When Nothing Short of ‘F*ck You’ Will Do
I love a good, well-placed profanity. When I’m pissed off, and even when I’m not, I can be a real fuckin’ potty mouth. A good cuss is a superlative-booster, to my way of thinking. If something is more than great but not quite amazing, it’s fucking great. If it’s slightly more than incredible but not quite unbelievable, it’s fucking incredible!
“I don’t believe you” or “bullshit”? Bullshit, hands down. Is there no better way of flatly rejecting a stupid idea, notion, or command than “fuck that”? “Screw off” or it’s Disneyland cousin “buzz off” has got to be the lamest, shittiest stand-in for “go fuck yourself” in existence.
Maybe in the ivory tower being flowery and glib in dancing around how you really feel scores you points on the scale of wit and decorum. Maybe, in your mind. In the real world where people are cutting me off, giving me the finger, stealing my lunch from the office fridge, taking credit for my work, or otherwise not caring about how shitty they are making my day, “what the fuck?!” is way more effective in telling them how sordid their contribution to my existence is in that moment. Even if they didn’t mean it, sometimes they’ve just got to know they are advised not to repeat it.
Conveying your true feelings when someone’s done you wrong is where profanity comes in most handy. Let’s say you are pissed off and music is your medium. Who would you rather use as your voice: Kenny G or Rage Against the Machine? Rage, right? Public Enemy and Ice T were way more effective messengers of the anger and frustration at the disenfranchisement of African Americans than Lionel Richie or Luther Vandross would ever have been.
If someone’s taken a dump in your Cheerios, nothing short of a good ole’, down-home “fuck you” will do to really let ‘em know how you feel about it. It’s language at its motherfucking finest, unassailable perfection.
When my mother was caught in the grip of frustration her mouth could make Caligula blush. Her and legendary cusser US President Lyndon Baines Johnson would have been great fuckin’ cuss-buddies if he hadn’t died in ‘73. It’s where I inherited the taste for profanity when my passions are stirred. Most of the kids I hung out with had mothers who, when they were pissed off at them, said stuff like “Jesus, Mary and Joseph Dylan, you’ve got the devil in you” or “Goodness gracious Sean, you’re trying my patience”.
My mother’s favourite expression: “Jesus-Fucking-Christ!” we’d better do that thing or there was “gonna be hell to pay”. The directive usually came as a pot was sent flying across the kitchen or as cabinet doors were opened and slammed shut. Sometimes cutlery and stemware were sent on a collision course in catastrophic fashion; freshly folded piles of clothing were ransacked – socks and shit-stained underwear jettisoned across our condominium flat, forcing a re-folding later, and more cursing at having so unnecessarily compounding her never-ending list of chores. All of this transpired as my brother and I watched from the sidelines, cognizant of our role as the dirtbags who sent our over-worked, single mother over the edge.
The colour of her face in these verbal barrages attained a brilliant, sun-like crimson glow. There was no need for corporal punishment – the spectacle, supplemented by the torrent of profanity was effective enough. We had done wrong, and we needed to step-up to make things right. Right. Fucking. Now.
We weren’t idiots, we bucked up and did as we were told. I wanted to have nothing to do with finding out what her vision of payments to hell looked like. I imagined it probably involved sending us on repeated trips to the store to buy her “feminine hygiene” supplies (ie. maxi-pads) which, in those days, came in boxes bigger than most seven year olds and could have been used as a life-raft in a flash flood.
The intensity and volcanic force of my mother’s profane outbursts had a much greater impact than the Irish-accented, biblical invective from Dylan’s mother, which was as exotic to us as it was totally futile. Aside from that, it laid bare his Irish roots, which meant he was subjected to puerile taunts about his Lucky Charms, the magic of four-leafed clovers, and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. If she had said “You little fuckin’ Judas get your Mick ass in this house right now” I can guarantee he’d have dropped his hockey stick, left his blarney stone, and run home like a child about to shit his Sunday-best pants.
It became imprinted in my mind early on that profanity has a home in our speech. At least if it’s used among those who aren’t total strangers. You don’t roll down your window at the mall parking lot and say “that’s my fucking parking spot you cock-sucker!” – that’s what car horns and middle fingers are for right? You don’t approach a group of obnoxious kids at a fast-food restaurant and say, “hey shut the fuck up you little shits, I’m trying to eat my big mac here.” The utility of profanity requires an existing, defined social relationship between interlocutors so its intention is clearly understood.Otherwise, it could be seen as a veiled threat.
Other than that, it’s open season. Sort of.
The office is a bit of a grey area. Is swearing totally off limits or just sometimes? When? Sometimes, in the office lunch room I’ll read the typical mindless rant of the local knee-jerk “shock” columnist who makes his bread lighting the fuses of his trailer park fan-base by blaming immigrants or disenfranchised minorities for everything that ails the city. Every day he blames government for every social or existential ill that sticks in his craw – crime, bad roads, bad weather, his stunted intellect – and insists they ought to do a better job fixing things, so long as half the “lazy bastards” are fired first. Most days I just can’t bear it – I take the bait every time. I blurt out with exasperation: “Who pays this fucking moron to stink up the place with his bullshit.” The sound of baloney and ketchup sandwiches being gagged on fills the room.
My question is, is that not cool?
The lunch room at my workplace is no European salon where great works of literature and art are discussed in earnest. Solutions for the global economic crisis or consensus on the debate over climate change are not on the offing as we munch on prepared meals laced with enough chemicals and sodium to preserve an elephant’s carcasss into the next millennium. The office lunch room, the photocopier, or water cooler are beacons of trite small-talk, petty gossip and, for the intellectually stunted, pleasure.
