I come from a swearing Mormon family. Grandmother (Mom's mom) could cuss with the best of them and Grandpa (Dad's dad) dropped cowboy swears so casually that even talks in church were tinted a light shade of blue. We all appreciated Grandpa's swears because you could repeat them in context without getting your mouth washed out.
I picked up a mean swearing streak in middle school that carried over past my college career. At BYU, swearing was like a litmus test for friendship: If I could swear occasionally around you, we could be friends. If I couldn't, I occasionally daydreamed about how mad I had to make you to get you to swear back at me.
Now, I definitely had swearing standards. "Hell" and "damn" were Tier 1 swears, or "Bible swears," and weren't actually offensive. Same with "jackass" and "bastard" (or, as my little brother called it around sensitive ears, "turd of bass.") The words having to do with excrement or the gender of a dog were heftier and thus saved for more weighty situations. I never dropped The Granddaddy in my entire life. Still haven't. I have to stop somewhere.
When my husband and I started dating, we only got to date two before the swearing question came up. We'd gone to the only Mexican/Chinese restaurant in town (possibly in the state) and were eating out of styrofoam trays on his parents' front lawn.
"So," I said, picking up a lo mein noodle with chopsticks, "what are your favorite movies?"
He thought for a second, methodically chewing a mouthful of orange chicken. "Probably Gladiator," he said. "That's by far my favorite. Braveheart is really good, or Last of the Mohicans. Oh, and The Patriot. That one's good too."
In a second-date scenario, this was a really risky move. Not only were we already holding the tiniest details under the Potential Spouse microscope, but for him to admit he not only watched rated-R movies but watched a lot of them was more than I could stand. So, naturally, I shot my mouth off.
"You watch rated-R movies?" I said, filled with a mixture of disappointment and anger. "What the hell?!"
I watched his mouth drop open and my stomach did the same. "You ... swear?" he said. "That is so unladylike."
There began the first fight of our relationship. We went around and around in circles: my husband could only count on three fingers the number of times he'd heard his parents swear, but he and his dad watched rated-R movies together all the time. I had never seen a rated-R movie in my life but found great comfort in swearing. I once wrote "DAMN" on a Post-It note and gave it to a friend so she could have the comfort of carrying around a little swear without actually having to speak it aloud.
My husband and I finally came to a truce: every time I swore, he could watch a rated-R movie. Luckily he's never cashed in, because I owe him about seven hundred.
This post was originally published February 21, 2012.
Laurie Jayne (LJ) Stradling began her writing career with horrible grade-school poetry (the kind with illustrations in the margins). She has since moved onto blogging and the occasional piece of fiction, which has improved slightly since she gave up the illustrations. LJ is a quiet feminist, a loud mom, a well-kept wife and a fervent believer in prayer. She also believes that most dogs came to the earth after the Fall of Adam. Twitter: @lauriestradling.