“Are you out of your cotton pickin’ mind?” Yes, there were still people trucking along in the 21st century who spoke in this manner, people like my 76yr old father. This radical statement was expressed after he found out I had refused chemo for my cancer diagnosis. I know deep down in his heart, he meant well. In my 37th year of life, he didn’t want to expose me to curse words.
“Hey, Amanda, remember when we weren’t allowed to say the words “dumb” or “stupid?” my younger brother Chewie asked in his ripening 30’s.
“Fuck that,” I thought, though, I couldn’t come to verbalize the actual f-word out loud for fear it might offend baby Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Shirley Temple, and the angel stabbing me in the brain with his plastic pitchfork. If my folks only aim in life was to prevent us kids to never utter a curse word like “damn”, “shit”, or “fuck” in front of them, they succeeded a million potty-mouthed midgets over. But hell knows that didn’t prevent us kids from turning into three flaming assholes.
“No, I’m not going to pay someone to use foul language in my house,” our father would explain to us kids behind the reason for not ordering the HBO channel. No, my father preferred to offer it for free straight from the sailor’s mouth.
“God damn you Lilia! I told you not to use that credit card,” we could hear my dad say from behind his bedroom wall.
“Kiss my ass,” my mother would valiantly say under her breath as she walked out their bedroom door. I can’t recall ever hearing her use a bad word in English. But when it came to her native Spanish tongue, my mother exercised curse words like Michael Phelps swimming the 200 IM in the Olympics…like a champ. “I’ve never taught you bad words,” my now 62 yr old mother would claim. “I said them, but you kids didn’t understand Spanish.” This was true, but whenever I attempted to reuse words I heard her say in Espanol like “ass” or “dick”, she’d always say “You don’t say it like that. The proper words are…”
Fortunately, as a child, I was so creative, I found my way around the despicable ban on juicy words such as “pussy” and “fag”. “Amanda, turn off the TV, go get a broom, and sweep the patio!” yelled mommy dearest from the kitchen. “Ok…Mamahead!” I’d respond. Her thinking was that it was my endearing nickname tailored exclusively for the woman who had breathed life into me. What I was really thinking the whole time was “Ok…Dickhead!” dancing with the little bad word demons on my imagination island.
I guess I have to give my folks some credit for some of my self control when it comes to cursing. “I never really hear you say bad words,” one of my college friends tried to point out to me. “Oh, it’s because I treat them like atom bombs. They work best if they are saved for the most appropriate of moments.” These “moments” could include: divorces, layoffs, and addressing people who bitch about other people who cuss. Shit, can you imagine that?