Note from Aaron:
If profanity offends you, then this probably isn’t a blog you should read. Or, it might be exactly the blog you need to read. In most cases, I like to use asterisks to block out vulgar words, but I feel like they need to be seen for what they are – vulgar – in this blog. I’d also like to note that I’m not one to seek out ‘interventions’ with strangers around me.
Yesterday evening, I was walking with Atlas through one of our favorite parks. The evening was winding down, and we were headed back to our car. I noticed a group of four men grouped around the back of a pickup truck, sharing in conversation and laughing.
We were only a few feet away when one of the guys (with his back turned to us) loudly said:
”Man, I fucking miss that pussy!”
It was like a scene out of a movie, as the two friends who were facing him could see both me and Atlas approaching. The man quickly turned and looked me right in the eye – embarrassed, he hastily said:
”Sorry, man, I didn’t see your kid was here.”
I took a second to think before responding to him:
“Apology accepted. However, I’d like to encourage you to make better use of the English language, even when kids aren’t around. I myself like a good f-bomb every now and then, but think it’s a lot more fun to find other words that better display my intelligence than defaulting to profanity.”
I smiled and walked away with Atlas.
For years, I’ve had a long relationship with the use of profanity. In fact, I think there’s a time and a place to use it – which is entirely dependent upon who you are speaking with, as well as the presence of bystanders around you.
I can tell you that certain friends of mine are more prone to hearing me use profanity than others, simply because that’s how we communicate with each other. However, I’m careful not to use profanity around Atlas, because there are words that I don’t want him saying to other kids, as well as for his own sake.
In most cases, I prefer to avoid confrontation. However, I have a rule that when somebody’s actions invade my personal space, or the ears of Atlas, I make a calculated decision to speak up. One of the best lessons I ever learned when studying martial arts is:
”The best way to win a fight is to buy the other person a beer – not to throw a punch.”
This can easily translate into conversation. What you say is just as important as how you say it, and I think it’s important to remember that when you address a stranger, you’re likely catching them off-guard, and it’s a smart bet to reassure them that you aren’t there to pick a fight.
Not all conflicts present you with the opportunity to lay down niceties before you speak, like a situation Atlas and I encountered a few months ago at a local grocery store, shortly after walking inside to begin our shopping.
As we entered the store, I saw an older woman, I’d guess in her late 60’s, stopped near the entrance of the store, with her face glued downward toward her phone screen. Squarely in our way, I began to maneuver the cart around her when suddenly she began to loudly repeat:
”Fuck. Fuck! FUCK!”
”Excuse me!” I exclaimed. She immediately looked up from her phone screen and saw me pushing Atlas in the cart.
“I don’t want my son speaking like you when he gets older.”
In similar fashion, she quickly apologized and went on her way, while I explained to Atlas that we don’t use words like that at Dad’s house.
I don’t demonize profanity, nor do I think that it’s ‘wrong’ to use it. However, I think that a healthy ‘true north’ for the words one uses is asking yourself whether or not it would be appropriate for a small child to hear. If not, I think it’s a good time to explore alternative words.
Finally, this evening I had another run-in with somebody that lacked discretion (as well as common sense) in their choice of words.
I went to my favorite coffeeshop, Perc, to have a ‘date with myself’ – something I routinely do after a few days with Atlas. As I waited at the bar for my drink, I noticed two parents playing with their daughter as they also waited for their order. They were an absolutely delightful looking family, and the daughter bubbled with joy as both parents talked with her. Her personality really reminded me of Atlas, and I couldn’t help but smile as I saw the love they shared.
In what felt like a can of ink being splattered on a white tablecloth, I suddenly heard two college-age-ish looking students loudly talking, nearly 20 feet away.
“FUCK, man. I was like 13 shots in and I FUCKIN SLAMMED THAT SHIT.”
The entire coffeeshop could hear this guy, including the family with the little girl.
A few moments later, my drink was ready and I picked it up and made my way over to their table.
”Excuse me, mind if I have a word?” I asked.
Loudmouth student looked up at me.
”I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation from the bar over there, as well as your profanity. I’m a Dad, and I would like to encourage you to find better words to use. There are little kids around here.“
I crouched down to speak to him more directly, and lowered my voice:
”Listen, man. There’s always a time and place for a good ‘fuck’ but if my son started using this word because he learned it from you, then this conversation wouldn’t be as friendly. Try to use words that show off your intelligence, instead of degrade it.”
I walked outside and carried on with my evening.