For most, anywhere in an office that doubles as a meeting place is a cesspool of unbearable shallowness and insincerity. I don’t think any of these milieus is irreparably sullied if one of us – typically me – decides to spice up conversation with some juicy profanities. It’s the closest thing to a socially acceptable state of arousal I can ever hope to achieve at the office.
Even though most refrain from profanity at the office, I assume nobody could be offended by those of us who do not, given the epidemic of crass, tasteless excrement that litters our cultural landscape. Unless you live in a cave, every day you’re subjected to an overdose of reality television and info-tainment documenting the public breakdown, rehab, imprisonment, philandering, misconduct, and sex-addiction of celebrities, pro-athletes, and public figures.
Every day competing ideological tribes flog the best kool-aid their cult can muster for radio and television audiences. It’s a battle of pagan idols similar to that waged between supporters of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. It’s so pointless and shallow it makes me want to smash my head through a fucking wall. Given this troglodyte wasteland we are immersed in, where is this so-called bar that marks profane language as “offensive”?
There’s an old-fashioned colonial imperative that would label any profanity as discourteous and offensive in a public context. If you want to swear, to show your boobs, your butt-crack, or to be a total asshole you spare others the indignity and do so in the confines of your home. Swear in the garage, punch a pillow, kick your dog, brow-beat your wife and children, slander your colleagues among intimate friends, wear your wife’s panties in your own boudoir. Just keep your shit together in public. My grandmother, the country-club WASP elitist she was, would insist that swearing is a vulgarity which, like abject poverty, is best reserved for people of a lesser social strata. A gentleman is not profane.
Prince Philip of England loves to squeeze out the silver spoon by repeatedly shoving his royal foot in his mouth. He doesn’t hide behind a simulacra of gold-plated shitters, dandy ceremonial garb, and Eton-accented English. He speaks his mind which, in spite of its immersion in a refined environment since childhood, still happens to resemble that of Archie Bunker.
I respect that, even if what comes out makes us all cringe. You know where he stands: in His Majesty’s trailer park getting fucked up on the sauce with his royal homeboys. I like to think that if I wasn’t black, Canadian, middle-class, socially democratic, non-inbred, and under 90 years of age me and the Prince would hang out, maybe play some polo or dance around boiling cauldrons with spear-chucking Zulus or something.
A Canadian Member of Parliament became so frustrated with the political tactics of Prime Minister Stephen Harper he tweeted that it was “a fucking disgrace”. Some condemnation followed about the MP’s lack of fealty to parliamentary decorum. Fair enough, but the PM is a savvy politician. He plays to win and in so doing, he is what my grandfather would call a real country-style cocksucker. The PM and the foul-mouthed MP are just playing the game of modern politics and being honest in calling each other out as the fuck-tards they really are.
In this case, it’s revealing that most Canadians were like, ‘Meh, I gotta get back to my American Idol over here.’ I take that as a sign that most are in favour of profanity. Fuckin’ eh! If it’s good enough for my MP it’s good enough for me. The real offense is the PM using his political clout to get gigs where he assails his captive subjects with tone deaf covers of Beatles hits. Say what you want about proroguing parliament, muzzling science, or consolidating power in his strident hands, the Harper version of “A Little Help From my Friends” is the real fucking disgrace.
Profanity isn’t inherently wrong just because it can be offensive. There is context. On some women, tight mid-riff revealing tops and form-fitting yoga pants are appropriate (and gratefully enjoyed). On some men speedos are considered reasonable beach attire. If you’re tipping the scales at nearly 300 pounds, have extreme gout, or have more bodily hair than a Yak, moderation is probably the best course if you’re contemplating either of these fashion options.
The same logic is true for profanity. Like civil disobedience, a flurry of expletives holds up a mirror to your adversary, it distills the abject immorality in their conduct as the driver of your profane outrage. It shines the light on the reality of the situation between dialoguing parties like nothing else can. But if you’re justifiably pissed off at a six year old, your grandmother or the Dalai Lama, maybe you stick with the Disney edit of your reaction.
In a civil society where taking a club and knocking the shit out of a social bully will get you a felony charge, all we have left at our disposal is a verbal assault. It’s necessary for the preservation of social order to encourage greater acceptance of this tack given the spread of the douchebag pandemic throughout our culture. The douchebag is like a human bedbug, their self-centred, pea-brained, knee-jerk insensitivity to the circumstances of anyone but themselves is ubiquitous and irritates you the moment you come into contact with it. They infest our homes, workplaces, churches, sporting events, and our politics with their douchebag axioms and douchebag behaviour.
How do you deal with someone who walks past a homeless person screaming “get a job!” and loves the saying “bros before ho’s”; for whom women are either “beeyaches” or people he wants to “tap”? These are the social Darwinist assholes who’ve made virtues of corporate kleptocracy and crony capitalism and vices of social conscience and compassion. They did beer bongs with Bush back at the frat and these days they spend half the week at the golf course “networking” as their yearly income exceeds that of Guatemala. They think it’s hilarious to go to the Halloween party dressed as a Mexican, an “Arab”, as Fu Man Chu, as a “Chief”, or in blackface, steadfast in the belief these aren’t racist costumes just because “political correctness” says it is. If you have any of these symptoms, chances are you’ve got douchebags.
They won’t understand righteous indignation or heed appeals to an ethical compass they don’t have. That kind of brooding is for bleeding heart pansy intellectuals, so hold your nose and go deal with your little infestation. We all have the unavoidable douchebag in our lives: the co-worker, an in-law, a neighbor, or a childhood friend who doesn’t take the hint that you despise him. You’ve been too equivocal in your exasperation with their behaviour. Next time they engage in their misanthropy, say these words: hey dipshit, get the fuck outta my life. Now go on give the douchebag a piece of your mind for poisoning humanity’s existence!