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NYC Blue

February 10th, 2012  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

There are plenty of chances for the children to bump into the saltier world of cursing. Network television can bleep profanity, but life doesn’t. And my kids, at least the newly minted 6-year-old, are well aware of these words. Case in point: a relative, on our recent trip to California, couldn’t fit something in the trunk. “Shit,” the relative said, upon which Dalia reflected for a moment and asked: “What does ‘shit’ mean?”

Side-note: The great thing about that is that she knows very well what ‘shit’ means. Her question was just a way of gently busting the chops of the adult who had said it, while pretending that she wasn’t busting anybody. At the precocious young age of six, my daughter is mastering passive-aggressive behavior. She’s almost ready to go work in a corporate office where cubicle-dwellers stab each other in the back all day!

I’m obviously not too worried about the language, probably because through dumb luck and nothing else I’ve been given an older child who prefers not to work blue even though she could.

HOWEVER.

Our daily walk to school through Manhattan—not a long walk, just six blocks or so—is starting to remind me more and more of a stroll through Deadwood, except with puffy jackets and snow instead of trenchcoats and dust. I don’t know if it’s just our little slice of the island, but we have some very foul-mouthed individuals living around here. And they get after it EARLY. I mean, I try to resist that first mutherfucker of the day until at least 10am. The day is long. There’s plenty of time to mutter fuck fuck fuck under your breath around lunch, or type listen, asshole as the header of an afternoon email that you decide wisely against sending.

But we walk to school at 8am and already the Germanic cognates are flying. Often the person is on a cell phone, doing that New Yorker half-shout into it. Not in direct anger—they’re usually talking to a commiserator, as in, “So you know I told him to mind his own fucking business, right?”

Dutiful controlling parent that I am, it’s actually tempting sometimes to say something: “seeing as we are all waiting together for this light to change, could you at least not shout motherfucker?”

Saying something would be a terrible idea, I’m pretty sure, in that it would most likely add ten minutes and three fistfights to our little morning commute.

But still, I wonder, how could these good people of Manhattan, my neighbors—often women, no less—curse like Carlin, with such vigor, right next to my preschoolers? And then often I look at their other hand—the one not attached to the cellphone into which they are currently announcing plans to fucking kill that bitch—and find that they are holding something altogether unexpected: the hand of their own preschooler, young and smooth-cheeked and headed for school.


Responses

  1. Paul says:

    February 13th, 2012at 1:40 am(#)

    Our little Nestan is 20 months and due to rather aberrant environmental conditions rattles off a vocabulary of a few score of words in a hodge-podge of 4 languages. One day, I guess she must have burned something at her little cooking station because she sent everything flying to the floor, shouting “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where she picked that shit up. I don’t fucking cuss around the house and haven’t burned anything in the kitchen for at least 21 months. But somehow my daughter has learned to use “fuck” in its proper context, which is something my adult neighbors can’t come close to doing. It wasn’t a fluke incident. A few days later, standing next to a rose bush, she indicated that she was aware touching it would provoke a “vava” (ouie) and to prove her point she touched it and duly exclaimed “fuck!” Again, I haven’t poked myself on a rose thorn in years.

    It’s ridiculous to try to explain to a toddler the intricacies of expletives. It’s not like pointing at a dog and saying “bahhh.” The time will come, of course, when I will burn the rice, but I’m afraid if I shout “Oh cheese and crackers!” or “fiddlesticks!” I might confuse the fuck out of her.

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