Look, this isn’t the first time this has come up.
Once my best friend told me he was going to have to stop hanging out with me if I kept swearing so much. We were in fourth grade. I promised him I would knock it off. Eventually, I found cooler friends, and left his prissy bitchass behind.
I came by my swearing honestly, on my mother’s side. Famously in our family, Mom would tell us kids, “Your father wouldn’t say ‘shit’ if he had a mouth full of it.”
Once, on a walk with my dad when I was about twelve, he gave me a talk about swearing, logically explaining how if you swear (like your mother), you’ll upset some people unnecessarily, and if you don’t swear, you won’t. He told me I would have to choose, one way or another.
I remember thinking: “Goddamnit, I’m going to swear.”
When I was young, I swore to seem grown up. Now that I am older, I swear to: Indicate than I am not fucking around. Tell people who think they’re reading another fucking milquetoast corporate communication blog that they are not. Make myself laugh.
I know my teenage daughter swears, but not around me unless it’s necessary to the story she’s telling. That is fine with me, though I’ve told her not to be one of these jagoffs who swears around little kids (which I have thoughtlessly been, from time to time).
Meanwhile, I still have people bothering me about my swearing! One, anyway. But an important one! I got a lot of nice notes about something I wrote last week here, and only one piece of criticism. From my old pal Tony Judge, who has been telling me since we met that I shouldn’t swear so much, especially in my writing. Or maybe it’s my late father, talking to me through Tony.
This is Tony. He’s had a career and life as colorful as this photograph would suggest. He’s no suburban square.
Nevertheless, my swearing upsets him. Read this email exchange, from the bottom up.
I told Tony:
Writers don’t poll their readers about which language they prefer. Come the fuck on.
Over 20 years and 3,200 Boots posts and many other writings you are the only reader who has ever given me this feedback and I’ve had other readers actually say they love that I swear.
I may be all wet about this too of course. You might be the silent fucking majority.
And I said I would ask, because I realized I was actually curious about what I would hear.
And so I am.