October 1999
s m u g
compulsion
by Leslie Harpold

Did I just Say That?

There comes a time in a young woman's life when she has to face up to her future and think about where she's going. I used to worry that I would go deaf from attending so many loud punk shows sans earplugs (I carry them with me at all times now, in a weak attempt to correct the past, much to the chagrin of waitresses in bars that perpetually play the Eurythmics and Sade) and then I worried I would die in stray gunfire, although that was completely unfounded, and merely seemed like the kind of thing that would happen to me.

As I get older, I am in closer touch with the kind of illness that will likely begin to eat away at me as I reach my golden years, and it's not going to be pretty. If karma is real, and I think it is, I'm going to get Tourette's Syndrome.

I have a problem. And I can't stop any time I want to. I tried. I can't. I like to swear. Perhaps one of the single least feminine qualities a person can posses, not to mention the thing that upsets my family more than any other personality quirk I have. Mostly I manage to avoid it when I speak to them on the phone or visit, but occasionally, some shred of foul language will seep through and I can feel my mother flinch.

I don't know how it started. Well, I do but I hate it when things work out all Freudian like. In my early years, I never cursed. I couldn't. When I moved to New York, the town that is the undoing of many formerly nice midwestern girls, I met someone who noticed that I used colloquialisms like "dang" and "heavens to witness!" and put the challenge down before me to curse. This sounds like some scene from a never released John Hughes film, and I don't mean one from the genius period, but I swear it's completely true. Kind of the Henry Higgins to my Liza Doolittle, but attempting to debase instead of improve.

Eventually, it took hold and I discovered I loved to swear, especially the f word. I had been introduced the the release that the "f" sound made leading to a guttural "ugh" and topped off with the finality of the hard "K" and how deeply satisfying it was to let loose with streams of profanity as a catharsis in situations had gone horribly, irrevocably, awry.

Naturally this ruins my chance to ever be a real lady (at least according to my mother) and at this point I realize I use the F word about 20 times a day. Like a sailor on shore leave, not realizing the landlubbers might not be accustomed to such terse language. Although for special occasions like dates, family gatherings and business meetings I can stem my use of the F word, I worry that one day I'll just start blurting these things uncontrollably, and no medication will help. Occasionally when alone, I'll swear in long colorful streams at the phone, or the cakemix, or any number of inanimate objects and then look around to see who said that. I fear the damage may already be done.

.

leslie@smug.com

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