Monday, April 21, 2008


This weekend I went to Target because, well, because as the mom of a toddler if you don't go to Target at least once a week a Target team member in a red poly-blend vest will come to your house and take away your child. That's just how it is.
So there I was in Target with Zoey in the cart eating animal crackers we had stolen from an end-cap. All of a sudden Zoey got very excited about something and began to shout COCK! COCK! And I looked around and saw what she was talking about and gave her a high five. Yay! You're right! Good job! It wasn't until I saw the woman in the aisle next to us shoot me the stink eye that I realized: not everyone knows that a cock is a clock in my house. That a fuck is a frog, a shit a ship. That Zoey had seen a row of digital numbers and simply wanted to point them out to me and the lady in the aisle next to us, to tell us what time it really was.
Sometimes I wonder if I swear too much in this blog. Writing about penises and vaginas, mother fuckin' this when I get too emotional, fuck that when I don't. Because I don't really swear very often in real life. I mean, yeah, if I joined a group of scrapbookers in a church basement then sure, I would be categorized as a potty mouth. But if forced to spend a weekend in Vegas with Heather from Rock of Love 1 then I would come across as a real prude, my lip-liner-less mouth pinched tight, my hair lacking extensions and product of the spray-on variety. It's all relative.
My mom allowed my brother and me to swear when we were little. The rule was that we couldn't call other people names; we could only use bad words if we stubbed a toe or lost a tennis ball in the neighbor's yard. I can still remember the first time I employed this free pass of profanity. My mom had taken my brother and me to see the movie The Toy and at some point I spilled my bucket of popcorn and quick said shit! And then I waited. My mom did not flinch. The sky did not fall. My mouth did not seal shut and in that dark movie theater I was not poked hard in the chest by the long disapproving finger of god. It was just a word and it felt so good to say it in that moment when all of my buttery kernels were glued to the floor with decades of soda stickiness and smashed flat jujubees. Shit. It was also in that movie when Richard Pryor learns he has been bought to be the toy of a little boy and that he must call the boy master. Master what? he asks. Bates is the boy's last name, he is told. Master Bates. And the whole theater laughed loudly and I sat there, the shit still reverberating in my small mouth, confused. What was so funny about Master Bates? Old enough for shit but still too young for that.
The thing is, I love words. And sometimes I do feel like I'm masturbating when I write, the obscene pleasure I get from a well-placed expletive, from an image created with simple strokes and serifs. And just as there are words that I love there are also words that I hate: turd. sebum. kumquat. moist, (except when referencing a cake. A moist cake is a-ok). But I only hate those words because they make me feel something I don't want to feel. That's the power of words, both the beautiful and the damned. And I want for Zoey to know the pleasure of words, how the word thistle feels soft inside your mouth, of clutter and creature and ink and fuck, yes, fuck, because fuck is a beautiful word when used correctly. Fuck yeah, it is.
But fucker? Not so much. You little prick-fuck-face-dick-hole. I get road rage and these words and others fall from my mouth like hail. My mother's rule still binds me at times and I know I am smaller for calling other people names. Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will always hurt me. The thing is I don't want Zoey to go to daycare tomorrow and scream shit! when she drops her crayon. Those words should be reserved for someone maybe a wee bit older, say 4. But more than that I don't want her to call anyone a shit. I want her to be kind, her heart large, her sweet red mouth to be full of soft downy thistle and whispers. I want her to yell COCK! in Target if she gets excited about seeing an alarm clock. I want her words to free her.

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