Friday, November 18, 2011

This one is for the other closet trailer trash among us.

FOREWARNING: Please don't read this if you're just going to become annoyed. Life is much too short. If you are annoyed by any of the following:

  1. The Coen Brothers
  2. Samuel L. Jackson
  3. Renowned American authors whose greatest works include hand-drawn sketches of assholes... will not like this post. Go read the Bible and knit sweaters for your kittens. We should all do what we enjoy. Just sayin'.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I swear a lot.

I didn't always. And I don't do it while teaching elementary school students how to read, or while sitting in as youth advisor on Sunday to a group of mid-schoolers. (Because I don't have Tourette's Syndrome.) That said, I refuse to feel bad about it.

I'm just sort of in hiding.
-Kurt Vonnegut, from Breakfast for Champions

I secretly happen to think I can lay claim to a certain amount of crassness as the cultural contribution of my generation, and the one before, and I mean that in all sincerity, and in a way that suggests that it is every bit as valid as jazz, or women's liberation, in terms of the advancement of the human species.

Let's just put "motherfucker" right up there with penicillin in terms of human achievement.
Thank you, Samuel L. Jackson.

This proviso: Kurt Vonnegut, from whose singular style I've poached my favorite line, was the author of the great work Slaughterhouse-Five, which was peppered periodically with the aforementioned word. Vonnegut remarked, some years after its publication and after years of uproar and of attempts to ban Slaughterhouse Five from schools and libraries that "Ever since that word was published, way back in 1969, children have been attempting to have intercourse with their mothers. When it will stop no one knows."

And so on.

If you want to consider the necessity of crassness, please take a moment (while your kids are in another room) to watch this great moment from the cultural memory of Gen X:

O.K., if you're not finding this funny, I'm thinking you should stop now, and wait til I post about something else, because I'm probably going to start really irritating you now. I also think this is really funny. (You really should listen to it. At least if you were a teenager in the late eighties or very early nineties before rap and metal ever crossed genre. But not a teenager who liked the New Kids on the Block.)

So, despite all the evidence you've just seen, and although both my parents swore freely, but not prolifically, in front of me, on the assumption that I should be able to determine when it was appropriate to swear and when not, I was not a foul-mouthed kid. They were right. I did not seem to feel compelled to swear. If anything, I felt superior to my mom, who called bad drivers "turkeys" and worse. So, I didn't swear a lot, and never got in trouble for swearing that I can recall.

Until I became a teenager. 

And I just fell in love with crassness. Because I was angry and the "in the face"ness of crass humor just appealed to me. And it still does.

If you take all the "fuck" peppered generously through Eddie Izzard's epic comedic performance of Dress to Kill, which is otherwise largely inoffensive, it isn't as funny. Being "awful" just isn't as funny as being "fucking awful", even if it is said with an English accent. 

In fact, the Brits do the word "fuck" better than anyone else. They make it sound sort of...sophisticatedly frank.

Americans do a better job with "motherfucker", really.

Periodically, my secret life as a foul-mouthed white trash peon has come into conflict with my public life as a Slightly Hipper and More Educated version of June Cleaver, which is what I am attempting to project at work. (That or the Enlightened Secular Spiritual Powerhouse that I am pretending to be at church.)

These are some instances of that, all with relation to my offspring:
  • Fourth grade (circa 2007), my son Rowan, gets hurts on the playground swings at his school, apparently due to an other child's stupidity, and remarks (and again, he does not swear any more often than I did as a child): "So-and-So, that fuckin' HURT!" This gets worse. The teacher on duty, who happens to be pretty strict, marches up to Rowan with the child he has sworn at, who has now told on him, and says, "WHAT did you say, Rowan?", to which my highly literal child faithfully repeats EXACTLY what he said and ends up being written up for disrespect to an adult for having repeated it to her. And I am forced to apologize for her over email for his offense. Whoops.
  • Mikalh, in kindergarten, while going to school two doors down from me,as I am working in kindergartner as an aide at this time, loses at a game he is playing with other kids, under the supervision of a parent during a class party, and yells "GOD DAMN IT!" loud and clear into a classroom of parents and kids. All of which I find out about while still at work. Joy.
  • Backing up a bit...My son, Mikalh, who is four at the time, says to me after overhearing me remark that something (most likely something he overheard his dad and me saying about politics) is "stupid", "Mom, you should not say STUPID. And also....(he looks at me, doe-eyed, with the indulgence of a patient and loving teacher) shouldn't say FUCK."
I am happy that now two of my children are old enough to swear or not at their own discretion and have learned most of the popular swear words without any of my help (thanks to Lonely Island, their friends with more permissive parents and the internet), so I don't have to be so cautious. I still try to avoid repeating anything I think Mikalh is likely to enjoy echoing while attending first grade, lest I have to explain myself, especially anything that could be construed as hurtful.

But there are slips, by adults and older children. 

The other day, Rowan, while trying on his brand new, awesome shiny black dress shirt, tie and slacks (in which he looks like a very blond junior Mafioso), joked "I'm sexy." Naturally, Mikalh then demanded to know what sexy meant, and Rowan, having been caught, said "Ummmmm, it means you look nice." 

"You look sexy, Rowan.," Mikalh announced then admiringly. GREAT. I can hardly wait for him to tell his teacher she looks "sexy".

Hopefully, he won't, and also no one will overhear me, alone in my classroom, saying,

"Where the mother-fuck did I put the Dr. Suess stickers?"

The butthole image is from All the videos are from YouTube. 

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Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License