Sunday, May 4, 2008

I swear.

Like any respectable mother, I spend most of my free time reading other mom blogs. One of things I try to take note of are the commonalities among us. And while the differences at times can be as trivial as they are abundant, one observation remains constant. What the fuck is with all the cursing?

You can go to most any other mom blog and get your daily dose of the shits, fucks, and asses any one could ever hope for and so much more. While I’m far too big a fan to raise an eyebrow, it still strikes me as something worth noting. For generations men have been able to kick up their heels and guiltlessly let the expletives fly. However, for a woman to curse (nevermind a mom) it was considered verboten. After all, what kind of a mother would have such a foul tongue?

The primary reason that it remains more offensive for us moms to curse is that we are more likely to be in the presence of small children and small children, so it is believed, are highly impressionable. But before we get on our soapboxes about the link between feminism and free speech perhaps we should consider the evidence for why it has remained taboo for women (and especially mothers) to use profanity.

One of the arguments for why profanity remains taboo is that society suffers when things like casual sex and violence become more common within a culture. And it can be shown that acceptance of new modes of common language serve as a barometer for societal trends. For instance, if saying the word fuck as in, “what the fuck?” falls from the lips as easily as saying, “excuse me?” is this a sign that the act is becoming more casual too? Is our abundant use of expletives in our daily lives a symptom of a disintegrating civilization or one of the causes? And are we as moms adding to the social degradation of our offspring by making profanity less of a taboo? Some would say YES.

For me, freedom of speech is the hallmark of our society. I would do nothing to infringe upon anyone’s right of expression. But being such an advocate of free speech may make it harder for me to use the argument on my kids, you shouldn’t talk like that, when clearly I talk like that. And while talk is cheap there does appear to be some correlation between a potty mouth and a potty attitude.

I’m not going to deny the fact that I curse in front of my children, it happens. No job is more intense and hence more frustrating than parenting. And cursing having its primordial roots has always been a natural way of expressing oneself when one is put through intense situations. This is why I am not the slightest bit surprised by the amount of cursing that moms do--not at all actually.

Even though I am typically a proponent of lifting any irrational taboo, I cannot help but wonder if this rock is worth turning over. Will there come a day when I regret being so open, so liberal, and so free with my patterns of speech around my kids? Am I ready for my children to use their right to free speech as passionately as I use mine? And if the answer is no, then isn’t that hypocritical?

Wouldn’t I have to be somewhat of a lunatic (or an assiduous follower of the bible) if I thought it was “okay” for the rules to change based on the perceived threat of my authority? I will, as they say, “practice what I preach.” But, I’d be lying if I said I did not wonder about the consequences. And since I have never been one to blindly obey authority and definitely not someone who uses silly sugary substitutes for expletive phrases (sorry but “Oh Sugar!” is NOT the same as “Oh Shit!”) the idea that my kids are not going to hear authentic, organic, preservative-free profanity in my house is highly improbable.

The other night after I asked my son to give me his blanket and he said without hesitation, “But then I’m gonna freeze my ass off.” Despite the fact that we were both hysterical after the exchange, me because of the shock, him because of my reaction, I walked away thinking, is this going to be as funny when he’s fifteen?


southernsuds said...

My friends and I have discussed this topic several times. I swear but try not to in front of the kids as it may be cute for little Johnny to say "fuck" when he's 3 and at home, but maybe not so much if he's at lunch with Grandma. (Saw this happen with my niece...NOT GOOD.)

When I do swear, it's a punctuation mark that I am very upset. I think using curse words every other breath dilutes the message and the emphasis one is trying to express by using them. If I am swearing, it's serious and the words come across with more force as the people who know me know that I don't just spit them out in casual conversation.

Plus, if I am around someone who peppers every sentence with curse words, I start to question their intelligence. I know that sounds harsh, but I wonder why their vocabularies aren't broader? Can't they come up with any other adjectives (or nouns or verbs)? It just doesn't impress me that someone can swear like a sailor, as anyone can do that.

Louise Ann Donahue said...

You bring up some interesting points. I recall when my son was so proud of his recent potty training success that he announced in front of his grandmother that he needed to "go take a piss", grandmother nearly dropped her teeth! He should have said , "I need to go biffy" as I did when I was his age. Of course, I thought it was adorable, but I found my pearlies at a similar elevation from my mouth (ground zero) when later the same kid asked "Where the fuck is my Spiderman Cape?" We have to face this reality.

womaninawindow said...

WTF? You really freaken think so? Well, I'll be farg-ed! I never thought about it...Actually, I think about it a lot. I swear in moderation around my kids and teach my kids that there are appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. I don't expect them to drink coffee or drive a car, or wear a bra or dye their hair (yet). They're only 6 and 7. When it is appropriate swearing will be ok. When will it be appropriate? When they're smart enough to edit themselves, the lil f'ers...