I’ve anxiously anticipated this day (actually, yesterday), the day that my life will take a serious turn — and I don’t know, long-term, if the change is good or bad. The issue is so complex!
My grandfather was a WW II-era Marine. My mother was a bitter divorced woman practically postpartum. My sister was an angst-ridden, drug-addled teen in a big city in the early 70s. All my visits with Dad revolved around his golf games, to which I tagged along, with high-stakes players one day and dirty old men another.
This all adds up to a child whose vocabulary is rich in four-letter words, and colorful variations. Until I was 5 I thought my father’s name was S-O-B. I heard words from my sister’s mouth that I still don’t know the definitions to. My grandfather treated me to sailor talk, sort of cussing jocularity. From the golf games I heard lots of swearing and dirty jokes, which provided curse words in context.
Cussing, cursing, swearing, they are my vice, sort of my hobby. And they’re a tremendous relief valve — I’m not saying they’re healthy.
On “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” the pedantic James Lipton asks celebrities their favorite curse words. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I can’t come up with just one. I have a minimum string of three compound curses. And I let them fly.
I’ve had jobs where cursing was part of the routine. I also had a job where it wasn’t, and I found myself feeling very uncomfortable, not knowing what to say to people. I cursed as a small boy. In high school, I wasn’t into drugs but nobody could keep up with my swearing. (I do oppose public gratuitous swearing. Cussing has a place, a purpose. These kids today just don’t respect that.)
I knew when I became a dad that one day I’d have to give up swearing. At least cut back. Do it in secret. Turn my back and mumble. Sneak behind the house and cuss. Swear in the bathroom with the vent on and a window open. I knew I couldn’t let my kid catch me.
Until Sunday, Myowndaughter mimicked most words I said except swearing. I think she picks up a bad vibe and knows they’re not words to utter. Maybe because my wife tells me so, in front of Mod. Maybe because when I curse — regardless of the word, almost regardless of the tone — Duke, our border collie, heads to the opposite end of the yard, like he’s predicted an earthquake. So, I pushed it. I cursed until I got a signal.
Yesterday, I got the signal. I don’t know what I was doing, but I let loose with an otherwise innocuous, “dammit!”
It sounded so sweet when she said it.
“Hmmm. Yeah. That’s not a word I should use, Sweetheart. I should say something else when I’m frustrated.”
“Oh bother,” she said.
She’s been reading Winnie the Pooh a lot — actually, the same book, “Pooh meets Gopher,” over and over, and we read it to her. She just picked up on Pooh’s exasperation — being out of honey, being stuck in a door, being blown into a tree. She says it all the time now. Her baby doll can’t find her clothes: “Oh bother.” The horse she’s riding around the kitchen throws a shoe: “Oh bother.” She’s running late for the party: “Oh bother.”
I ‘ve evolved, from learning how to swear from some of the world’s most plagued souls to learning from a make-believe, over-stuffed, OCD bear, who lives under the name Sanders.
You’ll excuse me if I let rip one time.
Gotdammitmotherfuckingsonofabitchgotdamnfuckingpieceofshitassholefuckingpieceofshit … Damn!