“¡Mi amor! You can’t talk like that anymore!” My husband reminds me yet again. Yet again, I’ve slipped and I’m cursing like a sailor in front of our 10-month-old baby. Once you have children, this is one of those things you’re supposed to stop doing (at least, in front of them). I began to reflect on this whole cursing thing and our social norms around it.
Growing up, my dad rarely held back from cursing in front of us, despite my mom’s best efforts. My siblings and I have always found his whole skit hilarious. For minor reasons, he would periodically get upset and start mumbling to himself. Then, with increasing volume, passion, and intensity, a melodic “¡¡¡C*ño, c*ñazo, carajo, maldicióooon!!!” would emerge. This was followed by the occasional “¡¡¡Me c%go en el diabloooo!!!” This was always some kind of a deeply personal experience between him and whatever gadget he had lost or couldn’t get to work. He would always emerge from it with a deep calmness, almost as though cursing had had a therapeutic effect on him. He let it out, and then he was OK.
Despite hearing curse words throughout my childhood, I was very certain that I was not allowed to use those words myself. If I ever did say them, I knew the last people I would say them in front of would be my parents. I remember starting to use curse words; it was almost a sign of growing up. It made me feel older to think that I could suddenly sprinkle the occasional “c*ño” into a conversation with friends and get away with it. Of course, I look back now, and it’s clear how ridiculous we must’ve all looked speaking like that in junior high. Later, when we are officially entering adulthood, some cursing becomes socially acceptable when you’re among some friends and family.
I am now trying to cut cursing out, but not stop altogether. At the end of the day, I am still my father’s daughter. When you jam your foot on a chair, or you forget to grab your cell phone and remember it when you’re on the subway station, there’s just nothing like a good “c*ño!” to ease that moment. It can help release the frustration so effectively and instantly and you can go on with your life. But I’ll save them for those special occasions. God forbid “c*ño!” turns out to be my little boy’s first word.
To learn more about Gabriela Lazzaro, visit Latinos for Planned Parenthood.