So the other day I’m walking through the parking lot at Wal-Mart with another parent, and–wait a minute, you say–you went to Wal-Mart? Ok, look, here’s the deal: it wasn’t my idea to go to Wal-Mart; it wasn’t my idea to hammer another nail into the coffin of free enterprise, fair trade and honest wages–it was the other parent’s (hereafter referred to as O.P.)–honest. In fact, I was so ashamed to be seen there that not only did I tell my daughter, Clementine, to avert her eyes, but I also told my spare daughter, Aiyana, to under no circumstances tell her mother where we had been that day. The hard truth though, was that I wasn’t the one who was driving that day, so what could I do? Well, besides bitch and complain, of course, which is exactly what I was doing–using a few of my favorite, choicest expressions, I might add–when I felt the kick.
It was one of those sly, walking-along-the-side-of-you kicks, so subtle that I wasn’t even sure I had felt it. It was with a certain level of disbelief, then, that I asked the O.P.( the only other adult–and therefore the only person with legs long enough to pull off such a maneuver): “Did you just kick me in the ass?” This question was immediately answered with another kick. “What the hell–” I started to say, but was interrupted by yet another boot to the rear. It was then that I noticed that his son, a boy about Clementine’s age, was eagerly soaking up every swear word that had left my mouth: he couldn’t have been working harder to commit those words to memory if he had been trying for a perfect score on the vocabulary section of his SAT. Of course I thought to myself, I’m not supposed to swear in front of other people’s children.
This has been a hard lesson for me to remember, especially since I gave up on toning down my language in front of my own children years ago. My New Years’ resolution, in fact, is to swear more, or at least to swear more creatively. (This, I think, was influenced by a year end blitz of British movies). Don’t get me wrong: I still don’t countenance swearing by children (mine or anyone else’s). But swearing because of children makes perfect sense. After all, it’s only fair that the choicest language belongs to adults, since we’re also the ones who are stuck with the choicest tasks like paying taxes, being drafted, and arguing with insurance company representatives. By the same token, it’s also only fair that adults are the only ones allowed to call the politicians who pre-empt The Simpsons certain words–among them a word that Lenny Bruce so aptly recalled as “a ten-letter word describing any woman I would like to someday meet and possibly marry”–since these same adults are also, by default, the only ones who get to use words like: “Don’t worry, I’ll get the check” and “You take the last piece of pizza–I’m sure there’s a can of lima beans back here in the cupboard somewhere”.
Still, even though I don’t necessarily agree with them, I can understand the parents who are adamantly against swearing in front of their children, and, if I had believed that the ass-kicking parent in question at Wal-Mart was one of these stalwarts then I would have received the kick(s) with a little more grace. This, however, was not the case: on the contrary, it’s not just that this O.P. doesn’t swear in front of my children, it’s worse: he pseudo-swears in front of them, using anemic, near-beer linguistic dodges like “effing”. Personally, I would rather my children listen to Howard Stern for 12 hours straight than be led down the slippery slope of insipid fakery that comes with words like “effing” and “shoot”; after all, isn’t it really just a short hop from fake swearing to eating Vegan Carob Chip cookies and smoking clove cigarettes? Once started on that path, who knows where they’ll end up. It might even be–God forbid–the parking lot at Wal-Mart.