I was a remarkably dutiful child, well-behaved and amiable as my loud-mouthed best friend did most of the trouble making. I relished my role as her foil, the long-suffering and studious protector, anxious to please and receive praise as “the good one.”
But when I was no older than seven, something came over me on the bus ride home from day camp. For reasons I’ve never been able to explain, and certainly could not articulate in that moment, I took a piece of chalk and wrote out F-U-C-K on the back of the vinyl seat.
Immediately, my counselors sprang into action: “Paige! What have you done!? Do you even know what that means?”
I shook my head, crying.
“Why did you do this? Someone must have told you to do this! Who told you to do this?”
“An older girl,” I lied. “Mandy Davis told me if I didn’t write it she would beat me up.”
I didn’t even know Mandy. I just heard she was a “bad girl” in the older bunk. The next day, she tried to confront me on the walk to the craft barn:
“Hey! Why did you lie! Tell them I didn’t do it!”
I ignored her and went on to knit my lanyard.
Thirty years later, I still feel guilty. I’ve even tried unsuccessfully to track her down on Facebook. I want to let her know I was, and still am, sorry. I don’t understand why seven-year-old me would do such a thing. I’ve even used that story as a teachable moment for my first-grade son.
After that, I would (pretty much) never tell another lie. But I was well on my way to a lifetime of giving out “fucks” like business cards at a networking conference. (Just the word, not the action. Those have an entirely different story to tell).
Despite being understandably verboten in my childhood home, the use of the F-word lived on and gloriously sprang from my lips at every opportunity.
While reading a film review aloud for a college journalism class, I boldly stated, “Courtney Love has never taken a movie role which doesn’t revolve around the word ‘fuck.’” The instructor handed the assignment back to me marked with red ink that scolded, “Crass and inappropriate.”
To my delight, the F-word seems to have made a full frontal comeback in the past couple years. Shouted loud and proud on the Facebook memes and the mom blogs, it’s all the rage to “give no fucks,” “run out of fucks,” and wonder “what the actual fuck?”
Studies claim that swearing is actually a sign of intelligence and broad vocabulary. Even the taboo of swearing in front of children is being brought to the “fuck that!” buffet.
We may live in turbulent and tumultuous times, but I am thankful for my hard-earned right to swear as freely as I please. I will never run out of fucks. I am resplendent with them. And I am not the only one. How else can we explain such fuckery run amok in our society?
The hills are alive with the sound of “Fuck This!” What better way to convey that feeling when I realize I’ve walked halfway to my doctor’s appointment without my insurance card? Oh fuck! What better way to describe a beautiful sunset? Really fucking beautiful – that’s how.
But these days, I don’t feel compelled to blame my F-words on some innocent third grader. These fucks are mine and yours and ours. And they are the one good thing that 20-fucking-16 didn’t manage to pry from our hands.