- Family and Parenting
Suspended for dropping the "F' bomb....
My Mom's Advice... from May of 1982...
Recently I was going through my home, doing some Spring cleaning (I know, it's Fall...I'm kind of backwards). I came across some letters I saved from when I was a kid and decided to take a trip down memory lane. I found one in particular that was so thought provoking, interesting and amusing, I have already read it aloud to friends (as well as the author, my Mom). I feel it's worth sharing with others so hope you will appreciate it too.
For some background or "setting of the scene," my parents split up when I was six years old. It was decided early on, my sister and I would live with my Dad (and the step-mom whom he didn't take long to acquire). When I turned 16, I decided to go live with my Mom and step-dad, but until that time as a result of our residing in two different states, my Mom and I wrote letters to each other on a regular basis (and spent time together 1 - 2 times per year). In my Dad and step mom's household, cursing was absolutely unacceptable. Words like "fart, farting, farted," were not ok, they were "unlady like." "Butt" as in, "She has a 'bubble butt,'" was also frowned upon.
I believe it was the 8th grade when I got into big trouble. We students were shuffling along, in between classes, when a guy I knew did something prankish (don't recall what exactly) to get my attention and I yelled, "Tim, you F*CK*R!" A teacher was also shuffling along and within earshot, and he was not happy to hear what came out of my mouth. He sent me to the office, and from there I was suspended for 3 days. How times have changed.
I was scared to go home...went straight from school to a friends house. From there I proceeded to call to tell my Dad and step-mom I was running away because of what happened. Of course they demanded to know where I was and came and got me.
So at some point, I wrote my Mom, who unlike my Dad and step-mom, was someone I felt I could confide in and share most of what was on my heart and mind. She's an RN who works in the Psychiatric field. So In response to my letter, the following is what she wrote (and yes, I've received her permission to publish it):
Responding to kids who use profanity
How do you respond?
It's not fair for you to tell me you got suspended from school and then dictate that I must not write back much about it.
Why, because you're tired of being 'lectured' and already feel bad enough about it - or because you think I'll go on another one of my self incriminating tirades?
Just who's the Mom here: You or ME? Who are you trying to protect?
I've a right to put in my two cents worth - also a responsibility!
It's not fair to your Dad and Diane - having to go in for conferences - to be counselled about your behavior, when I get off scott free (or so they must feel).
But you're the one who must accept the consequences for what comes out of YOUR mouth - that's your responsibility!
So turn page over and get on to my lecture (for which I accept full responsibility).
TOPIC: BAD Language (of which I am an AUTHORITY, as it is my own, personal WATERLOO).
Your friends speak it. So do mine. I speak it.
It's spoken in the military and it's spoken in athletics (though not considered "sportsmanlike").
It's spoken in situations where emotions are high, your own limits are set, competition is tough, fear is a factor - where one feels powerless (like in adolescence). Bad language (also called OBSCENE, FOUL and FILTHY) makes one feel (momentarily) more powerful - gets the anger out and decreases the fear. But it soils the speaker as well as the recipient.
It's a defense that is offensive.
At work, when I'm about to get clobbered by a chair - to say "Now Joe, put that chair down and behave like a gentleman," would probably get me killed. So I say, "Drop it! Unless you want five goons to jump you, tie your ass up - shoot you full of drugs - and ship you off to Napa (state mental hospital) or jail - where you'll really get the shit beat out of you!!!"
It's intimidating - keeps people at a distance. It works in some situations. And as long as it works, it's appropriate.
It's the language of WAR - and it's WAR for me at work.
But my problem has always been relaxing and trusting once I leave the combat zone - leaving the distancing language of war behind me - because it's not appropriate anywhere else.
Such language only keeps you closed off, lonely and gets you in trouble. You wind up hiding behind it. It overshadows you...people only hear the language and don't see you!
They don't hear what you're saying - only the ugly words - and totally miss the concept you're trying to convey. They disregard your message. The language invalidates you: You're seen as "BAD," "OBSCENE," "VULGAR," "FILTHY," etc.
Words are tools to be used wisely. But like a renegade computer - if you let your mouth get out of control - you become it's slave. If you give up conscious control of your tongue, you lose your effectiveness in communicating - get a reputation of being a garbage mouth and no one takes you seriously or dares to get within dumping range.
Many times, I've had something important to say - have expressed myself too colorfully - only to have someone else repeat it in a censored , more articulate manner. He or she has been proclaimed brilliant - and me: a hysterical, dangerous, out of control kook!
Mis-use of language robs you of all credibility. BEWARE! I've finally come to realize that how you say something is equally important as what you say. So I've been trying to develop a new way of thinking.
I now consider profanity a foreign language and try to speak profanity only in profance territory, to profanites.....Like speaking French in France, to the French. If you speak French in England to the English, you're not going to be understood or appreciated. So it is with cursing.
Consider yourself bi-lingual, and don't make yourself an alien by not speaking the language of the land.
There's one language for home and school - and another that may be OK to use with your friends, if that's ALL they understand. But don't get them mixed up!
You've been taught BOTH - so if you slip - you can't blame your teachers - only your own undisciplined mind and tongue.
I'm not asking you to totally wipe bad language from your memory banks. In fact, if you really like fighting and swearing, there's a place for these in the job market of today - but not in any of the "pretty" or "safe" professions.
If you want to be a marine, or a jail matron, cop, juvenille counselor, psych nurse etc, - then cultivate your flair for profanity.
Otherwise, consider developing knowledge and use of more popularly accepted English prose. It may not be what's popular among your friends, at this time, but it will give you more options in the future and may keep you out of hot water now.
Although I mentioned earlier, "how things have changed," much of what my Mom expressed is timeless good advise, in my opinion anyway.