Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's the Magic Word?

I'll admit it, I'm a swearer.
Swearing and I go way back.

My first 'profane' experience was at Evette's house. I'd been amazed to have obtained permission to stay overnight, since she lived in the projects and her mother wasn't married, regularly what would have been two strikes against the idea in my parental units' eyes. I later discovered her mother had begun attending our church, and that the folks hadn't wanted to offend her. They were okay with sacrificing me in order to see another worshiper on the pew.

Evette's 9-year-old brother Timmy knew all the words, yet they were new to me. She would just laugh at me and tell me I'd learn 'later'. So besides having a fun sleepover and wishing that my mother would let me have a poster of Shawn Cassidy in my room, like Evette's mom did, I also came back home with some newfound wisdom. I just didn't know exactly how to apply it.

A week later we were at the playground after-hours with some friends. Some neighbor kids encroached on our swingset, uninvited, and it created a conflict. The discussion became increasingly more abusive and one of my friends, Lori, began to use some bad words. This was the break I'd been waiting for. As the exchange escalated, I took a deep breath and blurted out, "You're a @#$%!"

It was as if time had stopped. Lori turned to me, somewhat admiringly, and said, "Amy" (The tone you'd use if someone did something kinda evil, but really amusing...) and Kimmie, the ringleader of the Others, said, "Ohohoh.....I'm gonna TELL!!!"

She and the Others ran off, leaving the four of us sitting there. Lori and her sister Lisa were saying, "Way to go, Amy! I didn't even know you knew how to talk like that!" and laughing... but Lauren was silent for some reason. Maybe she was just jealous; she'd always been competitive. Obviously what I'd said was an impressive enough word to make heads turn. Never before had I uttered a word that had such an impact. I loved the feeling of power associated with this 'magic' word. And you could be certain... I would be using it again in the near future. I wondered why everyone didn't know about this word, and why people didn't use it more often. I mentally patted myself on the back and we all went home to dinner.

Mother was still in the kitchen cooking dinner when the phone rang. I was upstairs in the attic room, reading, my favorite thing to do. It was so peaceful up there...

"AMY!" My mother screamed, "GET DOWN HERE, IMMEDIATELY!"

What ensued was like a scene right out of the Christmas Story Movie, if you've ever seen it. My mother kept closing her eyes, and shaking her head a little, trying, no doubt to make whatever it was she wanted to say to me...just... go away. I initially had no clue what on earth she was angry about, until I heard her say she'd just been on the phone with Mrs. Besnitt....Uh HUH! Kimmie's mom! She told, (what a brat) I steeled myself for a lecture on how to be kind to our neighbors...even when they're not kind to us. Instead, Mother kept closing her eyes, and rubbing her temples, as though she had a migraine. She then began to play somewhat of a word game with me...."Sounds like....." and she'd rhyme something that did not make ANY sense.... and in between clues, she'd shake her head vigorously, with her hands waving madly around her ears, as if to shoo away something bad, like a bee that wanted to sting her.... okay (deep breath) clue.... some bird that swims in the pond.....has feathers and goes 'quack'...."Starts with....." has four letters.....

"Oh, yeah, you mean @#$%!" I said, proudly. For once I knew the answer!...Most of the time I didn't understand Mother at all and the way she talked.... Instantly her eyes bugged out behind her glasses and her face turned the color of a ripe tomato. Five seconds later I was sucking soap. I wasn't exactly sure why, but it was slowly dawning on me that Evette's brother Timmy was very, very naughty. And those 'magic' words....not so magic after all.

The interesting part was that my mother did not believe that I had used that word unknowingly; she believed that I had a secret vocabulary for my 'private life' (and we all know that ten-year-olds have quite a life behind closed doors) that had, of course, shown through on that fateful playground day, as those things often will. I could not convince her that I had not one clue what they even meant.... because Evette wouldn't tell me, the skunk! If she'd only given me a definition, I could have avoided the Zest bar. We weren't friends anymore, I decided. She and her swearing brother could take a hike. I had the runs for days, thanks to them.

Once we moved to the small Western town that was 99.9% Christian, we heard very little swearing. But the funny thing is, where there's a will, there's a way...and leave it to kids to find the way. Lillian reported to me that her friends at school would often say "Teton Dam -it!", or "Shift!" And most of the kids would say "Gol!" as in short for 'Gol-ly!'....which I thought was dumb. Other popular phrases were "Dang it!" and "Oh my heck!", accompanied by lots of 'crap' and 'crud'. "Shoot!" was another one....but when we used it my mother freaked out, claiming we were making a reference to feces. We were not; she just needed to get her hearing checked more frequently. Not being allowed to say 'Shut Up' to each other was a handicap, as well....we began to just say, "Shut....!" and that made Mother go bullistic.

When we were a little older, we'd let the occasional profane word fly, right there inside the sacred walls of our home, just to test it out, see if we could get away with it. It was always downstairs, out of earshot of the parental units. If a sibling made you mad, you could make a suggestion on where they could go. If what they were wearing looked tacky, you could tell them that it looked just like where they could go, etc. If one of them asked you where their favorite sweater was, and what did you do with it you little creep, you could again reference where they could go, followed by an 'I don't know.' You get the idea. These words were very versatile, to be sure.

For the first ten years of their lives, my children never heard me utter one foul word. I had finally at long last,mastered my tongue. I was becoming quite the domestic, and a Church lady at that, and I figured it was time to be more mellow. But having a spouse that was a stinker, the construction of two houses, and a divorce later found me to be of a different mindset....something to the tune of 'if it helps, say it!'

I actually read an article the other day that praised the benefits of it decreases blood pressure and stress....added bonuses, all. I just knew it felt I know why. Now there is scientific proof.

I have never heard my children say a curse word. If reverse psychology is a true theory; here is living proof. They've all gone the other way. But that doesn't stop them in assisting me in my creative which they are half-exasperated, half-mildly amused. My daughter told me a couple of days ago that I could stop saying, "I'm sorry" whenever I'd let one fly....that she was now used to it; no need for apologies. I wasn't sure if I should be feeling terrible about it, or grateful to have reached somewhat of a milestone in our relationship....They've even been rather supportive of my habit...enablers, if you will... One of the boys has mentioned that the word 'damaged' sounds exactly like something else, and if said in a fit of anger, it might work just as well....! Clever fellow!

Recently my daughter asked me if I was ever going to stop swearing, to which of course I replied "(very warm location)! I don't know....Teton Dam-it, someday... I just might!"

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