Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's only words and words are all I have

I was twenty-four the first time I said "fuck" in front of my parents. I suppose it was a "respect" thing, but something must have pissed me off so much that the heretofore unspoken "F" word finally breached our dialogue. However, I was already married for two years and I no longer had to abide by the unwritten rules of my parents' house — so saying "fuck" was fair game. I mean, they couldn't very well spank me or ground me or send me to my room! My room was at my house and I lived in it with my wife! So, with no fear of repercussions, I allowed "fuck" to enter the conversation.

Which brings me to a question that has been the topic of many a discussion at the Pincus house: "How well do you have know someone before "fuck" is introduced into the verbal exchange?"

Now, I am not prudish by any means. I acknowledge the fact that my speech tends to be "colorful" and is peppered with an overabundance of salty language — especially during baseball season, when, in the course of a Phillies game, it can get particularly vulgar. My wife and I made a conscious decision to watch our phraseology around our son as he grew up. For years, we never uttered anything more crude than "darn" within range of his young and impressionable ears. But, somewhere around his sixteenth birthday, all heck broke loose. The gloves were off and the "fucks" were flying. I don't know what specifically triggered the transformation, but almost overnight, our house went from a convent to a day of working down on the docks. Despite the freedom of expression I employ in my vocabulary, I am still taken aback when a total stranger speaks that word I so liberally use myself.

Last year, my wife and I were at an invitation-only dinner hosted by several celebrity chefs from The Food Network. We were seated at a large round table with four other couples — none of whom we had met before. To my immediate right was a couple who were close to our age. (In reality, the other couples were closer to our parents' age!) We struck up a very benign conversation with them, when suddenly — on sentence number three to be exact — the gentleman allowed "fuck" to compromise the conversation's security. My wife and I were briefly startled, but after several more "fucks" were sprinkled throughout the next few sentences, we were becoming desensitized and eventually more comfortable. I may have even spoken a couple-a "fucks" myself — just to let him know we were on his side. Hey! What the fuck!

This past Sunday, Mrs. P and I attended a particularly tedious Phillies game. Our hometown boys were getting their sorry butts kicked by the pathetic Miami Marlins and the game grew more painful as the innings ticked away. To bide the time, my spouse amused herself by playing a few distracting rounds of the addictive, online game Candy Crush Saga on her smartphone. The unmistakable digital sound effects from the game caught the attention of the couple sitting in the row directly in front of us. We have been Phillies season ticket holders for eighteen years, but we have never seen this couple before. The woman turned around and asked my wife the updated version of the mid-70's standby "What's your Sign," and that's: "What level are you on?" And those were the last words we understood her to say — except for "fuck." She slurred her words and talked fast and guttural, but "fuck" came through like an obscene beacon, loud and fucking clear. My wife nodded and smiled as the woman's speech just became a barrage of sentences of "fuck" after "fuck" after "fuck." The fellow she was with was totally unintelligible — even his "fucks," if he was indeed using the nasty word.

So, have I reached a definitive answer to my question?

How the fuck should I know?

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