When my sister and I were growing up, Mama told us under NO circumstances were we to use bad words such as phooey, silly, stupid, fudge, gosh, or heck. At our house, the Disney movie “That Darn Cat” became “That Blank Cat”. There was an unknown abyss of nastier words hanging around big-boy playgrounds and other foreign places outside, but as ancient maps noted the areas of the world uncharted before the age of exploration, beyond our trusted shores thar be dragons!
No matter how many four-letter words I saw scrawled on bathroom stalls at my school, I did not use what Mama would call foul language. So closely did I follow her line of thinking that when I played a kid’s game of switching the beginnings of my friends names around and Kitty Shronce became Shitty Kronce, no one was more surprised at what came out of my mouth than me. Well, Kitty was none too pleased. And I was quite sure I was going straight to hell.
In my late teen years, I attended a Southern Baptist church which was full of Total Woman handbook study groups.
Written by an Evangelical Christian woman named Maribel Morgan, The Total Woman taught that the husband is the king of his household, and if the properly Christian wife worships and obeys him in all things–and occasionally meets his sexual fantasies by greeting him at the front door wrapped in nothing but Saran wrap–a happy marriage and all good things will come. I kid you not. Here’s her Wikipedia page, read it, and weep:
Okay, I was raised in a sheltered home. I was young and ignorant of the ways of the world. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But I compounded my quite shocking naiveté by marrying a man I had only known for three months when I was two weeks shy of my 19th birthday. Yeah. Breathtakingly stupid.
When he took off his nice-guy facade on the honeymoon, I was amazed at this man I did not know. He was, as it says in the dictionary, “marked by egocentric and antisocial behavior”. He did not want me to have friends or spend time with my family, wouldn’t speak to me for days if I lost one of his socks at the apartment’s laundry room, and said he would not drive me back to work until I ate food I didn’t want at McDonald’s. My crime: he wasn’t able to find a parking place at the McDonald’s near my office, and he had drive to the one two miles away.
As you can well imagine, The Total Woman handbook was NO help with this king of his household. After five years of living hell, not only did I leave him, but I found that I really needed to let loose with an occasional damn from time to time. And so I did.
As a single parent in my mid 20’s, working for a pittance on a secretary’s salary while I worked on my degree at the University of Tennessee, I continually bumped up against the rules and life ways of the good ole Southern boy culture. It may have been the 1980s when “we” were supposed to be liberated, yet we of the female persuasion were instructed to refer to our male co-workers as Mr. Jones or Dr. Smith, while we were called by our first names, Cindy or Kathy or Connie or Sue.
One morning I arrived at work earlier than anyone else at work, and the management assessment director who I knew only to say hello to and not much more, walked up to me and kissed me on the lips. No “good morning”, no “how ya perkin’, pardna”, just a good long kiss right in the smackeroo.
I had no context for this behavior, couldn’t really myself believe what had happened, so I told no one and kept my head down. Not too long after that he left his wife, married his secretary, and I was left to ponder the sexual harassment that guys in my workplace took for granted.
About this time, I found that I needed a more colorful vocabulary, and my son heard me say shit more than once when my ex didn’t send the child support, and I still had to pay bills and put food on the table. Shit a brick.
After I finished my bachelor’s degree, I married a young engineering graduate, and we moved to (Don’t Mess With) Texas for him to accept his first post-graduation job for a defense contractor in Ft. (Beginning of the West) Worth.
We found a place to live that we could afford that had a school within walking distance, and I began cross-stitching Christmas presents for my family back home in Tennessee. Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day, and hel-lo I am pregnant.
We had one car without air conditioning, in the sizzling miasma of the holy terror tumbleweed of Southwest Ft. Worth where the fire ants were most surely a-jumpin’, and I was hauling my hugely pregnant self around Ft. Worth with the car windows open, and praying we would not have to stop at a red light.
About the time I was carrying my second baby boy in the vaporous humidity of Foat Wuth (how it was pronounced by the natives, y’all), Jim Wright, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives–who brought home all kinds of lovely defense contracts to his home district of Ft. Worth–came under scrutiny by Newt Gingrich and his Republican minions.
According to his enemies across the aisle, Wright’s wrongs apparently were to write a book called Reflections of a Public Man (I will admit it is a weak title), devise a scheme to keep more proceeds from the profits of the book than he was allowed as a member of the House, and give his wife Betty a job. Interesting aside: Some observers say the Jim Wright ethics investigation by the GOP, and the resulting scandal and recriminations ending in Wright’s resignation as speaker of the House, was the opening salvo of the legislative stalemate that has paralyzed our nation for the last 25 years. Yep, the beginning of our ends, so to speak.
Anyway, the seemingly endless drip, drip, drip of bad news for our once powerful representative was even worse for Ft. Worth as half or so of the defense contractor jobs evaporated. Boarded up, repossessed homes were up and down our neighborhood–bad timing, we had just bought a home–and no one knew how long anyone would have a job at my husband’s employer.
Soooo, as I struggled womanfully to make ends meet, raise two children, and scrounge to find a job in the wake of cataclysmic political disaster, I found there was only one word that described my situation.
The word I speak of is a magical word that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, and maybe a few other parts of speech that I have forgotten since Mrs. Decker’s seventh-grade English class. It is also the word that best illustrates what continues to go on in Washington as stalemate reigns year after year in our houses of Congress. We poor Ft. Worth residents were fucked, my dear citizens. And so apparently are we by our national houses of legislative non-cooperation and strife.
However, I say to you boldly, women who find yourself in similarly dire straits as I have during my own lifetime. You are not without recompense and remedy in your hours of need. You may have been reared as a lady, and you do not want to let lose with a torrent of loose verbiage.
But I say to you, ladies and women of all ages, if you find yourself rear-ended at the red-light of life as I have oh so many times, you can have at your disposal an arsenal of words that have quickened the pulse and braved the heart of many a weary female traveler. You have damn, shit, and fuck–with an occasional hell, if you like. Go forth, ladies, and use these words wisely, yea discriminately, and they will serve you well.
A timely reflection before the holiday shopping season.
//Anna – 11/30/2014