To my ultimate shame, I have become the very thing I would have viciously sneered and snickered at more than a decade ago.
I have become a man who is uncomfortable with swearing.
And like most men, I have my wife to blame.
I remember the moment when the worm started to turn. My wife and I were on our third date. Things between us were still adventurously strange and new. On a whim, I aimlessly took her on a nighttime jaunt to Knott’s Berry Farm. Sitting on a bench underneath Montezuma’s Revenge, I began spouting a deluded rant designed to dazzle her with my impressively inquisitive mind. Halfway through my rehearsed soliloquy, she serenely, yet sternly, looked into my eyes and asked “Can you please stop with all that cursing? All that cursing … it hurts my ears.”
This was the first time I experienced my wife’s well-worn “iron hand inside the velvet glove” approach. If it was anyone else saying this, I would have been offended enough to, more likely than not, leave her at the amusement park to find her own way home. But I was so taken aback by the gentle and sweet way she
demanded asked, I could not help but comply.
(I’ve just realized right now, how foolishly I revealed to you, my dear reader, the fundamental interpersonal dynamics behind my marriage. Well, as long as you agree not to tell her, we can go on keeping this little secret among ourselves. Thank you beforehand for not somehow not using this bit of information against me in the near future.)
The weird thing is that her admonition wasn’t the most devastating thing she said that evening. (That would be her stated hatred for the classic “Pulp Fiction” and how she walked out of the theater halfway through that movie. That was, admittedly, a very hard pill to swallow.)
To my amazement, I not only stayed on that bench, but became even more enthralled with her. She was a breath of fresh air to counter the torturously self-involved preoccupations that filled my head. To hold her interest, I knew I had to immediately do two things:
- Stop swearing
- Be prepared to watch any Quentin Tarantino film alone
The second bullet point proved much easier to accomplish.
Giving up my potty mouth was one of the hardest things I ever had to. I loved swearing so much, a friend wrote in my tenth grade high school yearbook, “Ken, I’ve never heard you say a sentence that didn’t have the ‘f’ or ‘s’ word in it.” I cannot understate how much I swore. I cherished those words; they provided the sturdy foundation that anchored any worthwhile thought that graced my mind.
I was the junkie. Cursing was my addiction. And at that precise moment, I went cold turkey.
Years later, I still find myself, in times of great stress, ready to lapse with the occasional ‘f’ word preceding any sentence. Now that our daughter is graduating high school, I’m a little more unguarded with my unclean thoughts and uncouth language. If she can drive a car, I rationalized, she can listen to me talk about random things like anal as a discussion point. I still have to watch myself around my son. Any little utterance is a crack in the doorway that he’s more than eager to exploit and blow wide open. “Daddy says it! Why can’t I?” would be his battle cry to Mommy, and I think I’ve already established the need to keep unpleasant things away from Mommy.
To be perfectly honest, when I do swear these days, the words feel rather unnatural leaving my mouth. My cursing seems premeditated and forced. Much like my writing or singing style, it comes off as an obviously desperate affectation. Something unreal. Something untrue.
The simple truth? I’ve forgotten how to swear proficiently. I used to be quite good at it. Now I can’t cuss worth doo doo.
See what I mean?