“WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL”….USE BAD LANGUAGE

The iconic poem of old women wearing red and purple together can also relate to other sensibilities, behaviors and values. Wearing red and purple together is small potatoes compared to some of the changes we make over our lifetimes. (In fact, the Jenny Joseph poem lists quite a few: here.)

As we age, we find that some things we were taught, or assumed, or had crammed down our throats, simply no longer speak to our experience. The wearing of gloves to church, from my childhood, really doesn’t apply to the Me of today. One of those change-y things is swearing. You know, cussin’.

I was raised as a good Christian girl: church three times a week, choir practice, nursery duty, Sunday School, Bible School, church camp. It was my parents’ idea, trust me. But I bought into it, especially the music parts.

[I raised my children that way, as well, much to their continued chagrin. I MADE them go to CAAAAMP! We said prayers every night! Oh, the torture! Oh, the pain! It was worse than eating vegetables!]

Then, my marriage, which had always been difficult, went very, very south. It was the kind of religious experience that could be described by metaphors like “being in the desert,” “walking in darkness,” “the valley of the shadow,” or “like hell.”

What I realized, finally, was that my Good Christian life was like hell, hell on earth. I came to see life as a cosmic continuum, and that hell could actually be a place to be, metaphorically speaking, right here, right now. Not blaming anyone, just telling how it felt.

After I separated from Husband #1, I met The Leprechaun. My Leprechaun is a short guy, short of stature and temper, and he cusses more and better than anyone else I know personally. I swear to you, everything is “damned,” and/or a “son of a bitch.” But he is also kind, supportive and likes hanging out with me.

When I was a kid, cussing was an excuse for the parents to wash your mouth out with soap. I don’t really remember that occurring too often, but my brother, Freddie, got the soap sandwich at least once. As an adult, I had sort of loosened up on the language restrictions, though, led probably by my children and working in a school for kids with behavior issues. We had some very creative cussers in that school. The kids cussed some, too.

It’s kind of interesting how language unites and divides us. When I was a kid, uses of language could make a person sound crude, uneducated, brutish, refined, snooty, and so on, and we judged and were judged according to how we spoke, perhaps more than appearance. (This was a LLLLLONGGG time ago, okay?) We still make judgments and assumptions, based on accent. Southern drawl? Redneck, or maybe charmer, depending on your experience. Foreign accent? Uncomfortably for this PC girl, often a source of amusement.

Anyway, these days, it seems like language that used to make me blush is so commonly used (pun!) that I hardly notice.

There’s a song, by Samuel Barber, The Secrets of the Old, based on poetry by W. B. Yeats, with this:

…Madge tells me what I dared not think
When my blood was strong,
And what had drowned a lover once
Sounds like an old song….

There’s a lot of profane language that still repels me. I don’t like using such words, but I may use them if the occasion calls for it. However, I believe it is cleverer to find other ways of expressing one’s feelings, if possible. But, it is work. Satire, anyone? Sarcasm? Irony?

Many cultures tell us of the light and dark sides we all possess. Somehow, I thought that, if we were “good,” we could be all light inside, and maybe we can, but not without a lot of inner house cleaning. In the meantime, does it really do any good to believe that, if we occasionally give into “the dark side,” that God (or The Universe, or the FSM) won’t understand and love us anyway? If we accept our own “confoibles” (*more on this word at another time*), it makes it easier to accept the confoibles of others and makes for a more peaceful coexistence.

If you hear me swear occasionally, relax! Nobody’s perfect!

Luv ya, anyway!

Pam