If memory serves, most people I knew growing up in Flint, Michigan were unfazed by your garden variety swear words. Skip ahead a couple a dozen years and I find myself living an idealized suburban life surrounded by some who find the word “crap” offensive.
I once told my son, when he was a toddler, to sit on his butt in a lawn chair so he wouldn’t fall out. Another mother, shocked by my language, said, “Butt? Don’t you think bottom is better?”
What the??? Here I thought I’d evolved
Eliza Doolittle style into a sophisticated suburban parent having all but dropped my surplus supply of profanity after having kids.
But no. Apparently evolved parents never say, “shut up,” even when channeling Elaine Benes. And I’m supposed to believe good people don’t say anything is “stupid” or “that sucks,” when the Internet goes down.
If the quality of my character is judged by what comes out of my mouth, I’m screwed. I can’t say anything right. And since my kids have entered adolescence and are likely exposed to language more extensive than George Carlin’s classic list of dirty words on their bus ride to school, I’ve become more lax about letting an occasional swear word slip in front of them; like when another cereal spoon gets snarled in the garbage disposal.
I even enjoy a properly placed swear word in a joke or a movie. Is that a crime?
Am I not fit for polite society?
Now, let me be clear. I never swear at my children. I rarely swear on the job or in church. But if I’m alone in the car–and running late because the @^&*+ dog threw up on the carpet and I backed out of the driveway before the @$#! garage door was fully open and some s#$% for brains driver at the intersection doesn’t notice the light is green because they’re busy checking their phone–by golly, I’m gonna let my frustration fly in the form of a less than genteel behind the wheel riff.
I’m an all-around bad example when it comes to language. Once, my teenage son told me about a kid at school who accidently poked his head into the wrong classroom. When the student realized his mistake, he muttered a curse word and hurriedly made his exit. But the teacher sent someone after him. And when the potty-mouthed culprit returned, the teacher asked, “Did you just swear?” The student shook his head. But she pressed, “Yes you did. You’re a swear bear!”
Instead of leveraging a teachable moment about the inappropriate use of colorful language, I burst into laughter. In my opinion, calling a middle schooler a swear bear is unlikely to change his behavior. And the idea of actual swear bears is intriguing. Stuffed bears that curse when you squeeze them. A way to vent frustration or lighten a mood without actually spewing anything taboo. Seems practical and funny! Wish I’d though of it first.
Instead, I must accept that nothing I say or don’t say can disguise my flawed character. I will always fall short. We all fall short in various ways. But I still roll out of bed each day with hope. That I am loved. That I am forgiven. And that mouthy B*&^%s like me can still offer something positive to the world.