I can cuss like a longshoreman. Actually, that’s not fair to longshoremen. It’s probably better to say that I can cuss like the ex-sorority girl that I am.
(Tri-Delt, during the period of time when Saturday Night Live ran that “Delta Delta Delta, can I help ya, help ya, help ya” skit. As I’m sure you can imagine, I never tired of hearing that line from drunken frat boys while drinking bottles of Zima in grungy bars that smelled of vomit.)
I have been known to drop the f-bomb on occasion. My favorite curse of all time comes courtesy of Bill Nighy as Billy Mack in the movie Love Actually – “Fuck wank bugger shitting arse head and hole!” – but I can never remember the whole thing at the moment when, say, I’ve just dropped a stapler on my foot.
Where I run into problems is when those stapler-hitting-the-foot moments happen in the presence of my 8-year-old’s tender ears. I reined it in for most of his babyhood, or at least I thought I had right up until one day when Sam was four. We were driving somewhere, cruising along happily, when a jackass ran a stop sign and nearly ploughed into us.
FOUR-YEAR-OLD SAM: Don’t you mean Jesus Christ?
I supposed it could have been worse. If someone had been listening – or if he repeated it to his pre-k teacher – I could have passed it off as religious zeal, were it not for the tone and inflection, which I had to admit sounded just like me.
The thing is, if anyone else – husband, friends, grandparents, random sociopaths we bump into in public – swears around Sam, I give them my death glare. And, if I do say so myself, my death glare is terrifying. I have scared small children, grown adults and vicious dogs alike with it. But it’s hard to death glare myself.
Last year, Sam’s teacher pulled me aside at afternoon car line.
“Sam had an incident today with two boys in his class,” she said.
I knew the boys in question. They’re both assholes. And if you don’t think first graders are capable of being assholes, you have never spent time around children.
“They came in from recess and told me that Sam said the f-word on the playground,” Mrs. B said.
Shit, was my first thought.
And then: I’m so totally going to blame George for this. I’m going to throw him right under the bus. I’m going to tell her that he swears all the time, and I’ve asked him to stop, but you know what men are like.
I wondered if I could pull off delicately fluttering one hand to my throat while I said this last bit.
“But I know Sam would never say anything like that,” she continued. “And when I pressed the boys, they admitted they’d made it up to get him in trouble.”
See? First grade assholes.