|The First Amendment is Overrated!|
(Hey Folks, here's the column that my editor at the Bergen News, Doug Hall, refused to print because it would upset the readership. All the news that's fit to print except mine. So, if I offend, please read no further. Otherwise, I'd love to hear from you.)
In 1972, George Carlin immortalized himself through his “7 Words You Can’t Say…” monologue and talk of it trickled down to the schoolyard as a topic of conversation at recess. I remember the outrage provoked by George’s monologue, but none of the older kids would let me in on what exactly those seven words were. I pleaded, I begged, I eavesdropped on the upper classes at recess. Nothing. I mean, even in my Tween years, words were my bag, man. The good, the bad, but most especially, the ugly. If only someone would tell me what they were!
Unfortunately for me, I was born into a house where swearing was less a part of the vernacular and more an inadvertent slip of the tongue. The dropping of potent potables were limited to emphasizing physical pain, as in “son of a ***** my toe!” or, to exhibit frustration “********* listen to your mother!” or, the trigger that released airbags of anger “Wipe that ******* smirk off your face right now!” There was an occasional slip of a ****, or a temperate ***-******, but nothing operatic or symphonic.
On the other hand, my friend’s mother, who was a waitress at the Fort Lee Diner, crafted curse words with the same artistic precision that Michelangelo carved his masterpiece, the Statue of David. Her accomplished and pointed tongue demonstrated extraordinary technical skill that displayed the strength of her symbolic imagination. I would spend hours at my friend’s house following her mother around, my ears the tuning fork for her *-*’s and her go **** **** ****’s that she tatted into her conversation like finely webbed heirloom lace.
So, imagine my surprise when while visiting the newsroom last week, my editor took me aside and informed me that I could not use the word **** in my columns anymore. Frankly, I don’t even remember typing ****, but it sounded like me. And I never considered **** to be an expletive especially since a priest I know regularly peppers his conversations with it. However, he said, there were complaints. People were offended. Really? Complaints? Well, I’ll be—that means somebody other than my mother is reading! (Wait. Mom, did you lodge a complaint?)
Standing there I felt like I was back in Junior year at Paramus Catholic Girls Regional High School being publicly excoriated by Sr. Lawrence wishing she’d just give me the demerit for whatever archaic rule I had violated and save the “Hell hath no fury” sermon for a Freshman. Here’s the rub: no one can curse quite like a Catholic School girl can. Some of the girls in my class could hold their own with any salty sailor; in fact, most our tongues were tinged with Tourette’s. We could profanely roll our tongues as adeptly as we could roll our skirts. And with the same minimal amount of effort.
If he thought the word **** was a profanity, he should spend an afternoon with me or any overworked, overtired, overstressed, underpaid mom on her way to pick up this kid from his friend’s house, drop that kid off at soccer, and take another kid and his friends to the movies at the same time her husband is calling to ask what she’s cooking for dinner. Better yet, stand next to a mom at the check-out line at Shop Rite when she finds out her debit card has been declined and she has 18 bags of groceries sitting in her shopping cart and her screaming toddler is poised to impale himself onto the pointed bag of frozen shoestring French fries. Or accompany a mom to Model’s and witness her reaction when while purchasing her son’s cleats, socks, and shin guards is informed by the 17-year-old sales clerk that she is no longer the Master of her Card when he announces to the entire store, “Oh great! Your card is no good!” I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to guess that “darn-it” isn’t quite the descriptive word these moms are reaching for.
So, from mom-to-mom, I apologize if I’ve linguistically offended any of you. I’m going to **** (hint: that’s the word that got me into trouble!) on a bar of LifeBoy to clean up my language. But for old times’ sake, here’s a final “*!@??%%??%??@??@?%****” to all my saucy-tongued stressed-out sisters!