Swearing — 2022

My computer went poof!  The lights went out, the screen went blank and there was silence from its hardwired cerebral nerve centre.  Meanwhile, in the real world, there was much unplugging and plugging, tapping and swiping, even shaking and banging – the usual human response to electronic misdemeanors.  Plus there was a torrent of obscenities that rose in the air, formed a dark, darker, darkest cloud and is now floating somewhere over the Pacific.  No, it didn’t do me any good to shout my way through a vulgar vocabulary I’ve collected over half a century but … and it’s a big but …  I felt better.  That’s what swearing does.  It makes you feel better.  Unfortunately, like most things the millennials and their progeny have gotten their mitts on, in the 21st century, swearing is being ruined.

I’m old enough to remember when swearing was an art form, a verbal quest to find words that expressed the primitive soul that lurks inside all of us.  In those days, people generally didn’t swear in polite society.  Swearing was reserved for exasperation, frustration, anger, the end of the argument – all the most primitive emotions.  People swore when the pudding boiled over, or the neighbour wouldn’t listen to reason, or the cat crapped on the carpet.  Swearing was reserved for those special times when ordinary words just didn’t cover it.  It released the tension, so we didn’t toss the pudding across the kitchen, punch the neighbour or kill the cat.  These words were forbidden, and so, with one broken taboo, we became badasses.  We stood toe-to-toe with life’s evil fortunes and refused to be bullied.  Then it was over.  We metaphorically washed our mouth out with soap and carried on.

Unfortunately, these days, swearing is used as punctuation.  In the ordinary course of conversation, it’s splashed around like ketchup on a redneck’s breakfast.  It literally doesn’t mean anything anymore.  It’s lost its punch.  When you call your best friend a bad bitch on a daily basis, what do you call her when she actually is one?  And that’s why the millennials spend every waking hour offended.  They have no way to release the emotional pressure.  Here’s the deal.  When I trip on the stairs and bang my shins, I send out a wave of invectives to the world, from the person who chose to live on the second floor (me) to the carpenter who built the offending structure.  Millennials can’t do that.  They’ve already used their strongest words describing the latte they had at lunch and there’s nothing left for when real problems happen.  So — when life comes along and pees in their porridge, there’s not a damn thing they can do about it.  And it serves them right, the $%()#! bastards!

Dog Shit Without Tears

dogOn occasion, everybody steps in dog shit, literally or metaphorically.  It’s inevitable — like puberty or menopause.  It’s how we handle it that’s important.  Recently, I witnessed  a dog shit crisis and — Wow! — did I ever get a look at life in the 21st century.

I was standing outside an office building, having a coffee and sneaking an early evening cigarette, when a well-dressed woman (not a child, nor even a girl) came stumble-running around the corner.  She was clearly in distress.  She looked at me in shock, lurched forward, grabbed at the construction fence as her only means of support, and hung there, weeping as if she’d just seen an axe murder.  I hit the adrenaline button, dropped everything and stride, stride, stride, went to help.

“Are you alright?  What happened?  Are you okay?”
She turned to me, and in a voice fierce with frustration, said, “I stepped in dog poo.”
I tilted my head like an inquiring Beagle, but before I could register a WTF reaction, her support group came wheeling around the corner.  A mixed gender bunch of 30 Somethings, they brushed me out of the way as if I were being masculine to their friend and surrounded her in a two-deep comfort zone.  I stepped back to my spilled coffee to give them room, and for the next 10, 15 (I gave up at some point) or even 20 minutes, I watched as they conducted an impromptu crisis intervention.

Okay, so what have we learned?

At unguarded moments, contemporary adults use expressions like “poo,” just as if they were grownup words.

Remember, our girl came around the corner first, so at some point, overcome by the trauma (drama?) she must have panicked and fled headlong into the night.  Think about that!

There were plenty of kind words, a lot of hugs, and tissues for the eyes, but nobody actually dealt with the offending shoe.  To be fair, one Sir Walter Raleigh did take his jacket off, but I never saw what he did with it.  (Only his drycleaner could tell us that.)

The group, all dressed up with obviously some place to go, actually stopped the evening’s activities cold to deal with this emotional emergency — at some length.

And finally, no one in the group gave any indication that this was the least bit odd.  There wasn’t one dissident voice.  For example, nobody said, “For God sake, Madison!  Scrape it off, and let’s go!”

The thing that blows me away about this little ad hoc soiree is these were ordinary people.  I didn’t accidently run into a drama queen convention.  Nor was it their first emotional rodeo.  They’d been there before — lots — and, despite their lack of dog shit removal skills, they knew exactly what they were doing.

My point is, emotionally fragile has become a way of life in the 21st century.  We are easily angered, eagerly offended and regularly resort to “the meltdown” to prove our emotional stake in the game.  It’s our way of demonstrating our humanity, sensitivity and depth of character.  The problem is it works.  People take this stuff seriously.  Me, I’m from a different time and, call me old fashioned, but I prefer dog shit without tears.