I grew up in a household where words like “shit, bastard, son of a bitch” were sprinkled like confetti during conversations. Only my father and mother used this language. Generally my mother cursed in English, and my father reserved his angriest cursing for Spanish. My impression is that his most satisfying bouts of cursing happened in that language.
Either way, it was implicitly understood that I wasn’t allowed to curse, ever. I was paranoid enough back then to forbid myself from even cursing in my head. I was certain my parents could read my thoughts and I’d be found out. So, in speech, thought and paper, curse words were banned from my vocabulary despite the daily exposure to said language.
Over time, the undeveloped habit becomes in fact, an awkward, undeveloped habit that even when called upon, forty years later, cannot sprout its wings and take flight. I recall my grandmother, whose very existence personified exemplary dignity, never uttered a curse word in my presence. She’d visibly bristle when those words were uttered and so, her example set an antithesis to that of my parents’.
Once, in 8th grade, after a difficult day at the hands of older bullies, I uttered the following words: “Leave me alone motherfu@!ers!” I don’t know where I pulled that mouthful from since my parents, despite their colorful language, never dropped the F bomb at home. I don’t know where I learned it, plus, the literal meaning of that expression was so utterly unimaginable – it shocked both me and the bullies I hurled it at. What I remember most about that incident is how the words felt in my mouth: dirty, alien, filthy, powerful.
Fast forward to my first visit home, freshman year of college. Suddenly, my folks are casually saying “fu@! this, fu@! that” at the drop of a hat. I suppose my adulthood had relaxed some untold restraint on verbal propriety they had observed, and they comfortably went about their days, peppering their language with this last frontier of curse words.
So, I took my cues from them and started using certain language for emphasis, and quite sparingly, during my conversations with them. I remember savoring each curse word before its delivery, willing it to be received by them without retribution. I knew this newfound alliance in language was fragile and unspoken, and I didn’t want my words to wear out their welcome. Indeed, it was my final rite of passage into adulthood.
Well, the habit didn’t really stick. I’m not an angel by any means and oddly enough, when I am most pissed off, I am prone to mutter three choice words in Spanish. The satisfaction derived from these three words cannot be translated, but for me, they deliver a great punch.
As a parent, I’ve carefully avoided the minefield of openly cursing in front of the kids. Unfortunately, this has caused me to have near language collisions with myself. Perhaps because parenting, at times, can be an utterly frustrating process, many times I have found myself teetering on the very edge of a choice curse word, and retreated from that very precipice, sweating but intact.
I managed to do that for nearly 8 years. This morning, an innocuous event, not even worth mentioning, led me to not only say, but to shout, the very word that we (me and my unwilling husband) have most carefully avoided: FU@!
And you know what? When I said it, it felt great. It was such a release and it perfectly expressed my frustration and anger. I am unrepentant.
I hope I don’t ever do it again.