never rarely swear. Part of the reason I don’t swear is that I work with children. Swearing is frowned upon when you work with children. The MAIN reason I don’t swear, however, is because I was raised in a very old fashioned home by parents who never rarely swore. As a child I didn’t even know what swearing was until I started school (where most children learn to swear), and even then I didn’t know that there was anything wrong with those words. Until I dropped the F-bomb on my mom when she was washing my hair. Not coincidentally that was also the day I discovered that I don’t care for the flavor of Irish Spring.
Swearing was taken very seriously in my family. Language as a whole was taken very seriously. My parents were wise enough to understand that how you speak can open, or close, a lot of doors in life. A creative use of language can get you what you want. Poor, uncreative use of the English language can ruin your chance at something before you have even started. People who needed to resort to swearing were simply viewed as uncreative and probably less intelligent. When I would go to a friend’s house and discover that they swore in front of their parents and that (gasp!) their parents even swore in front of me I was shocked. Soon, however, I learned that these families were not unintelligent, these families were just Catholic.
As a child I was convinced that Catholics had it made. Catholic kids could do whatever they wanted and never feel any guilt. A classmate once said to me “Well, you have to have something to confess to the priest so it might as well be this.” He then proceeded to swear a blue streak. To a teacher. According to my Catholic friends when I was growing up, Catholic kids could do ANYTHING and never feel any guilt. Also, if they were forgiven by a priest and recited a prayer a certain number of times before their parents found out, their parents couldn’t even punish them! Not only that, but the priest couldn’t even tattle on them! Not even to the police! It was the law! I was pretty sure that if you were a serial killer, you should probably make sure you were Catholic.
When I was in junior high, my friend Allie decided that it was high time I learned to swear. She put some serious effort into getting me to use words like “damn” and “shut-up”. She would say things like “You don’t have to close your eyes and flinch when you say it. Nothing’s going to explode.” I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t have the power of a “Hail Mary” to protect me. Finally Allie declared me hopeless. Honestly, I was relieved.
To this day I don’t really swear much. Yesterday Second Son heard me swear for the first time. He is 12. We were in the car driving at night. I hate driving at night. We came up to a very sharp turn in the gravel road next to our house. I may have been driving a little fast. Now, I know that there is a 90 degree curve on this road. I have driven on this road hundreds of times. That turn always surprises me. Every time. No time more than at night when the road is not only covered in slippery gravel, but also ice. Did I mention that I was possibly driving a little fast? So, as I displayed driving skills only possessed by stunt drivers and Wisconsin girls, a certain word may have escaped my lips. A word that starts with the “sh” sound and ends in the letter “t”. I’ll give you a hint: there are not two “o”s in the middle. Interesting side note: that word also is a magic incantation that will cancel out Newton’s first law and miraculously keep your minivan out of the ditch.
“Oh my gosh!” Second Son shouted. “I couldn’t even breathe! I totally thought it was all over! I mean, you swore!”
“Oh crap!” I thought, thankful for only a nanosecond that I hadn’t thought of a worse word. “He heard…” I didn’t know what to do. It was in that moment that I was transported back thirty years to the first time I heard my dad swear. Like actually swear, not just the creative almost swearing that all dads do. “Son of a biiiiiiiiiii….scuit….” I’m talking an actual swear word. Interestingly enough, the exact same actual swear word that I had just used. Interesting how history repeats itself. My dad is a smart man. He always does the right thing, so I followed his lead. I turned to Second Son and said “DON’T tell your dad. I’m serious, Dad can never hear of this, are you listening? You must never ever tell Dad!”
Second Son just rolled his eyes at me and said “Relax, I’m not going to tell Dad. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Oh yes it is. It is a big deal. It is a big deal because I’m not even Catholic.