Thursday, February 18, 2010

DD#33: 4 Letter Words

Cursing, cussing, whatever you call it, is profanity. I remember when the use of any 4 letter word was considered taboo in polite company and a lady NEVER let one of those words pass her lips. In more formal times, it was considered acceptable for men to use these words freely in the locker room - or any all male domain, I guess - but not in front of ladies and certain other higher status men. (Our proud heritage of a classless society of equality among men conveniently overlooks the fact that those words were mostly written and enforced by men considered to be the cream of society. They were privileged and had wives, slaves and/or servants who were definitely NOT considered equal, but I digress.)

As a child I heard plenty of these words but was admonished if I used one within the hearing of an adult. I secretly used them - was even brave enough to use a couple of them in the company of my peers. We would whisper them and giggle with our hands over our mouths as if to prevent them from passing beyond our little group and into the world where we would be in big trouble for saying them out loud. The very act of speaking them was the beginnings of our rebellion against the rules. We had no idea what some of them even meant, but they were forbidden so we had to use them.

When I started my freshman year at San Jose State University, I had been working since high school to save enough money to help me pay for my expenses and live on the income from a part time job. At 20 I was older and somewhat removed from the typical teen rebellion of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. I'd had a different kind of rebellion. As soon as I left my parents' oversight and began living on my own several hundred miles from home, I made up for all the time 'lost' while living under the considerable control of my family. I acted out a lot doing crazy things, but always showed up for work and earned my way. I was responsible through and through, but the seeds of rebellion were planted. I tasted plenty of forbidden fruit.

Suddenly at SJSU I was surrounded by young people who were determined to break every 'old' rule and create their own new ones. I embraced my rebellious self and embarked on my long voyage of questioning everything.I was applying the philosophy that rules were just guidelines, some were to be bent, some to be ignored, some to be broken and some to be applied. I selectively decided which ones were mine and which ones weren't.

The old rule of cussing went out the window and I remember the thrill of seeing the shock on some faces the first few times I brazenly spoke the "f" word in mixed company. I felt so elated, so free, so intoxicated that I began using ALL of the 4 letter words I could remember, independently or in inspired groupings of my own creation. Oh, I was the mistress of 4 letter words - alert for looks of disapproval or shock from anyone within hearing range. I loved this new me. No more "f---ing" rules for me! No more "f---ing" good girl image. I was a "f---ing" rebel without a pause spewing obscenities in every direction. I was "f---ing" powerful and "f---ing" invincible - nobody could stop me. Nobody dared - I was a 4 letter force to be reckoned with.

Like anything new, the shine eventually wore off and I began to ease away from the gratuitous use of 4 letter words. They still crept into my language, but had lost their power. Now I simply used them for emphasis - to hammer home my point. They continued to represent my need to rebel against anything or anyone I considered an obstacle to having what I wanted. They became my angry words, my emotional descriptors. I could express myself with them when I didn't have words to define my feelings. 

The 4 letter words are quite passe' now - most people use them regularly. I still use them, but they're just another remnant of the old habit of pre-awareness expression - before I could put words to my feelings. As I learn more ways to express what's going on inside me, I can let go of the need to use 4 letter words. I don't release them easily - they still hold power for me and who I am - a rebel charting new paths, whacking down the old growth, on the watch for someone who's offended by how I chop down what obstructs my search for "f---ing" meaning in my life...

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