Dear Lily June,
I’m of several minds when it comes to profanity. On the one hand, I believe in freedom of speech; I believe that you have a right to your words and that language is powerful. It’s a key to your thoughts, personality and culture, and no one can take that key away from you.
On the other hand, I also don’t believe that freedom of speech is about dropping eff-bombs like an a-hat.
As a poet, I know word-workers are old-school craftsmen. We don’t get Shakespeare’s suck-my-diction throw-downs anymore, where two servants of two warring kings or feuding family members stand in a public street and call one another a baker’s dozen worth of archaic terms for “testicle.” Part of me wishes we did. The initialed acronyms WTF or LMAO just seem to lack that “slowly remove your glove so you can smack a bitch across the face with it” appeal.
Of course, I break into a wry grin whenever Bruce Willis proclaims that his enemy has “messed with the wrong melon-farmer,” or when Samuel L. Jackson screams in exasperation, “I’m sick of all these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday through Friday plane.” Thank you, public television, and your miserably pathetic attempt to censor.
Consider this kind of approach, Lily, when you’re angry with an authority figure, like an English teacher who keeps forcing you to read more and more of that dead guy in the “don’t-lick-my-stitches” pet collar.
Creativity can make for funnier funnies than classic curses. And that’s great if the hammer hasn’t fallen onto your own big toe or smashed your own thumb like a nail made of human flesh. In a situation like that, it’s cool by me if we admit the “only lazy people fall back on profanity” party line of parents is a lie, and you go ahead and say whatever you need to say like an emotional tourniquet for the ache in your brain.
But once we’ve sewn whatever appendage it was that fell off back on, be prepared to get a bit more conversationally dainty. Or not.
I think George Carlin was a fucking genius. RIMFP, George Carlin.
[Should this link be dead by the time you encounter it, Lily, please use the internet to find the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” for a guide to the words you used to not be able to say. Considering how much cruder and/or open-minded (depending on who you are and when you were born) our culture has become today, you may be able to say all of these in random succession as a kind of modern day pledge of allegiance.]
Carlin-love expressed, I work in a college. I’ve leaned against the same walls where the cool kids/smokers leaned their “vestes de cuir.” And if these seven words are the only ones you have to say? You have nothing to say.
In “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot writes,
“There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”
Choosing when to swear is like choosing your face. My mother, your Grandma Raelyn, for instance, turns a deep shade of stop-sign when someone says the word “fart” around her, let alone “fuck.”
For members of some generations, having to hear you say the word “shit” is like having to smell you do the action. For people of some countries or cultures or religions, having to hear you say the word “damn” is like having to watch you burn their flag or book of faith.
Consider the company you’re keeping and choose, accordingly, the face that behooves you as your own lady.
I think there are words far more hurtful and haunting than the seven Carlin identifies as being most offensive to the FCC. I think when you drill down to the core of someone’s identity–where or to whom or in what colored skin they were born; how or why or to whom they pledge their love; what or how or to whom they pray their faith; what or how or why their body moves, functions and processes–and you attempt to linguistically bitch-slap someone in the soul, you are more of an asshole than whoever you’re commenting on, no matter what they’ve done.
If you ever use your words, profane or sacred, to make someone feel like anything less than your fellow human being, so help me, Lily, I’ll engage in the biggest threat in the parent’s handbook: I won’t be angry; I’ll just be disappointed.
And disappointed, coming from me, my dear, is a four-letter word.
Fuck politics and correctness; it was likely a politician who came up with the incorrect term “political correctness” to distract from the human heart of the issue. Think with care, and speak after careful reflection about who you are, what privilege(s) you consciously or unconsciously take advantage of. And when you misspeak, apologize. And when you aren’t forgiven and don’t deserve it, accept that. And be careful how and to whom you talk in the future.
That being said, there’s nothing you can say to me that’s ever going to offend me beyond the capacity for forgiveness, Lily. I love you, and you’ll always be my daughter. Anyone who gets in that way of that should prepare for a fucking shit-show to go down. I’ll end that melon-farmer.
- “Cantaloupe Melon cross section” by Sangfroid. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cantaloupe_Melon_cross_section.png#/media/File:Cantaloupe_Melon_cross_section.png
- “First Folio” by William Shakespeare – Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:First_Folio.jpg#/media/File:First_Folio.jpg