I’ve always been blessed with a shockingly good memory. For instance, one time when I was in my mid-twenties, I shocked my mom by describing the home we lived in until I was three. I mean, I remembered the exact layout of every room and closet. “What else do you remember from that age?” she asked, curious to know what kind of stuff stuck in my head. Well, I remembered finding an axe handle in the field behind our house, I remembered waiting for a new couch to be delivered, and I remembered the first time I dropped the f-bomb.
I have a brother who is six years older than me, and when my younger brother was born, a lack of space forced my older brother and I to share a room together. Kids being kids, I remember being picked on and messed with a lot (yes, even when I was three). For instance, I’d be in bed trying to go to sleep, and my brother would look out the window and say, “Hey, look! Fireworks!” I’d sprint to the window just in time for my brother to say, “Oh, too bad. They stopped right before you got here.” And then this would repeat every five minutes for the next hour. Typical stuff for brothers.
One evening, as I was laying in bed, my brother began taunting me relentlessly. I remember getting very frustrated and although I had a very large vocabulary for a three year old (I’d already learned how to read), I simply didn’t have the words to accurately portray my feelings for my brother at the time. So I started calling him anything I could think of. “You… you… you… dog! You… cat! You… duck!”
Once I said the word “duck” my brother stopped and looked at me kind of funny. “What did you say?” Aha! Something about that word stopped the torment and maybe, just maybe, did a bit of damage! “You duck! You’re a duck! Quack, quack, quack!” My brother laughed at this, and although I sensed that I was missing something, I pressed on with the attack. “You duck! You’re a duck! You duck! You… Buck! You Cuck! You Duck! You… Fuck!”
Bingo! That was the word I was looking for! My brother withdrew from battle and ran out of the room. As I sat there, wondering at this new word I’d found, my brother ran to get reinforcements. Seconds later, I was being grilled by my parents. “Where did you learn that word?” they kept asking. Well, I wouldn’t have stumbled across it if it weren’t for my brother, so I told them that he taught it to me. I may have forgotten the f-bomb if they had just dropped everything right then and there, but now this magical word had caused my brother to get in trouble! How awesome was that?
Of course my parents explained to me that I was never to use that word because it is a Naughty Word, and being a fairly obedient child at that age, I deferred to their judgment. At least I did until roughly the age of eight, when bad words began to be puzzled over, if not used with reckless abandon quite yet. The words “shit” and “ass” were easily comprehended, but the f-word remained elusive. “My brother says the f-word is when you punch someone in the balls,” said a classmate. “No,” said another, “my brother said it means shit times a million.” My home was 200 yards from the elementary school and also 200 yards from the public library, which I spent tons of time in. Being the enterprising sort, I decided to go there after school and look it up.
“Guys!” I told everyone in the playground the next day. “The f-word means a guy puts his wiener inside of a girl’s… thing.” This was met with reactions ranging from shock to disbelief. “Her thing? What thing?” asked one of my friends. “I have sisters,” said another. “They don’t have wieners, they have pussies.” “Pussies!?!?” It was a hotly discussed topic for the remainder of the day. Finally, when the school day was over, I led them over to the library so we could figure it all out, once and for all. I was like the Pied Piper and Larry Flynt, rolled into one.
I pulled a dictionary out, and while everyone was looking at the definition, I went and got a book on anatomy. The dictionary definition made a kind of sense, but the illustrations we found in the anatomy book were baffling. “What? My sister doesn’t have one of those things!” “Well, not on the outside. But on the inside she does.” “Where? In her butt?” Meanwhile, another enterprising classmate had hit the card catalog and came back with drawing of the act in question which, although it got the general idea across, lacked the detail we can now find with a simple Google search. A heated debate ensued.
Finally, the librarian, the mother of a classmate who was (luckily for him) not present, decided to see what it was that had so thoroughly captured the imagination of a table full of eight year old boys. I don’t know what she expected to find, but it certainly wasn’t this:
- A dictionary open to the definition of the word “fuck” which was being read aloud when she walked up.
