Cuss words, swear words, foul language, it’s strange to think that letters arranged a certain way and spoken aloud can disturb peoples sensibilities. My parents were quite opposed to using foul language. At least until dad was either drunk, or had involuntarily damaged his body in some way. Then the air around him was lit up with cussing and cursing. My parents thought swearing was coarse and showed a lack of education. It was probably a belief taught to them through the same indoctrination ceremony as I experienced.
At the tender age of six I believed everyday brought the opportunity for new possibilities. My senses were constantly on the look out for new food for my mouldable hungry mind, it was as insatiable as my stomach. As a fresh faced grade one student, I had the honour of walking to school with my older sister Cheryl, she was a cool student in grade three. We didn’t really walk together per say— I kind of trailed behind her on an imaginary chain while she trotted along with her friend. Her grade three cohort was far more interesting than I.
I loved school. I was the epitome of eager beaver. Worksheets? Yay! Lets do ten! So now you know which kid I was— downright irritating to all the other kids that wanted to stay home eating puffed wheat with sugar, and running wild in their passionate youth.
The indoctrination ceremony wasn’t planned. It was initiated after a solo walk home from school. Cheryl, my exasperated keeper, may have been home sick, or taken by aliens. I can’t quite recall. What I do remember, is meandering home behind some teenagers. And these teenagers are fantastic. I would even say passionately majestic. They are using new words. Words I had never heard before. And they are so excited when they use them— such expression, such ambiance they are creating. I feasted upon new words. They made me feel clever and elderly. I put those words in my to be used soon file of my brain.
That night at supper mom and dad are discussing their day.
I feel bubbles of excitement popping inside my body. My eyes shine with excitement as I wait for a break in conversation to demonstrate my new brilliant vocabulary.
Mom turns to me and smiles, “And how was your day at school Debby?”
My eyes sparkle, “It was fucking fantastic mom!” I tout with a dramatic sweep of my arm. “Even though Shawn was a royal asshole in gym class today.” I continue on following my words up with an exaggerated grimace.
My gaze flickers from mom, to dad, and back again. I can tell they are astounded by my genius.
Mom hurdles to her feet.
I thought she was going to applaud. But no— She drags me to the bathroom by my arm. “Where did you learn words like that?” she hollers. “You are to never use those words. Terrible. I’m so disappointed in you.”
Once we arrive at the bathroom/temporary torture chamber, she turns the water on and grabs the bar of Ivory soap. She gets it wet and proceeds to shove it into my flabbergasted mouth. She is scrubbing like I am a shirt with a stain on it.
“You want to swear? That’s what happens when you swear,” she rants as she scrubs the soap in my mouth. I feel the soap grate against my teeth collecting on the backside. I gag. Bubbles go up my nose and my world is dominated by the unmistakable flavour of soap.
I choke and froth. I am like a poisoned victim in a movie.
Mom stands back and puts her hands on her hips. “I hope you’ve learned your lesson!” she fumes, and stalks out the door.
I lean over the sink and scoop handfuls of water into my mouth. I drool and foam. I pick away at the soap stuck in my teeth and cry.
Just so you know, I never indoctrinated my kids when they spoke their first swearwords aloud. Now that they’re older, sometimes they spout cuss words like truckers— and I cringe. They have no fear of Ivory soap. As for myself— Well, soap has a ridiculously distinctive and long lasting flavour. Hence my speech is quite clean.