Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"Bad" Words Gone Wild

One scenario: On the phone with Pops today:

Me: Yeah, I'm fucking pissed. Our fucking basement flooded again. I’m so sick of that fucking asshole plumber acting like it’s our fucking fault. Whata fucking prick. That shit-ass. Seriously, if he would just fucking call the city like we fucking tell him every time maybe we would never have to call his stupid-bastard-ass again.

Pops: Why don’t you kids get a sump pump?

Me: Who’s going to put it in? That fucking crazy mofo? No way!

Pops: How about the next time I come down I’ll look at the foundation and see what’s going on?


Scenario 2: On the phone with Pops at age six:

Pops: How’s school going?

Me: Good, but I hate the bus. They guys on there act like retards.

Pops: Act like what?

Me: Retards.

Pops: Put your mother on the phone. Immediately.


When I tell my friends that I drop the f-bomb in front of my parents, they don't believe me. Until they witness an account first-hand.

Most families' forbidden words are fuck, shit, Jesus, goddamn, and/or for Christ sake. And there are taboo words like nigger, dyke, fag, chink.

All of these words were punished with a grounding in my childhood.

However, in my parents' houses the worst "bad" word, the one that to this day that still makes me thing spanking, is "retard" as well as all of its variants: retarded, retardation, retard-o...

You get the point!

I have gotten away with saying fuck in the presence of my parents since I was 16.

I have never gotten away with saying "retarded." I even tried recently with my dad. I was 29 & 11/12. After saying it I heard nothing but a dial tone.

That word is just pure evil.

That word is a personal insult.


Function: verb

1 : to slow up especially by preventing or hindering advance or accomplishment.
If not for my sister, I probably wouldn't love language as much as I do, I wouldn't have started writing, I wouldn't have earned a Master's Degree in Creative Writing.

: to delay academic progress by failure to promote.
Once my sister was enrolled in "quality" special-ed programs, her teachers told my parents she was a joy; each year my sister "passed."


Function: adjective

3: sometimes offensive : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress.
My sister won the "Yes I Can" award in 1994 and she's the first to get a tissue when someone starts crying and she choose not to learn sign language.


Function: noun

subaverage intellectual ability equivalent to or less than an IQ of 70 that is accompanied by significant deficits in abilities (as in communication or self-care) necessary for independent daily functioning, is present from birth or infancy, and is manifested especially by delayed or abnormal development, by learning difficulties, and by problems in social adjustment.
My sister waves at people, tells them she is "Fi-ne." She doesn't see the point in money, in counting. She stubbornly refuses to do anything she wants doesn't want to do like learning sign language. She gives hugs when she's ready to go to bed. She brings me nail polish and points to her toes when I visit. She lets us brush her teeth, wash and comb her hair, and bleach her mustache because, I'm convinced, she likes feeling cared for. Isn't that the same reason women go to salons and spas?


One summer when my brother and sister were visiting from Florida while we were playing with the neighborhood kids, a boy called my sister "retarded." I punched him square in the nose. He bled. I cried. My sister held my arm and cried. I held back my brother's writhing torso, his fisted hands flailing.

I never played with the boy again. Even after my sister and brother left for Florida.

It used to be anyone mentioned that word and I fought, I cried, or I did both at the same time.

I used to be so angry.

I used to think people who said that word were ignorant.

Then something happened.

I stopped punching people when they used it.

I don't like it, but I realized fighting would never explain why I hate the word.

It would only beget more hate.


I've been sitting here wondering what that something was.

Did I grow up?

Did I just get accustomed to the word? You'd be surprised how often people say it.

I counted one day. I heard it over 100 times. And I didn't got to mall.

I can't tell you what that something was.

But I think it was my sister.

It was her showing me she wasn't "retarded."


Or it might have been me actually saying the word without actually attaching my sister to it.

1 comment:

beth said...

you should keep revising this a little and try to publish it. it really moved me.

ahhh, our sisters....