Why I Like Swearing
I finally saw the movie Silver Linings Playbook a few weeks ago. It was intense, but not so much that it wasn't entertaining. I cried, but not so hard I couldn't breathe. I liked it and I can’t stop thinking about it.
When I was trying to explain it to a friend the other day, this is what I came up with:
It was the kind of movie that makes me want to use a lot more swear words, because the most true characters in that story do and I am drawn to trueness.
Is that weird? Do you find yourself drawn to intense language like this? Swearing when it’s crass or careless repulses me. But in this movie, I was mesmerized by and liked it.
Three different people have quoted the same
scene to me over the past month. It's a scene where one character blurts out truth about herself
and invites someone else to accept it. It's loud and sweary and forceful and
socially awkward. But it's true. And the way this character says it, the way
she talks about truth and forgiveness, beckons me into truth and forgiveness.
She's antagonistic, but in a way that breaks down a wall instead of reinforcing it. Is that even a real thing? Can we be unapologetic and engaging at the same time? What would that require of us, of me, of the way I write? Can I swear a lot more?
I remember the first time the f-word slipped out of my mouth. I was 12 or 13 and I only recently learned what that word was. And the first time I said it, it wasn’t even in proper grammatical form. I was trying to say another word and my mouth latched onto it instead and it came out. Sometimes this happens to me, an outgoing introverted thinker who has so many words to say, but a brain that needs more time. I say the wrong words.
I felt my heart racing with shame all those years ago, glad that I was climbing trees with my younger siblings and they had no idea what just happened. I’d said a bad word!
A dozen years later, learning how to swear was a vital part of my emotional and spiritual healing. And all those intense, harsh words remain a significant part of my truth telling.
When I started being honest with myself and God, started processing years of powerlessness and trying to manipulate God and others by my niceness, all those hard words came out. They needed too. I wasn't pretending to be nice anymore. I had to stop talking nice.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me, so I try to be respectful of other people's boundaries. I don't swear around people who would stop listening to me if they heard those ugly words coming out of my mouth. But I need strong words to engage reality.
As I drove home the other night along my favorite road, the one on the edge of the bluff that looks over my whole city, I tested out a few of my favorite swear words. I wrote my voice, my frustration with certain people and relationships and situations, all over that view. And then I laughted at myself, struck by the beauty and goodness in my life contrasting against my vocal frustrations.
Sometimes it really does feel like I’m shouting dark, sweary words over my favorite, gorgeous light-filled cityscape.
But in a strange way, each helps me define the other.
Like I said before, I try to be careful of other people's boundaries with words. Social etiquettes and kindness matter to me, but I'm not bound by them. In certain company, I swear when the rhythm of a punch line invites it. Sometimes I add it for emphasis, because intensity is heard to convey, especially in type, without it.
But mostly I use those words now because they distinguish my voice, the strong, unapologetic, passionate one I am using now, from the years of silencing myself.
They reflect that I am no longer calling ugly things beautiful to fit in with my social norms. They're words that echo of my power and responsibility. They help me call the injustice of the world what it is.
Swear words are just as much a part of truth as the pretty words are.