The irreversibility of the effects of cursing around my kid was enough to give me pause. And even though I couldn’t find any hard-and-fast proof that my baby is going to emerge from the womb sounding like a pint-sized Sarah Silverman, once called to my attention, all those fucks emerging from my mouth started to sound unduly harsh. And worse, I started fearing that my gleeful use of profanity was really just verbal laziness. I curse because it’s fun, but also for extra emphasis. When every other word is unprintable, those words lose their significance.
I decided on an experiment: Could I cut down on my cursing for a month? My husband suggested that every time I used profanity, I had to buy him a Blu-ray DVD. I also briefly considered a good, old-fashioned swear jar.
But I started with a kind of mindfulness exercise. I tend to speak incredibly quickly, and so for four weeks, I tried to become my own network-TV style, time-delayed censor while talking aloud. Considering I am so pregnant that I need a pulley system to sit in the upright position, I knew quitting cursing entirely would be an uphill battle. The mindfulness experiment would accomplish two things: It would help me distinguish between necessary and excessive cursing, and it would begin training my not to curse as such an automatic response—the better to curb it around the babe.
I started the experiment at a wedding of an old college friend. It was easy not to curse there, not just because it was an entirely joyful occasion, but also because I was fully comfortable. I’ve known these people for over a decade, and I feel accepted by them fairly unconditionally—which made me realize, embarrassingly, that even though I’m 30, I still use cursing to sound badass. This is vaguely pathetic, and I’d like to stop this variety of expletive use.
Keeping it clean became much more difficult the day my husband and I got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the West Side Highway because of a biker parade. Seriously. As we were shepherded into two lanes to watch the bikers ride by with a police escort, I felt entirely comfortable muttering to my husband, “What. The. Fuck.” I truly believe that even the most devout Mormon would permit himself a “flipping” when faced with traffic-related agita—even when babies are involved. This kind of frustration-related outburst can stay.
On my next DoubleX Gabfest appearance, I spoke more slowly and clearly than I usually do. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time that a Gabfest I’ve been on did not get an “explicit” tag on iTunes. But honestly I sounded a little constipated. Part of the fun of those appearances is the exuberance that goes along with a heated conversation. When you’re taking such pains to stifle yourself, something is lost along the way. To punctuate a rousing debate—which I doubt I will be having with my nonverbal baby—cursing can be a useful tool.
Even though my month-long experiment in mindfulness is over, I am still doing my best not to curse. (All bets are off during labor, though.) I don’t think swearing is a scourge, but I really want my daughter to be able to understand the context of expletives before she starts using them. It took me three decades to figure it out for myself, and I hope she’s quicker than her mama is.
Though I don’t kid myself that I can control everything that her lil’ ears take in, not cursing around her is one small thing I can manage. Will I be able to prevent myself from laughing the first time she says something like, “Oh shit, I slipped”? I’m not a fucking saint.