Confessions Of A
by Roz Warren
strained a tendon in my foot, which made walking
extremely painful. My podiatrist suggested
a cortisone shot.
will hurt, he warned, as he angled a
gigantic needle toward my foot, but I think
it might alleviate the problem.
needle plunged in, and the searing pain hit, I
let loose with a stream of profanity that clearly
shocked my doctor, a pleasant and amiable
fellow, who also happened to be an Orthodox Jew.
swearing at him. I was just swearing. But the
verbiage Id unleashed was at odds
with my demeanor. Im a mild-mannered,
middle-aged librarian. Up to that moment,
Id been ladylike and well spoken. Nary a
damn had crossed my lips.
Of course, up
to then, he hadnt stuck me with any sharp
I am, by
nature, well behaved. Growing up in the 60s, my
role model for correct behavior was my mother, a
woman with exquisite manners. Mom was no
aristocrat, just a middle-class Detroit housewife.
But appropriate behavior meant a great deal to
her. She was ladylike to the core and raised me
to be the same.
And a lady
didnt swear. Ever.
As a young
girl, I never once heard my elegant mother say
any of the words Id just inflicted upon my
Mom would say darn. If truly
provoked, shed allow herself to exclaim
Jesus Christ! which was always
followed by this disclaimer: Im a Jew,
so I dont believe in him anyway.
wanted to set a good example for her daughters
and she did.
Then I became
a rebellious teenager and the counterculture
kicked in. I didnt want to be ladylike. I
wanted to be liberated! I marched against the
Vietnam War. I read Sisterhood is Powerful.
I didnt want to be well-behaved. I wanted
to challenge authority.
I grew my hair
long and wore torn jeans and smoked pot and used
And if you
didnt like it, you could just go *%@
appalled. But perhaps, also, just a little
intrigued. I think I was a good influence. By the
time I hit my twenties, Mom had loosened up a
little. The occasional damn crept
into her speech. Only, of course, when
strictly necessary. But do I believe she enjoyed
And why not?
As far as Im concerned, profanity is the
spice of life. To this day, at home, and with
friends, I love to employ a well-chosen swear
when I got a job in the junior room at my local
public library, I had to put a lid on it.
circumstances can you say fuck when
youre working in a public library.
the junior room.
dropping a heavy reference book on her sandal-clad
foot, can exclaim only Sugar!
over an extension cord and falling flat on her
face, is allowed to shout Dang!
Even when a
hotheaded patron, infuriated because I refuse to
waive a fine, begins shouting and swearing and
calling me nasty names, Im not allowed to
The worst I
can say is Im very sorry you
feel that way.
Im not at the library, I swear. For
emphasis. For flavor. To liven up an otherwise
dull sentence. To fully express my emotions when
AT&T puts me on hold for twenty minutes and
then disconnects me.
When it comes
to profanity, I lead a double life. On the job, I
appear to be the perfect lady my mother raised me
But inside my
own head, and in my own home, and with my close
friends, Im Lenny Bruce.
really stressed out, the usual profanity gets
cranked up a notch. Every other word out of my
mouth is a curse word.
if Im walking to the train station on a
bitterly cold day, and am suddenly blasted by an
icy wind, a little mantra made entirely of curse
words will start going through my head.
Ill chant to myself as I lean into the wind.
if I can say it aloud, but I dont have to.
It calms me just to think it.
placid demeanor, youd never in a million
years imagine what Im thinking.
And unless you
stick a big needle in me, you probably wont
wouldnt approve, the truth is that research
backs me up. When youre stressed, a little
study (from the journal Neuroreport) found that
people subjected to a painful experience (plunging
a hand into cold water) could better endure the
pain if they were allowed to swear. Concluded
the studys author: I would advise
people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.
As a mild-mannered,
profanity-loving librarian, how do I feel
about this study?
its fucking awesome.
essay first appeared on www.womensvoicesforchange.org)