On Cussing

I got a comment the other day on that Out the Other End post saying, “You know, sometimes I don’t care for your blog because I try not to curse, and reading salty language makes me start using it. But posts like this remind me why I keep reading. I am farther along the motherhood path than you are, and can relate to every word of what you have written– curse words especially.”

I am not at all offended by this, I feel it’s a tactful statement of a personal preference. In fact, I am flattered that my writing has overshadowed the gap in style and that the commenter has persevered with this blog.

But, it did remind me that we are due for an explanation in the cussing department.

I love swearing. I have always cursed like a shore-bound sailor, and I don’t see any good reason that mothering should stop me. In fact I see every reason to keep at it– mothering is definitely the most frustrating, challenging, infuriating job I have ever done; creating daily, dire occasions for the work fuck. Swearing is a way for me to blow off dangerous steam, with minimal damage. Like beating up a pillow. It’s a safety valve.

I have tried to ease up on swearing in front of my kids, and have only twice slipped up and sworn at them (a line I am not proud to cross). It has been mirrored back at me, but surprisingly little. Our 4yo occasionally says damn, as in “Where is that damn crayon?” and one time she said, when I suggested she roll up a tangled rope, that it was “all fucked up.” Otherwise, although I have never explained it to her, she seems to miraculously understand that those second level cuss words are for grownups.

On this blog, I swear for punctuation and for fun, as well as for release. I have always been well aware that by using those second level words, I am cutting out a large swath of my potential audience. Some folks, like the commenter above, could probably excuse or even appreciate a few well placed curse words, but take offense at my extremely liberal usage, wondering (I imagine) if it’s really necessary to use the F word in a biscuit recipe for example.

On one hand you could say, don’t I want my “message” to reach the largest possible number? Why cut anyone out? Is it worth losing readers over a few words I could mostly do without? I would argue that the internet is a big ole place and there is no shortage of squeaky clean mom blogs out there, with very good content, that appeal to wider audiences. I myself want to carve out a small space where freaks like me, who do not see the irony in wholesome loving mothers cussing up a blue streak, can gather and feel less freakish.

Isn’t that what the internet is for? Gathering disparate folk together in cyber space, an infinite number of venues for an infinite number of freaks, proving to ourselves in a backwards way that we are not so motherfucking alone?

25 thoughts on “On Cussing

  1. I’m going to speak up (for the first time, I think) in favor or cussing.

    I’m not really your intended reader. I’m not a stay at home mom. I’m not a mother, and honestly never intend to be. Half the time I want to return my dog because she’s too much trouble; I don’t want to contemplate what I’d be like with a kid.

    But in other ways, your blog really resonates with me. I just turned 30, grew up in a rural area (the county had 1 stop light) and moved to a city. I’m trying to define which assumptions from my childhood still apply and how to integrate them with the new person I’m becoming in a place that has different rules and expectations of where I grew up.

    I also really respect the way you acknowledge “I made choice A. That means I can’t make choice B. And it really fucking sucks. And it really really sucks hind tit that I’m not supposed to whine about not being able to do choice B; because I made choice A”

    The swearing in your blog is not, to me, over used. It could be trimmed. However, the tone in your blog would be hurt by over trimming; and the tone is what draws me back.

  2. I love your salty posts! I do not swear terribly much, but nothing feels better than to let it fly now and then; especially when i’m about to boil over. When I read your posts and get to the well placed “safety valve” I can feel exactly what you are conveying and that makes reading all the more enjoyable. Don’t change a thing!

  3. Please keep writing in your fucking awesome style! Perfect prose Mommy blogs make me ill and I think they must be on some heavy drugs.

  4. I’m glad my comment came across in the spirit it was intended. You absolutely have the right to express yourself in whatever manner works for you. But I’m gonna stop reading the other comments for today.

  5. I understand where you are coming from Jessica and I think you expressed it well. CJ, as always a well considered and eloquent response and explanation. Thank you to both ladies.

