As a dad, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade denying myself innumerable pleasures that I had taken for granted pre-fatherhood. “Normal” things like spending late nights out without having to pay a sitter, cooking with pepper, completing full sentences without interruption, partaking in monthly HOA-mandated rituals that involve body glitter and anesthetized marmots, and watching The Great British Baking Show in the nude while eating a quart of full-fat sour cream with my bare hands are just a few of my former hobbies that I’ve grudgingly had to live without.
Okay, so I still do that last one, but the point is, we adults with kids give up a lot. And one of the sacrifices that we tend to overlook is perhaps the most common, and obvious, and effects us daily, if not hourly.
We stop swearing at home.
I admit, ever since I was a stripling I’ve had a terrible mouth. Never in front of mixed company, mind you, but still. I was probably raised that way, if not by my parents then by the aunts, uncles, and even grandparents I spent a lot of time around. I mean, those guys worked pretty darned blue.
Of course I swore all through my teens and twenties. But then I got married, we had Sarah, and everything changed.
Sure, I still employ toe-curling profanity at the usual off-site locations such as work, in the car, and on the floor of my gym’s group shower room every day, but at home, with the exception of an example I’ll share with you in a moment – nothing. Honestly, it’s like our house is a place of purity, a hallowed edifice not to be stained or blasphemed with something as base as vulgarity. You know, like the Duomo but without the art. Of course I’ve gotten used to it, but the truth is I’m not sure I’ve ever truly come to terms with the sheer volume of pure verbal filth I must have bottled up inside of me around the house.
As alluded to in the previous paragraph I did get a glimpse of it a couple of years back. I was unfortunate enough to succumb to a debilitating bout of vertigo, an affliction that, at its nadir, found me gasping for air and sobbing on my bathroom floor one night, paralyzed with unspeakable amounts of pain and terror and experiencing what at the time I was entirely convinced was a massive stroke but what was later referred to by my doctor as something he called–rather dismissively, I thought–a “panic attack.” Psh. Like that’s a thing.
Anyway even though I couldn’t move a single pinky finger that night without feeling like every atom in my body would explode with levels of pain akin to what I imagine the experience of belly-flopping into a thousand white-hot suns would provide, I somehow managed to alert and awaken Lizzy on the second floor (in retrospect it was probably all the screaming). She did the sporting thing and called 911, and after an excruciating ten minutes or so of indignity and agony the EMTs arrived.
I guess I was just naive, but even in my delirious state I assumed that, once I was able to convey to these life-savers, through a series of gurgles and grunts, that I was unable to move any bit of my body, at all, then they would get up from where I lay on floor, step away from my soon-to-be carcass and, after consulting each other briefly and tactfully out of Lizzy’s earshot, agree that it would be best that I not be moved. I mean, that seems fair, doesn’t it? The way I figured it, for them to shrug their shoulders, cast a sympathetic eye at Lizzy and respectfully tip-toe back to their idling ambulance would have been the work of only a couple of minutes. Pretty easy money, if you ask me.
But no, these EMT types tend to be the tenacious by nature. Where you and I might look upon a tightly curled up man hyperventilating on a bathroom floor with his face frozen in a silent scream and think, “Well, that’s a shame. Looks like not much can be done here. Back to Pictionary!” these guys look at it as an opportunity to act decisively. Faced with a man who wants only to not be moved, they naturally think of moving him. Strange, I know, but there it is.
So they insisted–rather curtly, I might add–that I take measures to get up off the floor. Of course I refused, but perhaps they were unable to translate my guttural wailing, or didn’t see the Morse code in my darting, terror-stricken eyes. Either way they persisted, and let me tell you that whatever it was that previously had kept me from being able to use my words eventually decided to call it a night, and I soon unleashed upon the hapless EMTs what can only be described as a curse-laden torrent of invective and abuse. I mean, I managed to conjure words that I’m not sure are even legal. Longshoremen, had there been any around, would have blushed.
Eventually and with great effort they did, somehow, get me up off the floor, through the kitchen and out the side door to the ambulance, but believe me when I say that every inch I shakily traversed was accompanied by the most terrible and foul things ever to have been spoken by someone who only hours earlier had told his eight year-old daughter a bedtime story involving kittens.
So if I learned anything that night it was that deep down within my soul is a guy who really misses his expletives. And who can blame me? It’s been a long time, darn it, and I’m beginning to think that a few choice words here and there around the little one wouldn’t be such a bad thing. What’s the worse that can happen? Is she going to start ticking off her schoolmates on the playground? Will she obstinately question her Montessori tutor’s parentage in colorful terms? Tell her piano teacher to fuck off? I highly doubt it.
And if she does? Well, so what? I swore a lot as a kid, and look where it got me.