In this newsletter: My thoughts on being ladylike and cussing, a recipe for peach shortcakes, an event I'm doing with Cyndie Spiegel, and more!
I grew up with a conservative, religious (read: evangelical) mother who taught us that saying "crap" or "shut up" was offensive to God, not just her. This was pretty typical among most of my friends at the time. Of course I cursed around my high school friends occasionally but certainly not the "f-word." When I was in college, I started dating my now husband, a born and bred NY'er. He casually dropped f-bombs like it was saying hello. It was used as more of an intensifier in his statements and I quickly adopted it too. It was so freeing to be able to speak plainly and express my emotions in a way that felt like they matched my actual feelings. Like when I was mad, I was Fucking Pissed! Now that I am an official NY'er (20+ years living here), curse words in general are not a problem. I barely notice them and use them freely around our kids. We teach our kids that words hurt, and not just "bad" words, any word can hurt if used carelessly. We teach them context..like don't curse around Grandma - bc that would be upsetting to her, don't curse at school around teachers bc it's not an appropriate setting, etc. So far, they get it and I love that they speak freely around me. I always feel sad that my mom doesn't get to know how I really talk, joke, etc bc I censor myself out of respect. I don't want my kids to censor themselves ever. 💙
Oh swearing! A fascinating topic, I think. When I was a kid, my parents raised their eyebrows if I said “hell” or “damn” or “shit” BUT if I said “Jesus Christ!” Or “god-d@mn” well that was a backhand to the mouth. Even now I feel like I need to go to confession if I swear like that, but I will; we were Catholic and not particularly religious but that was a line in the sand, I guess. A well placed swear word is a good intensifier and I appreciate them all. I am not deeply offended by them, and I agree 100%. My dad also was DEEPLY offended by the use of the word “ain’t” and double negatives, and incomplete sentences. His main point was that how we speak teaches people how to treat us. He was not well off, and wanted us to speak like educated people who knew better. Oddly enough, he no longer concerns himself with such matters. But is totally a person who takes great offense at unladylike language. Sigh. He changed with the political discourse.
I love swearing, but I'm also not very concerned about being "ladylike" these days. I just recently learned about the one and only time my Mormon mom said the f word. She was furious at my dad for not being home at the time he said he would be (he was doing electrical work on their new house) and it was well-deserved and made me respect her even more.
I grew up in a conservative evangelicalish household and am late-realized queer and late-diagnosed neurodivergent. I've become entirely uninterested in performing to make other people comfortable, including - maybe especially? - cussing.
People I grew up being taught to respect - people who voted for Donald Trump and excuse and even appreciate his coarseness - can be as offended as they please, because they've certainly offended me, and *my* words aren't directly responsible for hurting other people. 🤷♀️
Totally agree and I have recently noticed that my friends with only sons swear earlier in front of them than friends with daughters. We taught our kids to 'watch your audience'. They're 17 & 20 and we all swear in different amounts around different audiences. I'm happy to choose when I feel ladylike or riot grrrl like or any combination at all. Let's keep pushing those doors open, shall we!
I go through phases, mostly not swearing and then I hit my head earlier today and use the juiciest one of all 😅 some people use them every second word and you take no notice so tone has a lot to do with it too. Hearing alternative softer words always makes me think deeper about the real word 🤔 and yes actions speak much louder than any particular letter grouping no matter the tone
I grew up devoted to my older brother who cussed a ton so I naturally picked it up. I remember people always being shocked when I would launch into a tirade laced with my particular favorite, fuck.
It’s ebbed and flowed a bit but oddly there’s been a big resurgence of fuck for me over the last five years and in a mostly super casual way. I do say it when I’m angry of course too but it means I have said it in front of my 6 and 8 year old girls.
I said it this weekend when I was surprised by something and then quickly said - sorry I cussed. My 8 year old said - the F word? And I said yes. And we got into a conversation about what makes a cuss word. She asked me what fuck meant and I said it technically means having sex, but in the context of a cuss word it’s just use for emphasis or to explain. She thought that was hysterical and was like imagine if people just went around saying ‘sex!’ When they’re angry.
I even got into how I say it at work, depending on who is around, and got sort of to the same message of know your audience etc etc.
Also weirdly when I was little I said something sucked and my parents freaked out - they were like you don’t even know what that means but it’s bad so don’t say it. I was traumatized!’
Certain words are just so satisfying to say! I also tend to respond to being told it’s unladylike by wanting to cuss more. I’m in my fifties, and I’ve spent way too much of my life doing what other people wanted me to. Out of patience and time for that now!
Honestly, I can't believe more sane people in Congress aren't cursing like every minute of every day. I sometimes picture myself standing in one of those chambers just saying "are you fucking kidding me with this shit? People have real problems - feeding their kids, paying their bills and you're worried about this crap?" But I digress - I consider cursing to be like the valve at the top of a pressure cooker, I shake it just enough to let the steam out. When I curse in front of my kids, it's never directed at them or in a mean way - more like an "oh shit!" when we found a 4 foot long eastern rat snake just chilling in our kitchen one day. It's just words, you assign the meaning and intent.
I work in an incredibly white cis-het male dominant industry (investment banking tech) where men swear all day long. The shock and disgust on their faces every time I swear is magnificent ✨
I try to point out when my kids use salty language, usually by just saying “language,” as a reminder to not make it mindless.
I’m stricter on gendered insults and swears. Everyone has an “asshole” for example -- we’re ok there -- but the misogyny behind “bitch,” it’s variations, and “douche-anything” isn’t tolerated. Some also veer into homophobia, even tangentially. Those are all no-goes.
When I was Christian, cussing bothered me. It was supposed to be evil. Looking back from the outside, I see that it’s more about the generations of my parents and teachers trying to preserve or reinstate the world of their childhood.
Just as wrong was it to be a pacifist (because your grandfather fought in WWII), to protect pedestrians from drivers (because cars are stronger), to think sweatshops in other countries were wrong (because they’re providing jobs).
I think it’s just the propaganda they sucked up in childhood as: This Is The Way The World Should Be (and any other way is immoral).
I tend to curse a bit and haven’t censored myself much around my young kids. I feel empowered by research that shows there are emotional and physical benefits to cursing, ha! We tell our kids that as long as there is not hate behind the words and they’re not directed at someone, it’s okay to say at home. They don’t really notice when we cuss and haven’t said any bad words around us yet, so we’ll see if I still stand by this sentiment when they do :P
We have long taught our 10 yr old that there are no bad words, only bad intentions. So if you say “I love the shit out of you!”…or if you say “I’m going to kick the crap out of your ugly face”…one phrase has a curse and one is made up entirely of socially acceptable words but it’s pretty obvious which would be more offensive and hurtful.
Consequently, she freely curses in our house and 99% of the time, as happy exclamations. We teach “time and place” and being mindful of your audience, but beyond that I worry more about raising a kind and thoughtful kid than one that only engages in “ladylike language” 😊
The British have got swearing (as we call it) down to a fine art, in my opinion. But I just love Billy Connolly’s many observations on its importance in our language. I think you’ll enjoy this https://youtu.be/BaqsOL-Nv24?si=BUinM9gJrVTMc_19
Like other commenters, I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian culture. I remember getting spanked for saying something “hurt like the dickens.” Too close to—not sure what. No darns or shoots. At 40, I was done with that strain of Christianity and that was the beginning of my swearing career. I’m still considerate of my family members’ shockability, but cut me off in traffic—or remind me I’m “just a woman”—and I let words fly.