asshole ever since you walked in the door and I'm SICK of it!!"

"I have NOT been an ASSHOLE! You're yelling at me for everything!!"

He was being an asshole, but to be fair, I was yelling at him for everything.

Later, when we had both calmed down, he came to me.

"I'm sorry I was an asshole."

"I'm sorry I was a bitch."

"You said it, I didn't."

"I know."

We hugged and everything was fine.

Some of you might think it's terrible that I called my son an asshole. But he was, and he knew it. And I was being a bitch. And I knew it. I guess in this house we just believe in calling a spade a spade.

Now, if I had called him a moron, or a retard, I would not dispute the damage done to his morale and his psyche. Because those words imply some kind of inherent deficit. Some kind of wrongness. Some question regarding worth and value.

But assholishness and bitchiness are issues of free will. One can choose to be an asshole. One can choose to be a bitch. Or not to, as the case may be.

Words. They have power. But it's all about how we empower ourselves by the way we use them or don't use them.

It's up to us, bitches.


  • At 8:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "trafficular" Ooooh I LOVE this.

  • At 9:37 AM, Blogger Angela said…

    I like to swear using the names of food
    Oh PIZZA!

    I have gotten in trouble using other profanity

  • At 9:43 AM, Blogger Foofa said…

    My sister and I went to the same k-8. I was a shitty kid, I got in fights and got away with it because I knew teachers liked me and I could worm my way out of trouble. it made me a bit of an asshole (a sweet and adorable one though) for much of my young life. I flicked off my 1st grade teach but said other kids told me to do it (which they kind of did) and they got in trouble, not me. I was never suspended, or in any real trouble because of my attitude.

    My sister, was not an asshole. She was, and still is, an incredibly nice person. However, in 7th grade she got suspended for sexual harassment. She told a boy who had been harassing her for months to suck her dick (or maybe it was balls).

    I guess my point is language is generally overreacted to in this society.

  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    My boys are young enough that I'm afraid they will forget what's appropriate for home and what's appropriate for school... so I've told them that they can say anything they want, inside their heads. They seem to like this and often curse at me in their heads I think. ;) I would be totally Ok with having the conversation that happened in your home, as long as they can remember that such a conversation would be inappropriate in other situations.

    My 7 year old was chastized by his 5 year old cousin for saying "oh my god" because he was being "rude" (my nephew comes from a very religious family and my 7 year old does not).

    I definitely agree with not saying words like "retard", "fatso", etc. Those are definitely hurtful. I also never say "shut up" because I think it's demeaning, too. I hate when I hear parents telling their kids to "shut the fuck up". *shudder*

    Anyway, great post ~ I'm glad you call it like it is. :)

  • At 11:14 AM, Blogger Middle Girl said…

    And when I have something really important to say, I don't muddle my message with misplaced invective.

    Too bad too many don't operate this way.

  • At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just LOVE your writing.

    Here you have eloquently stated my feelings about the matter that my husband just won't understand.

    In our house I am always cast as the bad parent by his attitudes regarding cursing.

    Ah well. I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm a bitch anyway.

    Mary in Texas :)

  • At 3:15 PM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    I LOVE this post, BA.

    I swear a lot. A LOT. If my mother were alive I know she'd say it was one of the things she disliked the most about me. I try not to, honestly, but I do. I just do. And yeah, I swear in front of my kids. I'm human, but like you, I think there are far, far more hurtful words out there than shit and asshole.

  • At 4:27 PM, Blogger Not Afraid to Use It said…

    Oooooh! What a great post! My mouth is atrocious, and while I also make sure to separate professional and personal language, sometimes things bleed over. Yikes. I think I'll be fighting that battle to my dying day.

    As for the word fuck, I think it is one of my favorite words. My parents supposedly did not swear in front of me, but I remember my mom yelling at me not to use "that language" and I yelled right back "who do you think I learned it from?"

    I have to say I'd rather my kids grow up to swear like sailors and learn the difference in appropriate audience than shit themselves every time someone utters the phrase "Oh crap".

  • At 6:54 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    My mother hated the word "bitch". Hated it with every fiber of her being. If you were to call her a bitch, you may as well go ahead and call her a c*nt because it was just as bad. I, personally, have embraced the word. It takes the power away from it. Most of the time.

  • At 5:41 AM, Blogger Sherry said…

    You made a lot of good points in that post. Especially discussing context. The context in your home is within your control and your understanding (some others, unfortunately, won't agree--nor do they have to--it is your home) and then the lunchroom context. It is one of those hard issues to manage. I think you are managing!
    thanks for perspective.

  • At 9:10 AM, Blogger Pgoodness said…

    Oh, I love to swear, but try not to around the kids. Of course, mine are 5 & 3, so it's more age than anything. And when I do slip, and they look at me with those big eyes, I make sure to tell them NOT that it's a BAD word, but that it's an ADULT word.

    There are no bad words, just words that aren't appropriate for kids.

    That said, I would totally call my kid an asshole and reserve the right to do that when he doesn't ask "What's an asshole?" hehe

  • At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's so refreshing to hear a parent who acknowledges language and it's power. I was raised the same as you and even non-swear words were frowned on. Now I also swear like a sailor. I plan on letting my kids swear in the house as long as they can learn when and where it is appropriate.

  • At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with you 100%. It's not the words you say, but the intent behind your message. You can be extremely rude without dropping a single swear word. You can drop every swear word in the book without necessarily disrespecting someone.

    I think it is completely ridiculous..."sex" isn't a swear word, yet "fuck" is. "Fuck" is worse than "shit". "The c-bomb" is worse than anything. Say that word in a sentence and, regardless of what context you say it in, the effect of that particular soundstream will offend everyone in earshot. Meanwhile, refer to something stupid as "gay" or "retarded", and many of those same people won't raise an eyebrow?

    Humans are completely ridiculous.

  • At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great post!
    I recently wrote a post called "watch your fucking language" in which I tackled this specific issue with my 11 year old - in a grammar lesson.
    My kids go to summer camp, where they really do revel in all sorts of salty language and we have in our household a rule that all sorts of language is permitted if used carefully, and never in heat. Words DO have power, but only the power we give them and sometimes there simply are not more appropriate words than the ones many people have decided are "bad" ones. I think there is a level of honesty that we reach with our kids if they see us using the words we know they're going to use anyway appropriately and with humor.
    As for bitch, I have a 13 year old daughter and throwing that word around in a context similar to the one you describe is actually bonding on some level, especially when PMS comes to call and we are on the SAME schedule.

  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger Teryn said…

    I just stumbled across your blog- and I'm hooked! Thank you for putting into words what I have been thinking a long time. Damn-Shit-Hell Those aren't bad words. Even Asshole and Bitch. They just add flavor right? I just get irritated when a single swear word becomes 85% of the sentence. Like the F word is a noun, adjective, pronoun, adverb, and every other thing it could be. Balance People!

  • At 2:40 PM, Blogger Teryn said…

    OH! And saying "fudge" is not a free pass. I don't know if you've run into that but I know a lot of ladies- prissy, holier-than-thou types- who say "fudge" Like I don't know what they REALLY mean. Just say it for pete's sake!

  • At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    (clearly, given my handle.)

    My favorite word of this whole post? "trafficular" Priceless, that!

  • At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love this post. This is the greatest thing a parent can do: Take the power of bad words away from their kids.

    My daughter knows she's allowed to swear around me or her friends and as long as she doesn't get into trouble at school, it's all good. You're right though, there are words that hurt SO much more than silly curse words that they should be forbidden.


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