Back in the days when I said words like "freaky deaky" and "wicked" to describe my world, I was the tightest ball of anxious insecurity you could imagine. Holy bejeezus, did other people knock my poop out of its group. I lived only half a block from my elementary school, but there were three miles of despair and imagined social hell between my house and that schoolyard, I swear.
Let's face it. Kids can be mean. Most kids are born megalomaniacs who have to be goaded/admonished/grounded into a more civilized state until their brains are mature enough to figure out that being a decent human being has its rewards. The kids in my grade were mostly in that pre-trained state and took joy in subjecting others to ridicule and derisive rumours. I was an easy target. I was gentle, buck-toothed, philosophical, myopic, and most of my clothes were picked out by my grandmother from the thrift store she volunteered at in a small prairie town. We've all seen how some people can dress in backwater farming communities. Now imagine that, only three years even further out of date. I was a hick-looking woodchuck in Holly Hobby glasses.
I was in this pre-pubescent haze of painful self-discovery and was working myself into a terrible state. Who was I? What did I want? What could I do to garner more respect? What the hell was wrong with everyone? The times, they were a-killing me.
Even my best friend, Laurie, had begun to take a tone with me. She had suddenly started to make mocking comments about things I did, said, and wore. My last safe place, my best friend, was turning on me. I knew I had to do something before everything fell apart and I ended up like that other nerd, Peggy, who roamed the outfield alone, toeing the dirt at recess, but what?
I loved Laurie, and there was no way I was willing to lose her as a friend because I couldn't find the courage to put her in her place. I knew that I was somehow allowing this behaviour in others and thought it was up to me to change it. I am a self-blamer. What can I say? I worried over what course of action I would take for weeks. When Laurie would toss out comments like "Nice pants. Are they from your grandma?", which was true but irksome nonetheless, I could feel my anger burning up my spine, but I kept my eyes downcast. I was going to surprise her. I didn't know with what, but I was going to shock her with the fact I wasn't going to take it anymore. I was a coiled cobra in a seventy-pound body.
I had been given this pair of baby blue running shoes by a lady who lived down the street from me. She was an adult but tiny, and I needed shoes. I really liked them, despite the fact that they were two sizes too big for me. I loved lacing them up and feeling the soft terrycloth on the tongue brush against my fingers. One day, as I was tying my shoes before recess, Laurie came up to me in the hall and said "Are those your mom's shoes?" She had this smirk on her face like she thought she was so brilliant with her rudimentary sarcasm.
I felt my anger rising in my chest. It literally felt like there was this bubbling heat filling my chest cavity. I could barely hear with all the blood racing through my ears. I raised myself to a standing position, fists clenched at my sides, and did something I had never before done. I had not planned my course of action, but the time was upon me, and I acted spontaneously straight from my gut. I SWORE. OUT LOUD.
Fuck, I said in the lowest, throatiest voice I could muster.
What did you say? Laurie asked, clearly disbelieving her own ears.
FUCK YOU, I repeated the word. I couldn't believe it, either. You can't talk to me that way anymore.
My muscles jumped and twitched. I was in brand new territory throwing words like that around. I half-expected some adult to walk by and knock me upside the head for my indiscretion.
She stood there for a moment with blushing cheeks. I had heard her say "shit" before, but neither of us had ever delved so deep into the four-lettered no-nos. This was new and slightly embarrassing behaviour for both of us. These were words that, when hefted, came down like sledgehammers to our nearly virgin ears.
Alright, alright, she said, trying to laugh it off but looking nervous about my sudden show of backbone. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings or anything.
I was four-feet-five-inches tall, but I felt gigantic at that moment. My body was a powerful muscle of torqued force. I was someone who had to be reckoned with. I'd had my first triumph over personal adversity. I was someone who had to loosen their shoelaces, because tying them while angry meant that I had cut off the blood supply to my feet.
It turned out that swearing wasn't a sinful activity reserved for kids with bad parents and immature grownups, as I had been led to believe. It turned out that swearing helped me fight my first real battle to stand up for myself, which gave me more confidence than anything that had come before. Laurie never spoke to me in a condescending manner again, and she actually offered me a sincere apology at the end of the day.
Suddenly, I didn't have to be so insignificant all the time. I could be large when I needed to. I could change things.
Swearing changed my life. Thank fuck.