Sticks and Stones, Pt. 3 washing my mouth out with soap

My Buddy accuses me of being prissy when I complain about his emails. Well, I just want to assure my readers that my family doesn’t consider me so. In fact, I wrote a lengthy goodbye letter to my Uncle Frank in which I spent a lot of time talking about his older brother, my Father, who died 30 years ago at the tender age of 62 which I’ve already surpassed by four years.

I wrote and sent the letter when I was under the impression Uncle Frank was unwilling to have family pay a call on him before he went to the great beyond. So, I wanted to tell him about how his brother’s oldest son, me, saw Daniel Welty. I included a several paragraph description of Dad’s cussing:

After my college years, I learned about one of Dad’s tactics for a good defense – swearing. I’ve already mentioned his invocation of blue beard in the face of detour signs. Well, in about fifth grade I took up some pretty serious swearing thus honoring my Father by imitation. This continued until I skinned my knee in the alley behind Mulvane while walking home with Mom. I kicked up such a torrent of wretchedness that Mom was terribly embarrassed. All our neighbors rushed to their fences to see who had just died. That night Dad told me the secret to swearing. Only swear when you want people to know you mean it because if you do it too promiscuously no one will ever pay attention to you.

What I didn’t know was that Dad did not always adhere to his own good advice. When I was a Phi Delt pledge a rotund active, Denny, who promised to hook me up with girls who would do anything I wanted, asked me confidentially if my Dad “talked like that at home?” While I declined his offer of female companionship I did ask Denny what he meant by Dad’s talking at home.

Denny exclaimed, “Does he swear like that at home?”

“Yes,” I affirmed.

It turned out that there were a lot of football players and jocks in Dad’s Business Law classes and Dad felt that a healthy blast of profanity would keep them from challenging him. I never quite understood this but college profs are a different breed. One of Mankato State’s Psych professors went to our little Congregational church. Dad told me that Professor Kansler pulled down his pants in class to reveal polka dotted briefs. He followed this gymnastics by chanting the “ef” word repeatedly for a couple minutes “to teach the class about desensitization.” I kinda wish I’d been there to witness this spectacle but Dad offered me plenty of his own layman’s psychology – at no charge – to help me make my way in the world.

It turns out that my family is right. My example has not always been the best. My cousin told me how I got her in trouble on a visit to Colorado. Apparently she picked up some of my new and unfamiliar vocabulary and tried it out at home. She got what for and said my embarassed Dad had to take me to a room and do the same. Except that no one could hear me getting what for.

I had to admit to my cousin that I couldn’t recall this family trauma. Had I gotten a good what-foring I’m sure I would have remembered. I did tell her, however, that I remembered my Mother washing my mouth out with soap when I was a first grader. I’m sure I picked up my vocabulary just like the kid did in Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.

Like a lot of free advice my Dad’s advice on cussing was sound – even if he didn’t practice it as faithfully as he could have. Ditto for me. And by the way those recent studies that suggest intelligent people swear more…….I regard them with a healthy skepticism.