- Another dictionary opened to the page defining “intercourse”
- An anatomy book open to a page illustrating a vagina
- A book open to an early 1900’s drawing of a couple engaged in missionary position style intercourse
Our lesson was over. We were sent home with a note to our parents explaining the events of the afternoon, which we all wisely discarded.
Soon enough, I reached that age where curse words were trotted out at every possible opportunity, which is to say whenever adults were not around. “No fucking way is AC/DC a better fucking band than fucking Journey!” “Yes fucking way! What the fuck is fucking wrong with you?” It was the soundtrack of a large portion of my youth. Of course, you couldn’t “go blue” during class, or at the dinner table, or anything. Good grades and good behavior aside, “I don’t want to eat my fucking beets” was a ticket straight to your room for a long period of time, and we knew it. And so we all developed filters that allowed us to seamlessly and instantly switch from an expletive-laden discourse worthy of dock-workers and vagrants, to a G-rated version of the same when a parent walked into the room.
Me: Jesus, have you seen fucking Jill recently?
Friend: Fuck yes I have! When did her fucking tits get so fucking big?
Me: I don’t fucking know, but I’d certainly like to…
Mom: (walks through room)
Me: …give her a call and see if she’s doing anything this weekend.
Friend: Oh, cool. Jill is really cute, and really nice to boot.
Mom: (leaves room)
Me: And then I’m gonna try to get my fucking hands on her fucking rack!
Friend: A-fucking-men to that!
The only time in my life when the filter wasn’t functioning was when I was in college. My usage of the the f-bomb was approaching the frequency of spaces in your average sentence. “You want to get fucking stoned before we fucking go to the fucking bar, or fucking after?” And what with Teaching Assistants, who were only a few years older, running freshman classes, there was very little reason to ever temper our language. “I don’t fucking get that formula. How the fuck do I solve for x if I’m looking at a fucking polynomial like that?”
When I came back home from my first semester, my mom picked me up at a shopping mall where a Greyhound bus had dropped me off. Since Christmas was fast approaching, we took the opportunity for me to buy some gifts for the family. “Well, how were finals?” she asked.
“Oh, you know how it fucking is. They last three fucking hours, and by the time you’re fucking done you don’t know if you aced or failed the fucking thing. Who fucking knows?” As I was saying this, a part of my brain was watching in horror. “What are you fucking doing, you fucking moron?” it asked me. “This is your fucking mother!”
My mom gave me a kind of sideways look, but otherwise said nothing. My filters went back up after that. And they’ve largely stayed intact ever since. Once you begin working to pay your way through life, you learn very quickly that saying things such as, “Ok, class, welcome to the first fucking day of kindergarten!” tend to put the brakes on any career aspirations you might have.
Of course, when you have children, your filters expand so that even on your home turf, you don’t let the profanity fly until after bedtime. “Ok! Nighty-nighty-night sugar-lump! Daddy wuvs you! Sleep tight!” (closes door) “Thank fuck that’s over with! I am so fucking sick and fucking tired of Thomas the fucking Tank Engine!”
People used to get really worked up over the f-word, but frankly I don’t see that happening much anymore, outside of funerals and such. It’s been used so much, so prevalently, that it’s been robbed of all meaning. Its most common usage is not to denote sexual intercourse, but to denote emphasis, or put another way, it denotes fucking emphasis.
But you know what is going to be awesome? When the kids have left the house and I no longer have to work, I am going to be a fucking f-bomb machine. All. The. Time. Because not only can the elderly get away with murder, but what’s anyone going to do to me if I prefer to sprinkle my dialogue liberally with f-bombs? “Hey, have I ever fucking told you fucking kids about life before fucking computers? We had to fucking spank it to lingerie models in the Sears & Roebuck catalog! Hey, where the fuck are you taking my fucking grandkids?”
Ok, so maybe I’ll still need a fucking filter or two.