  6. I am an infrequent commenter on any blog I read, but I really did identify with that post you wrote yet other day. So much of my own experience of motherhood is about my hopes and dreams of what I would ‘do’ with my kids, what kind of a family we would be, coming up against the cold hard reality of the day to day slog. I completely understand how you lost it, and do hope that your man understands you, and that you can work out some arrangement which works for all. Part of the problem is I think the profusion of happy family, happy mother, beautiful children blogs out there. I do like yours because it is so much closer to the reality I feel (and I have never sworn a great deal in my life, until I had kids, and now there is a great deal of it, though mostly under my breath, and my children are by all objective measures, great, but there are 3 of them, and two of them are 3 yr old twins, and they drive me completely insane sometimes).

  7. Fuck is my favourite swear word, I try not to say it in front of the kids and for the most part I succeed, but of course, I only say it when frustrated/ ranting/ annoyed and lacking in control! So I say freakin’ instead, like that’s any better, or friggin’, just as bad! It’s the sentiment, really. I am learning to control my wicked tongue! I have noticed my daughter will say ‘What the?’ (I say it mostly because that saying was on a popular TV show here that I once watched), and of course she doesn’t realise that the whole sentence is ‘What the fuck?’ and again, even if she doesn’t say the F word, it’s the sentiment and everbody knows what the full sentence is!

    *sigh* I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I rarely drink alcohol, I eat well, I dress normally, I play nice with the other parents, I raise my children well, I am a great nurse, I garden, cook, read and do housework … but I do swear. Mostly it is only my husband who hears me… and as long as it’s not in front of the kids, he finds it amusing. Sometimes I swear in my blog, because I blog like I think/ talk!

    From one freak to another!

    1. Oh, and while we are discussing swearing, I say cunt on occasion too. That was always a bad, awful word to me (really disliked it), but I was reading a book once which referred to vaginas/ vulvas/ the whole kit & kaboodle, as cunts, and it made it seem like a normal word, rather than a shocking insult. I am a bit more desensitized to it now. (It’s better than ‘Lady Gardens’!) This has particular shock & amusement value to my husband, who knows I am serious when I use it, but then, he laughs at me all the same!

  8. See, all these ladies up there that swear occassionally? oooooh god, not me. I don’t swear anywhere near as much as I used to, but I used to work in a factory with all men over 30 when I was a mere 21 yrs old. So hearing me speak back then was akin to “well I fucking took that fucking cunt of a fucking bag to the fucking truck and the cunt of a fucking thing fell off the fucking back”. I kid you not. So that said, sometimes I don’t even know you’ve sworn in a post, because I got to a point years ago where it sounds normal to me, like any verb and noun that are interchangable!

    I have, for the most part, got it to an acceptable level, of only around other grown ups and if it is around the kids it’s because the frustration is up to eleventy percent over normal. But I cannot tell you the relief I have, the sense of acceptance, if I am talking to someone who drops the F bomb in to a conversation. It means I can relax a little more, knowing that this person is going to feel ok if I accidentally slip up and drop it myself. Which is quite honestly a potential outcome about 80% of the time if I am relaxed and enjoying a conversation!

    Now, to work on the blasphemy, that I would like to do. Cause I’m pretty sure I hear Christians and Catholics crying in their sleep at night because I still say Jesus Christ more often than the Pope!

  9. Stephen Fry on swearing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_osQvkeNRM


    And The Kid was never restricted in what she was allowed to say, but I explained to her about some words causing offense once she started talking, and she got the point. While there were a few slipups because she was unaware that 'hell' and 'damn' counted as swears (for which I got in huge trouble from her, after she realised – I should have told her explicitly that those counted, and she was embarrassed at having used one of them in front of someone's grandma) (at the age of 4) – contrariwise, she used to tell me off for using non-sweary but offensive language in public, for instance, 'stupid', 'idiot', 'blood', 'eyeballs', and a few others I've forgotten. Pretty sensitive and aware for a tiny.

    It's important to use the appropriate word when you're expressing yourself. I tend to get more shit from people for using big words than swear words, but either criticism pisses me off.

  10. I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now and appreciate your honesty and forthrightness about the hardest job in the world, mothering, which comes with no instruction manual and little support. Occasionally it takes some well-placed profane punctuation to grasp the true emotion of the moment. I’m sure Steinbeck, Nabokov, Wharton, Woolf and all the rest knew the same words and would throw their heads back with laughter and joy reading them, as I do.

