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The Cursing Dilemma

By Mary Oves

Driving home from the mall, I looked over to see my 13-year-old son writing on the back of a gas receipt.

“What are you writing?” I asked.

“How many times you’ve cursed since we’ve left the house,” he scribbled intently.

“Excuse me? Why would you do that?”

“I’m trying to help you.”

“Who are you, Dr. Phil?” I snapped.

“Mom,” he warned patiently.

“Fine. So what am I up to?”

“Sixty-four. Not counting when you called the EZ-Pass Lane a d**&$%^& f**%@@@.”

“Watch your language.”

My sons continue to grow smarter, stronger, better looking and more responsible every day while I disintegrate, becoming more likely to participate in jewelry-making in the day room. And my sons are happy to remind me of this.

“Don’t worry, Mom,” they say. “We’ll take care of you. We’ll visit you in the home every Sunday.” 

How do women vent their anger without cursing? I’ve heard these women in sporting goods stores, dealing with a child who is pointing a bow-and-arrow at his 2-year-old sister. These mothers approach the budding archer calmly: “Patrick, I don’t believe your decision to use your little sister as target practice was a good one. Let’s brainstorm together different ways you can funnel your energy creatively.” The boy eyes his mother like he is a wire hanger and she is Joan Crawford. 

I handle things differently. Last week we had dinner at a local diner, and one of the twins asked if he and his 8-year-old brother could wait in the truck while I paid the bill. As they walked out, I watched from the window as the older boy locked his younger brother out of the car. He then proceeded to taunt his little brother by licking the window and making foul hand gestures. His little brother continued to cry and whine to get in.

My other twin sitting at the table with me claims that he thought the flesh was going to melt off my face. I walked calmly to the truck, and when my son turned to me, it was like the scene in “Cujo” when Dee Wallace looks out the car window and comes face to face with a drooling Saint Bernard. My son blanched in fear and reluctantly opened the door. Then, using my most colorful language, I explained what a bad decision he had made.

Patrons of the diner that night report that my invectives may still be floating over the Pacific Ocean. Legend has it that they are being used as dental floss on the Australian Disney Channel. 

I like to curse. I find it to be effective stress relief. How else can I possibly communicate my frustration over slow drivers, mothers who raise mean kids and faulty electronic equipment? Just the other day I got so angry at my dishwasher, I spewed.

“You worthless piece of **#@, I can wash these by hand faster than you can **%#@ and what the **%#@!!! is your problem?!!!!!  You, you, flagging Visigoth!!”

“Watch your language, hon’,” my husband said. “The kids are picking it up.”

“Oh yeah? Since when?” I answered in between swift kicks to my dishwasher’s Rinse and Hold button.

“Since your son came home with a note from his teacher. Kids are complaining because he’s calling them flagging Visigoths.”  

“So they probably ARE flagging Visigoths. Thank goodness we have a son who knows how to tell it like it is.”

My sons appeared and sat down at the kitchen counter, staging an intervention.

“Mom, you really do curse too much. We thought you were going to give it up for Lent.”

“I did, but no one gave me any encouragement. What’s the sense of giving something up if no one notices?”

“Mom. You only lasted a day.  Remember when the rake handle got jammed in the wheels of the automatic garage door, and you called it a Natty Nusbaum? That was the second day of Lent.”

They were right. I fell from grace fast.  

“I have an idea,” I said. “Every time I curse, I’ll put a quarter in a jar.”

“We tried that last year.”

“Oh. How’d I do?”

They took me by the hand and led me to the garage to show me the surfboards they had bought with the jar money.

The dang little wombats.  

—Mary Oves

Mary Oves lives at the Jersey Shore with her three sons: twins John and Dustin, 22, and Tommy, 18. Oves is a widow of four years and a professor of English at the local college. She devotes all of her spare time to travel and working on her blog,

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