What the $#%?

An entertaining form of expression.

Swearing in our writing was a topic covered in our last virtual writing course meeting. That is partly responsible for this blog post. My daughter reminded me to add money to my swear jar was the other reason. Yes, I know. Cursing is typically frowned upon. It’s also said to be a sign of intelligence, creativity, and is known to be effective in relieving both pain and stress. I don’t know the accuracy of that statement but it definitely works for me! I am, without question, the biggest offender of this particular form of expression in our family. So much so, that most swearing memes that float around the internet, eventually cross my desktop (usually thanks to my sister).

As a girl growing up, my colorful vocabulary got me into trouble more than once. A favorite story of mine involves being at a horse show. Picture it, I was six years old, my hair done up in French braids, dressed in the traditional riding habit: black velvet jacket and helmet, beige jodhpurs, and tall black leather boots. I could be best described as adorable! I was one of the little girls placed atop a horse to be lead around the ring for some event. I still remember standing in the middle of a circle of mothers gushing over my appearance. And then it happened. The horse I was about to ride was in the ring with its owner. Something spooked him, he reared back and kicked his owner, my teacher, as the crowd watched. My mother left me alone with the ladies to check on my teacher. When she returned, she knelt down in front of me and broke the news. “You won’t be riding the horse today.” I simply asked, “Why?” She put it in terms aimed at the six-year-old mentality. “Well, the horse is having a bad day.” In my sweet child voice, I announced, “I can make the son of a b**** behave!” You can imagine the devastation that came crashing down around me as I shattered the image of the sweet, innocent little girl. All the mothers, including my own, were shocked into deafening silence. It’s a good thing adult me wasn’t present because I would have had a difficult time NOT laughing.

Over a decade later, when I worked at a summer job as a waitress in a small inn, a similar moment happened. Only this time, there were a few more witnesses to my new favorite curse word. There were only two waitresses on schedule, me and another, Michelle. The story is funnier when told from Michelle’s point of view. I leave her alone in the dining room to go to the downstairs kitchen to get more water glasses. About five minutes later, she’s in the middle of the dining room when, as she described it, she heard CRASH, thud, thud, thud,… and an explosive F-bomb echoed throughout two floors of the inn. The dining room was filled with customers, tourists and locals alike. One of them pointed at Michelle and said, “Well, we know it wasn’t you…” She broke out of her shock and dashed out of the dining room to see me in a heap at the bottom of the stairs cursing up a storm in front of my boss (formerly my catechism teacher) and the entire kitchen staff. I was fine, bruised up, but amazingly, no cuts despite the dozen shattered water glasses I narrowly missed landing on as I fell. I still remember the silence that fell over the dining room when I finally returned to check on my tables. The first table I stopped to check on had six motorcycle club members a mix of both men and women – a very unlikely group in our small fishing village – one of the ladies looked at me with concern. She leaned over to ask me, “Are you all right?” After I reassured them that I was fine, I left them to finish their meal while I checked on my other tables. I obviously made a FANTASTIC impression on that first table because to my amazement they left me a twenty-dollar tip!

Now, as an adult, you can only imagine my struggle to keep my swearing in check. I’m bad, I really am. Oddly, the one person I’ve always tried not to swear around is my mother-in-law. She’s sweet, blond, and shorter than me – which is saying something. Petite is a word often used to describe her. There’s just something about her that makes people want to not swear around her. Then the day arrived, about fourteen years ago, when I unintentionally introduced her to all the best words! I was five months pregnant and it was the first time I got to experience one of those rarely mentioned joys of pregnancy: sciatica. I still remember it, I leaned forward to pick up a sock from the floor and, I swear, a lightning bolt of pain shot from my hip to my toes and every curse word I’d ever heard came flying out of my mouth. I’m pretty sure I even shocked my father-in-law, a retired member of the US Air Force.

Fast forward to Christmas 2019, my mother-in-law was giggling up a storm as she slid a sizeable box toward me on Christmas morning. I open it up to discover the largest swear jar I’ve ever seen. Inside, a roll of quarters to get me started. Everyone roared with laughter, my soon-to-be teenage daughter included. It’s officially become the best gag gift ever. It sits on a shelf in our home office. Loaded down with piles of change, bills, and the original roll of quarters, it’s far from full. I’m trying hard to fill it as fast as possible. Given the events of 2020, I’m surprised I haven’t filled it twice over by now.

While I’m not planning on having my characters swear as much as I do, I know there will be a moment or two when the occasional expression will fly out of someone’s mouth. I’m already planning to include swear jars in my books. Several of my female characters in my mystery series will have a swear jar. Whoever has the most coins at the end of a week, gets to choose where they all go out to eat, because obviously, she had the worst week! Sometimes, ‘gosh, golly gee, darn’ just won’t cut the mustard. Cursing can, on occasion, make a moment truly memorable, or at the very least change a moment from something stressful to humorous. I’m positive the ladies that surrounded six-year-old me still tell that story. Of course, from their viewpoint, it probably goes a little differently. “Do you remember that cute little girl who swore like a sailor?”

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