    As to your last couple of blogs, do you have time in your life to be innovative about childing? Could you create some sort of granny-exchange through your church or community senior center where the granny watches your kids while you garden (or whatever) in exchange for a few of the freshly grown foods? Imagination is a powerful tool. Cheers!

  11. Oh, do I cuss. Sometimes I think, “boy, do I ever need to watch it”. Then I stop, or hold back and my kids wonder what is wrong with me. Am I sick, depressed or worse yet they wonder what have they done wrong. My kids love that I have a salty tongue. They want me to cuss! So, I try to make it easier on all of us and
    cuss. I have always been a cusser. In my teenage years and young adulthood, when I still lived with my parents, my cussing started to come alive. My mom would get so mad at me and say I sounded like a “fish wife”. She said this over and over again. She was a mild cusser, so I am not sure where I got this from, but I can see that sometimes, it appears, I am definitly passing this on to my kids. My 16yr old and my 15 yr old teenagers can let a good one fly every now and then. The “f” bomb credit will have to go to my husband. That one I save for more quiet times when I am really ticked off(I try to hide in my closet or garage for that one). Well, here is to cussing and how happy it makes everyone, here in my house, that I cuss.

  12. I’m not generally much of a cusser, but I’m also not generally bothered by well-placed “colorful” language. I tend to think it’s a perfectly reasonable way to add emphasis; replacing all adjectives with “f-ing”, though, tends to annoy me, mostly because it’s so repetitive. There are so many wonderful words in English – what a shame to pare it down to a handful of f-ing nouns!

    I had my own breakdown last month, one long in coming. Last year was such a struggle as I tried to do the impossible. Extra frustration: knowing on some level that it is impossible but still feeling like I had to try. There seems to be a pervasive cultural sense that you are failing as a mother if you aren’t totally thrilled to be spending all your time with your kids, who wear cute hand made clothes, engage in endless craft projects, eat totally organic meals, and say the most amazing things. Oh, and in addition to being the mother in this scenario, you also should have some form of gainful employment, preferably one that is Important and Powerful.

    When it’s summed up, any reasonably intelligent person would say, Of course, that’s impossible. But it hasn’t stopped me from trying. And hating myself when I fail.

    So, thanks, CJ. Thanks for being honest about your breakdowns. And the cussing. May I be brave enough to do the same.

  13. Hey CJ! God, I’ve been in a funk lately. Your post the other day, about not feeling like being a mama was so spot on, I wanted to cry (yes, hormones are very much involved at this point). In fact, I’ve been so over momma-ing that I have been reading your posts on my phone, totally annoyed that my babies won’t let me just sit at the computer and zone out. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that. And also that I love a fellow mom that can drop an eloquently-placed f-bomb every now and then.

    Glad you’re back ~D

  14. I rarely comment twice, but this feel the need! My last one was a quote from the gloriously infantile and ridiculous south park movie. Low brow as it gets! Yet if you watched the Stephen Fry link, there is an eloquence to swearing with panache, and it does have the function of blowing off steam in a safe way, as you say. It is used by every class of people, in every language on this planet. I love reading the comments on this blog almost as much as the posts themselves. And there’s clearly a lot of people relating to what you have to say CJ. There’s so much seriousness and earnestness in this life that it can sometimes feel like we are going to disappear up our own backsides from trying to be perfect, good and saintly. It’s good to bring everything back to the comical earthly gutter level sometimes as we need to dance in both to be really whole. I wrote a post about this myself and quoted Oscar Wilde “We all have our feet in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. I like a bit of a high brow/low brow mash up meself!

  15. I think there is also a difference between US and UK – damn here is nothing NOTHING – and I find it strange that Americans have a problem with it. Ah well – difference is good and all that.

  16. If the two of us ever end up single, we should probably move in together and homestead and say “fuck” around the kids while telling them not to, because clearly we are fucking soul mates.

    I had no idea why I cuss so much on my blog. Just seemed like the thing to do. But the reasons you stated are precisely what my neurotic subconscious evidently concluded, because when I read this I was all “oh, yep. that’s right. That’s what’s up.”

    Come to California. We’ll cuss together.

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