Op-Ed

I curbed my potty mouth; the president should, too

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I have a potty mouth, and I don’t care for Donald Trump, so my first reaction to seeing Robert DeNiro give Trump a big “f*** you” at the Tony Awards was, “Hell, yeah!”

We are accustomed to clever, satirical skits on late-night talk shows, but blunt demonstrations of contempt fired off in primetime? Do we really live in an era where it is acceptable to hurl curses at the president of the United States on national TV?

When I had kids, I worried whether I could filter my language in front of them. I imagined being the parent getting called into the principal’s office because my kids were educating their peers in my vernacular.

Luckily, the Mom-filter switched on automatically. I did not curse in front of my kids. That is, I did not curse in front of my kids until recently when I called Princess Leia a “badass,” but at ages 10 and seven, I figured they could cope with it.

Periodically, my kids ask me about the “s-word” or the “f-word” and why they are bad words. My answer is that I do not know why they are bad, that a long time ago someone must have come up with a phony construct in which certain words were declared “bad,” and we mostly don’t say them to be polite.

I admit, I have needed to relieve a lot of stress these last two years, and cursing has served me well. But is there a better way to relieve stress than letting out a big, demonstrative f-bomb?

I value civil society. I understand that part of the appeal of Trump is his no-filter style of speaking, but we accept this at what cost? We are afraid to turn on the news without hearing the “p-word,” or hearing those in power make fun of people with disabilities, which is just as bad if not worse than calling someone a “curse word.”

We are afraid to let our kids watch the president deliver a speech because we never know what is going to come out of his mouth, and we have learned to live with this anxiety on a daily basis. But just because we have gotten used to it, does not make it right.

I have always tried to shield my children from hard news, to let them be kids while they are kids, and I have become necessarily militant about my no-news stance lately. But, like everything else, it is impossible to make this an all-or-nothing proposition.

For example, words describing bodily functions are still hysterical at my house, but we have rules about them: We don’t use them at the table, we don’t use them in front of company, and we don’t use them in name-calling.

I have similar rules regarding curse words (badass notwithstanding): I use them with my friends or when I am alone and need to vent, but I keep up appearances in polite society. I am, in a word, civil.

I am all for questioning social norms. But I also want the world to be a courteous place where I can expect some level of decency, of decorum. I do not want my normal, and the normal for my kids, to be a place where it is acceptable, or even encouraged, to curse at our leaders on national TV. Even if I believe that leader deserves it.

Someone on Twitter wrote, “Trump’s greatest victory is making everyone act like him.” Let’s not let that happen.

I still have a potty mouth. And I may still curse like a sailor while battling traffic, hanging out with friends, or when I am alone and need to blow off some steam. But what I refuse to do is sink to the level of the people I have spent the last two years denouncing.

I am better than that. We are all better than that.

Shelley Roberts Bendall of Lexington can be reached at shelleyrbendall

@gmail.com.

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