I'd never really thought of my swearing as a "problem."
One, because I'm in my twenties, I work in media, and I hang around with derelicts. There's not a whole lot of censure going on. Two, because I don't subscribe to the idea that "smart people" have "better" ways of expressing themselves. Some of the most brilliant poets ever to write in English appreciated the power of well-chosen profanity to communicate a particular mood or sentiment. Like Ezra Pound, or Ginuwine.
But, like anything that's cool and fun to do, it can be a problem when you can't control it.
I first got the idea that my cursing might be a little out of hand a few weeks ago. My mom was visiting and we were walking around the Upper East Side, when I turned a corner and did one of those "Mexican standoff" things with this thirtyish blond girl. Normally people in New York are very good-natured about this awkward, inevitable phenomenon, but this girl totally caught me off guard and said, "Why don't you pick a side?" Before I even knew what I was doing, I replied, "Why don't you go right ahead and fuck yourself?"
I was horrified. First of all, I'm really very nice. Second of all, it was right in front of my mom. But the words had come out almost involuntarily. It was like instinctively deflecting something thrown at your head, but with salty, toddler-unfriendly language.
Shortly after, I heard myself on a podcast, and was alarmed to discover that I began even the most mundane sentences with the nonsensical portmanteau, "Sofuckin." I don't even know what that word is, you guys. It sounded like some kind of compound holiday meat or black metal band. I have no idea why I did this. It was kind of like when French people begin sentences with "
," but wayyyyy less elegant.
"Sofuckin, I accidentally bought flavored coffee. Sofuckin, now my house smells like a trucker-scented Yankee Candle" or "Sofuckin it turns out brand name garbage bags
much sturdier than generic." I'm like the world's most boring David Mamet play.
I realized that, as much as I try to curtail other little tics like saying "like" too much, this was probably something I should rein in case I have a run-in with an old person, babies or the police.
It used to be that just being in the presence of authority figures, the very young, or the extremely old would activate some kind of internal swear-Brita in me, one that would keep me from calling an overly hot bagel an idiot [c-word] for burning my hand. But now -- and I don't know if it's aging or the fact that I'm rarely ever around children or old people on account of how fucking punk rock I am -- I more and more often find myself involuntarily blurting out things like, "
These grapes rule ass
" for no particular reason.
So I decided to go a week without swearing.
Partly because, like most disciplined people, I'm always looking for new ways to test my self control. But also because I'm a grown ass adult who probably shouldn't talk like a trashy teen skater who just ollied out of a rural Dairy Mart.
But it was going to be hard, since swearing is part of my daily routine. Literally: Every morning I spring out of bed, grab my axe and do a crazy guitar riff while screaming obscenities. It's just my way of greeting the dawn.
I was going to need a swear jar. I asked my friend Butters how I should penalize myself, fiscally, and we decided on quarter for the F & C words and 10 cents for the A, B, S, D, and H words, with special penalties for compound Smolinski swears like "cock goblin" or "pony mounter." Butters thought the money should go to him for his moral support and campaigned hard to dock me a sawbuck for the Worst Words and a dollar apiece for lesser cusses. First of all, no way. Second of all, what am I, made of money? Go F yourself, Butters, you A-word.
He also had no idea how to score non-AP-styleguide approved vulgarities like "poonanai," and instead suggested that I should stop using "poonanai" for "the rest of my natural life." Look, Butters, these things work in phases.
But since I live alone, I also needed to know how I was supposed to keep myself honest. It would be one thing if I had some kind of clean speech coach, but as it happens, there's nobody to stop me from rambling obscenities like Manson and shuffling around my empty apartment,
' at my Foreman Grill.
Butters suggested "the honor system." Ugh, I hate the honor system. (And you, Butters. You C-ing D-word A-head.)
What I needed was to introduce the crucial element of guilt into the equation. I had to psych myself out of swearing. If I knew in the back of my mind that the money in my swear jar was ultimately just going to finance a piping hot cheese pizza for me and that F-ing idiot Butters, I would only have incentive to swear up a storm, or throw in the cuss towel.
Well, screw it, this is all going to end in pizza somehow. Fudgepack, balls, swan rape
So I decided the swear jar would go to charity, but one that I could also sort of think of as an opponent. Like, maybe a good cause, but one that was totally for P-words (that one costs a dime, incidentally, unless we're talking about a kitty).
Was it possible that there was a very worthy, yet
That's when I knew who it had to be: NPR.
I decided any and all profits from my filthy sailor mouth would go to Terry "Tell me, Al Pacino, what do you think Scarface's favorite color was? Do you think he liked birthday cake?" Gross.
Alas, there were one or two things that caused me to employ an invective or two over the next several days. Below, I give you your week with Swearilyn.
Lost an eBay auction for totally sweet ass Dio tank. 25¢
Accidentally rapped along to "Boyz in the Hood." 50¢
Sat on my sunglasses. 25¢
Googled answer to "David Duchovny still married?" 75¢
Took picture from train of man breakdancing in the station. Totally got caught by man. 10¢
Accidentally bought two conditioners instead of one conditioner and one shampoo. Hey, Dove, please make the [God-blessed] bottles different. 25¢
Closed hair in cab door. 80¢
Pat Kiernan Trivia Night: SOLD OUT $1
Part Kiernan: still married, according to Google.
DVR cut off the end of British "Antiques Roadshow." 25¢
Watched "Wrath of the Titans: 3D" trailer. $1
Spilled entire container of coriander on feet. 50¢
Various Words With Friends-based outrages. 25¢
Subway(TM) sandwich restaurant out of banana peppers. 10¢
Actually ate Subway(TM) sandwich. 75¢
Accidental rapping (again). 55¢
Washed dishes while listening to Pandora. Pandora played Steve Miller Band while hands were soapy. Could not skip station. Suffered in agony. $2
Tumblr down for maintenance. 50¢
Hot pan. 25¢! 25¢! 25¢! 25¢!
Graphically complimented a gentleman's butt. 10¢
F train. 25¢
Obese pug. 32¢
Wind caused door to slam while I was watching "Candyman 3." 25¢
Ran out of Splenda. 25¢
Keith Morrison made a weird noise and it was fucking hilarious. 10¢
Really moved by Chopin etude after several classes of Cabernet Franc. 50¢
Friend Lindsey saw Justin Long at SXSW. 50¢
Wanted to make tagine, NO CORIANDER. 25¢
Jose Canseco tweet. 10¢
Jose Canseco tweet. 15¢
Jose Canseco tweet. 10¢
Vagisil commercial. 15¢Voluntary rapping (to combat stress of not swearing). 75¢
I don't know. Math is also not punk rock.
Let's just say $25 even. I mean, I think all told, I did OK. It's a little more than a pizza party, and a little less than an IUD.
So what started out as a journey to self improvement and a test of my iron will ended up being an exercise in lining Terry Gross's filthy cardigan pockets. But you know what? The NPR website doesn't let you donate to specific programs, so let's hope my cool quarter of a hundo is going to snacks for Tom Ashbrook or those fancy Italian lozenges Ira Glass likes. I love you, Ira.
Wait, nope, I'll spare the 50 cents: I love you so much it fucking hurts.