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Friday, May 29, 2009

This, I Swear

There's a great dialogue exchange in the vintage Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" which I saw so many times as a child that I'm proud to report I can replicate in its entirety without the help of the "Memorable Quotes" section of its IMDB entry:

Gene: You swear an awful lot.

Richard: You're fuckin-aye right!

Gene (imitating Richard): Fuckin-aye! Something bothers you, fuck it! Your wife leaves you? Fuck her! Boss fires you? Hey, fuck it, right!? Fuckin' fuck! Fuck 'em!

Richard: You're fuckin' right!

Gene: Do you know that it's a blessing to be able to do that? I can't do it! You're a lucky guy-- I can't do it!

Richard: Well fuckin' change!

Gene: It's not that easy.

Gene Wilder's character who, by the way, is deaf, is right: it's not that easy. It's not that easy to change. It's not that easy to let negativity and acrimony roll off your back like a drop of sweat. And it's not that easy to be liberal with your lips. But it does feel good.

I love to profanity. Most of you bastards who've been hanging around here for a while know this about me, and you're obviously okay with it, or you wouldn't be frequenting this establishment. If you don't like it, you're more than welcome, of course, to fuck off.

My mother-in-law doesn't swear, and it doesn't particularly thrill or please her when other people do, and this is, in large degree why she has never been invited to read my blog. Before I first met Mrs. Apron's mother, I was warned of her no cussin' disposition and I initially bristled at Mrs. Apron's request that I govern my tongue judiciously when in her presence.

"But swearing is a pretty intrinsic part of who I am," I said, "why should I have to change who I am to suit someone else?"

"Because you love and respect me, and I'm asking you to."

Ah. Game and match to Mrs. Apron.

I didn't realize how extreme my future mother-in-law's displeasure of cursing went until I was at their house one day and her husband announced that he was going to the backyard, armed with at least a dozen plastic bags to "pick up dog shit."

"ARTHUR," she screamed shrilly from the kitchen, "the word is POOPIE!"

Of course it is.

Like every twentysomething, I blame my parents for my zealous use of profanity. Well, I blame my two older sisters, too. Our reparte was littered with obscenities from a very early start. It probably began with a class of jest my eldest sister was fond of called "Little Johnny Jokes." Little Johnny was a bad, bad boy who was always starting up trouble. I don't really remember any of the jokes in their entirety, but they always ended with some authority figure kicking the shit out of him. I remember, in one of the jokes, Little Johnny had just come downstairs in the morning and his mother asked him what he wanted for breakfast. I believe he answered,

"I'll have some fuckin' cornflakes."

"And his mother kicked the shit out of him," my sister said, howling, "BAM, BOOM, CRASH, ALL ACROSS THE WALL!"

My sister and I would collapse in heaps of hysteria and then, the next day, I would repeat these jokes to my second grade friends at recess.

My parents not only allowed this behavior to take place, but they were pretty entertained by us, and, by the time I was in middle school, our dinner conversations were frequently peppered with profanations as adjectives, such as, "my fucking homework" instead of "my very challenging homework" or "my Goddamn teacher" as opposed to "my diligent, hardworking, unionized teacher."

My father's stories from work routinely involved obscenity, and, being Israeli, his use of swear words, especially when excited and animated, always made for riotous family dinner memories, like the time someone outbid him on a contract and my father said he wanted to "kick him fuck up the wall."

For decades, his catchphrase was, "I mean, what am I'm? Fuckin' crazy here?"

When we were quite young, my father capitulated to our requests for a home computing device and came home with a defecatory-colored Commodore 64. Not exactly what we had in mind, but what the hell did we know? Would an Atari have been better? I don't know. At least this had a keyboard-- not that we knew how to type back then. Anyway, my sister and I were sitting downstairs reading the Sunday Comics and eating "Frosted Mini-Wheats" while my father was upstairs, struggling for hours to put the thing together, probably covered in wires and reading Japanese instructions. Finally, he'd had it:

"What the fuck!" he screamed down the stairs. "Hey! Stupid! Jerk! Get the fuck up here and help me already!"

My sister and I nearly burst our goddamn guts. We probably laughed for fifteen minutes straight. To this day, we still debate about which one of us was "stupid" and which one was "jerk." I'm pretty sure I know.

A year later, we were all at the beach, sharing a wonderful family summer. I had a cold, but was on the mend. My sisters and I asked if we could go for a walk on the beach. "Fine," my parents said, "just don't let your brother go in the water, he's still not feeling well."

Of course I went in the water. We were maybe thirty feet from my parents, who were sunbathing on a packed New Jersey beach. They saw the drips of water coming from my hair, and my father went absolutely ballistic.

"WHAT ARE YOU, FUCKIN' STUPID??!!!!" he roared at my oldest sister as bemused onlookers turned their heads in our direction. "JESUS FUCKIN' CHRIST! WE TELL YOU ONE FUCKIN' THING AND YOU RETARD CAN'T EVEN DO IT! YOU FUCKIN' MORON!"

Was my sister embarrassed by this public lambast? Was she reduced to hot, anguished tears by this very public, very obscene and very loud attack by our father? Mmm, not really. My sister's reaction? Hysterial peels of laughter.

"Fuck you!" was her guffaw-ridden retort.

Bam boom crash: all across the wall.


  1. now when I leave a comment I have to use my fucking phone.

  2. I blame my decade of service in the restaurant biz for my sailor-esque mouth... I fuckin yam what I yam and that's all that I yam.

    P.S. LOVE that movie.

  3. Given that my mom reads my blog, I've tried to keep my language clean, but sometimes you need a proper word to convey the right emotion. Plus, I feel like if they're used sparingly, especially when written, they can have a lot more impact on the reader. That being said, I like your writing a lot, curse words and all.

  4. I find it so difficult to cut down on my swearing- something I've been trying to do since my kids were old enough to repeat me. I feel like I do okay...I stopped calling people cocksuckers in the car...and I try to replace my other favorites with words that are more G rated, but when I stub my toe on the corner of the cabinet (at least once a day) yelling, "Poop!" is not nearly as satisfying.
    That said: swear it up. You may feel obligated to put the kibosh on it when you guys have that baby you're always talking about. But then again, maybe not.

  5. Ah Richard sure was one of a kind.

    I think swearing should be acknowledged as a stress reliever. The times you do avoid it you feel like there's a knot in your stomach and a very unsastisfied feeling. Or maybe that's just me : )

    Having newly discovered your blog, gotta say I'd much rather keep reading then to fuck off : )


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