How Does Your Breath Smell?
I'm on Facebook (a LOT these days), and, surprisingly*, quite a few teenagers are my Fb friends, most of whom requested my friendship. This means, of course, I'm exposed to teenSpeak in its variegated forms. Most of the time, this amuses. But every once in a while, in fact, too often, it troubles. I admit it: it's the Language.
I am not referring to textspeak or slang. I'm talking about profanity, vulgarity and obscenity. For what it's worth, I'm really not a prude as far as language is concerned*. I am, after all, a wordsmith myself. I avoid strong language, but I recognize its place in dialogue. When I was a kid*, people cursed in public only when they were angry, drunk, or insane. If one adult cussed at another adult, there was a brief stunned silence, signifying (I believe) the presence of anger in the conversation. Maybe my adult friends grew up the same way: rarely does any one of them use Language in our conversation unless anger is there. (One of my colleagues, maybe ten or fifteen or twenty years older than I, no prude in any context*, and certainly privileged with the prerogative of cussin, has cussed only once in my presence. She was very angry. She also whispered the cuss word. I leave you to map out the implications.)
Then there is the thing about my faith. Because of the way I read the bible and follow the Lord Christ, I believe in the power of the curse. "The power of life and death is in the tongue," I was taught and I believe, because I've seen that power at work, for good and ill. So another reason I avoid strong language in my own mouth is the fact that I believe I am a woman of power. I believe that not only what I do, but also what I say has authority. Every idle word from my mouth smites my heart, bothers my peace for days, sometimes years. So even when I laugh and joke, I don't do it with strong language: contrary to current culture, I don't believe strong language is meant for joking around.
Which brings me back to my teenaged friends and their language. One young Fb friend used to status only about sex. One cussed profoundly about having to go to work. And to my horror, my own daughters began punctuating their Fb threads with LMAO and even LMFAO. These are the same people who gasped in shock when I called an ass an ass*, or when I said "damn it" after my older girl accidentally snapped me in the eye with a towel. (I use the word accidentally because, although she was playing around and meant to snap me with it, she did not mean to snap me in the eye with it. In response, I deliberately used the words damn it to help her realize that, even when playing, she should be a lot more careful.) In the same way, I recently told these people who live in my house that they should refuse to become "anyone's fuck buddy". And these people gasped in shock. (You see the hypocrisy --theirs and mine-- by now, I hope, because, I'm just not going to confess any more of my sins. In this essay, anyway.)
I'm reminded of Walter Mosley's character, Socrates Fortlow, the sixty-something ex-convict who, in the novel Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,
caught a strange boy killing and stealing a neighbor's chicken. Fortlow makes Darryl clean, cook and eat the chicken, an object lesson in responsibility and accountability. When he asks the boy if he's ever had such a good meal, Darryl truthfully responds, "Shit, no." And then Socrates, the murderer-rapist (many times over, once outside and, consequently, the other times Inside) tells Darryl, "Keep your mouth clean, li'l brother. . . .an' then they know you mean business when you say somp'n strong." Some would argue, of course, as I used to, that there are many ways to "say something strong" without certain language. Point taken. But (again) I have come to recognize Certain Language's place in dialogue, even if I prefer to keep my mouth clean.
Among my teenaged friends, I'm just saying, I don't see even the knowledge of a distinction between regular usage and Strong Usage. There is no sense of propriety. There is no discretion. Why should your status say, "Take pride in your shit" when what you mean is "Take pride in yourself, your accomplishments, your standards, your creations"? Personally, I haven't taken pride in my shit since I was two. I flush it away, in fact.
So why, finally, is shit always in your mouths, little brothers and sisters? Aren't you aware of what that does to your smile and your breath?
Lord Jesus, my brother, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.
*Because my older daughter refuses to befriend me or her aunt. And the younger one unfriended her aunt when she was called out on the LMFAO thang.
*I am, however, a prude in other areas. Deal with it.
*Yes, a hunnert years ago.
*She and her husband actually follow The Dead around. Nuff said.
*Yes, I use this word advisedly, but only in reference to certain people, never a certain part of their (or anyone's) body.