Friday, October 28, 2016

The F-Word

Don't take my effing picture, Mom!

“Mama, what’s the f-word that isn’t fart?” Purvis asked at dinner. 

“Uh,” I fumbled, “why do you ask?”

“At School of Rock, the teacher asked who our favorite band was and I said Tacocat and we were going to do ‘I Hate the Weekend’ but she said we couldn’t because of the f-word.”

“Oh, yeah.  So when you and I sing it, we sing another word for the f-word.”

“What?” She asked.

“Purvis’ teacher’s band is opening up for Tacocat tonight,” Josh interjected, using the time-tested misdirection technique.

“How cool!” I said.

“No, Tacocat is opening up for them,” Purvis said.

Several times we tried to correct her.  Tacocat was definitely the main event.  But she wouldn’t hear of it.  I’m not sure if she thinks the opening band is the main event or if her teacher’s band is bigger than Tacocat.  The issue became a sore one and wasn’t worth the disagreement.  Also, it steered us a satisfactory distance away from the f-word topic.  “Look over there!” saves the day once again.

On Saturday, Purvis and I packed into the car to go to acro-class. 

“I Hate the Weekend!” Purvis called out once she was buckled into her booster seat.

“Okay, okay,” I said, taking a moment to appreciate that she is no longer demanding the Wizard of Oz soundtrack or the now-disavowed “Let It Go.”  (“I never liked Frozen,” Purvis claims.  I have a pile of Elsa stuffies that tell a different tale.)

“At the end of every week/they pull into our streets/homogenized and oh-so-weak,” Purvis and I belted out along with Tacocat.

Got a hall pass from your job/just to act like a buckin' slob,” we sang, me doing a quick-check in the rearview mirror to see if any recognition fluttered over her face.

During our early sing-a-longs I omitted the “fuckin’” from “fuckin’ slob” and kept going.  One day Purvis insisted it was “buckin’” so I went with it.  Sure, buckin’ slob works.

She paused her singing.  “That’s the word, isn’t it,” she said.

“We sing buckin’,” I said.  “Buckin’ slob.”  I enunciated like I was teaching her a new word.

“But what is it really?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you.  Ask one of your older friends what the f-word is.”  I said, hoping it was the last time I refer Purvis to the playground to acquire a piece of grown-up knowledge. 

“It’s fart, isn’t it,” she said.

“Yeah, it’s fart.” I said.


Purvis’ search for the truth about the f-word continued.  She knows it isn’t fart.  She scoured the playground for information, asking older kids and know-it-all peers, and none of them could enlighten her. 

“Tell me, Mama,” she begged.

“Sorry, I can’t.”

I pondered the issue.  I want her to come to me with burning questions.  I want her to trust me to give her the information she needs to negotiate this house-on-fire we call life.  But still.  Does this include providing her with a list of curse words?  Is it time to introduce her to George Carlin?

Somehow I’ve managed to negotiate the whole Donald Trump “grab ‘em by the pussy” ordeal without exposing the other meaning of the p-word.  All she knows is that Donald Trump kisses women without their consent and that is not okay.  Also that Donald Trump is a disaster of a man who wants to build a wall keeping people out of this country.  (The playground scuttlebutt on the Donald is all negative in Southeast Portland.)

I checked in with Josh.  “Should I tell her what the f-word is?”

“No, you should not.  She isn’t ready for it.”

When she’s frustrated, she “Jesus Christs” all over the place.  We’ve told her that she can’t Jesus Christ in public, but I know it’s only a matter of time.  I can’t help laughing when she “What in Jesus Christs?” something.  What in Jesus Christ indeed.  Something about her dropping f-bombs seems to be taking it too far. 

My parents had a no-tolerance policy towards curse words.  Neighborhood kids could "shit" and "bitch" within earshot, but if we uttered even a "piss," our mom dragged us aside for a stern talking-to.  When I was in college, I OD-ed on them.  Fuck this and fuck that, fucking fuckety fuck.  "They're just words," I smirked.   During my brief tenure as a substitute teacher, I didn't jump all over kids for cursing in class at first.  As long as they don't demean me or their peers, I don't care, I told myself.  Then, in the line of high-schooler fire, I changed my tune quickly.  Curse words were the canary in the coal mine they tossed out to see what the sub was made of.  This sub was equal parts unresolved high school issues and not wanting to get fired.  So I endured.  I kept it in the room.  I tried not to care when they no longer though of me as "the cool sub."  (For more details on my adventures in substitute teaching, check out "The Cool Bad Sub" in Crudbucket 4: The Happy Childhood Issue.)
As Purvis and I lay in bed, she again made a case for f-word enlightenment.  “Please tell me.”

“Okay, I’ll tell you.  It’s fart.”  I said.

“No, it isn’t.”

“It’s Frankenweenie,” I blurted.



You know, the Tim Burton movie about a boy who brings a dog back to life a la Frankenstein?  I haven’t seen it either, but somebody did their marketing right since that is the word that popped into my head.

She was satisfied for the moment. 

Sunday we piled in the car and turned up the Tacocat for the drive to swimming class.

“I Hate the Weekend,” she implored.


I forwarded to the track.  I pumped up the volume.  I sang along at the top of my lungs.  Purvis was suspiciously quiet.  At the end of the song she said, “I can’t hear it.”

I turned it up another notch.  “It’s pretty loud already,” I said.

“I didn’t hear Frankenweenie.”

“Oh, right. Sometimes they just say ‘frank,’” I said.  “Like frankin’ slob.  But I like buckin’ slob better.’

Good cover.  Or at least a cover. 

The secret of the f-word remains safe for another day. 

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