Monday, March 03, 2008

My Tight Ass (It's Not Really Tight, That Was Metaphorical) and Potty Mouth

You know how when one person gives you feedback and you think it might be valid, you kinda put it in the hopper, consider it and then bat it around waiting for more information? And then, another person says something, and you think hey, maybe this perspective has real value and I should seriously consider it? And then, two days later, another person says the same thing to you and then you know it for a fact:

I some across as completely tightassed in written and first impression communication.

Well, the exact descriptors were Ms. Psychologist, psycho-speak, matronly, church-lady and generally rigidly controlled. Pedantic was thrown in for good measure. "Kinda like Ann Coulter," a blog friend said, "but I really like her, so that's cool." WTF?

You know what is funny? I may be tight-assed, but have the biggest potty mouth. Every day, bad words roll around my head and I clamp on the filter for various reasons:

1. In blog land, the Lefties are the biggest foul-mouthed asshats. They can't help themselves. It's not policy, it's personal. So name-calling and general disregard for someone who has the temerity to disagree is de rigeur. Not only are Republicans stupid, they're fucking evil. So, I try to be more dignified. That, and my mom's church friends read this. I don't want their eyeballs to bleed....too much.

2. In real life, I have children. I was never so happy as the day when my husband stubbed his toe or something, and yelped "SHIT!" with enough intensity and vigor to prompt my four-year old echolalic, autistic son to run around yelling, "Sit! Sit! Sit" Pure bliss. I thought sure it would be I who sullied our first-born son's limited vocabulary. Kid two and three were messed up by me, so whatever. But he did it first! Ha! Ha!

3. I go to church. I've never claimed to be what could be described as a "good Christian". I'm more in the category of I-Try-Not-To-Fuck-Up-Every-Single-Minute-Of-My-Pathetic-Life kind of Christian. This second type of Christian repents. A lot. So, a couple weeks ago when I was rehearsing with the church band to get everything going for the kid's choir and we were having problems with some transition or whatnot, I exclaimed, "Shit!" Thankfully, I didn't belt it too loud, what with the good acoustics and all, and thankfully there were no baby ears around, but my sin became immediately apparent when our bass player paled and audibly gasped in my general direction. The electric guitarist tried to cover for me and I vaguely recall something about "language in the Lord's house" or some such, but what I really remember is thinking, "Hey, 'shit' isn't technically a swear word. It's just descriptive." And then, last night, amongst a new group of buds, at a friends home, ostensibly for a Bible study, I screwed up a new thing I was learning and again, the ubiquitous "shit" escaped my blasphemous mouth. I was corrected. "Say shoot, Melissa, shoot!"

Damn, it's hard to be good. And yet, here I am with this church lady persona, because in my writing I come across as old and anal. The same thing happens in person. A few years back, at a professional conference where I was presenting a paper, there was a big shindig at a rich foundation donor's house. Wine and strong drink abounded and I was having a very good time. The chair of the conference came up to me incredulous, "Melissa, I've never seen you like this! This is great!" And I dryly responded, "I don't get out much, I have kids." He laughed, but it's true. I really don't get out much, so there are not the opportunities to trip the light fantastic like there once was. Besides, my liver is shriveled and I'm just not interested in polluting myself. Well, not all the time.

More than a couple friends of mine have shameless potty mouths. Most of those people grew up in the Northeast where "fuck" is filler and rarely used to imply actual intercourse. When I was at chiropractic college fifteen years ago, I had never, that I can remember, ever used the word "fuck". I was a Midwestern Michigan girl and our social mores were more along the lines of standing at a distance and withholding emotional expression. Swear words got left on the factory line. I don't think I heard the word uttered even in High School by groups of boys. I'm not kidding. But in New York, kissing cheeks, violating personal space and saying "fuck" came with the Italian heritage. And so, being in Rome, I joined the Romans. And it was liberating. Some things are just not properly expressed with regular words. For example:

Me: "[Friend from New York], I just wanted to call to tell you that Steve was diagnosed with cancer."

Friend from New York: Sonofabitch! Holy fuck, that's terrible!

You know what? I was happy he didn't reply with, "My, my, wow, that's just too bad." The vehemence and force seemed pitch perfect. Anything less would have been patronizing.

Some bloggers have potty mouths and have received positive reinforcement for using them. Rachel Lucas, who I now love, because she is funny as hell and smart, too (her experiences with dog whistles, notwithstanding) got some feedback about her blogging due to the fact that her boyfriend Rupert is going to Iraq and her readers expressed their concern, support and love (yes, that was a long sentence and thank you for following it). Anyway, Rachel says:

Frankly, it’s the best market research I’ve ever conducted and I really appreciate your input, and I’ll do what you say. I honestly didn’t think that many people liked the asshatted celebrity stuff even though it’s the most fun to write about, so this works out great for everyone. Rosie O’Donnell is in deep trouble. Also I will continue to cuss, only with a little more moderation. Fuck yeah.
Rachel cusses with relish and I love it. She doesn't come across as tight-assed at all. She comes across as hip and fun.

So, I've decided to be more authentic. I can't swear at home lest I set a terrible example for my minions. I can't swear at church. Well, I can, it would just be bad. But I can swear here. I'm going to do it more.

Here's my concern: maybe my acerbic wit will just be made to sound more strident with a generous dosing of cuss words. I could be like the Satanic Church Lady. That would be bad. I would just sound like a cussing, uptight person. I'm not sure about this whole solution. We'll see.

And to all the people who have baby ears, please accept my apologies. And, it might get a little base and crass around here. What can I say? I would prefer to give the first impression of a bawdy babe than the church lady. Yeah, right. Well, I can try.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I am beginning to think you simply enjoy the "shock" affect. I understand, it's fun sometimes throwing people for a loop. I've done it myself! :-)

Melissa Clouthier said...

Anon,

Ha! Well, I was goofing in this post. But if I let myself go, I'd be a potty mouth for sure :).

Anonymous said...

Well, you've done pretty okay for just goofing around. It would be interesting to hear you when you are not goofing. :-)

My, the mysteries of a woman!

Donald said...

Melissa,
Great way to describe the religious majority in this country. How many of us identify more with your "I try..." definition of religion than with the more mainstream definitions?

When are we going to be actively courted by the major candidates?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Donald,

I think it is easier to categorize Christians as fundamentalist wackos like Islamists. The Left wants to reduce and categorize Christians, dehumanize them, so they can dismiss their viewpoints out of hand.

But even most Evangelicals I know, are far more open, humble and cognizant of their limitations than most avowed atheists I'm friendly with. That's not to say there isn't a fringe Christian movement in the US. But what is described as "extreme" was mainstream a generation ago. The press tries to polarize things. It sells more papers.

kal said...

you DEE-troit girls ... whew. ;-)

MaxedOutMama said...

You do not come across to me as a tight-assed person, or any of those other descriptions.

My image of you is that you are a person who has fought terribly hard battles in your life, and still must face very difficult circumstances, and therefore, you are a person who struggles to keep yourself up to the mark because each day you know you must return to battle, and you are never certain that you will win the next day's battle.

There is a huge, huge difference. Just huge. For one thing, your battle is making you kind. Kind in a very deep and realistic way. Kind in a way that's rare in our current culture.

I experience you as very expansive (for me). It's not that I don't sense your struggles, but I also sense your victories, and your lack of security in them. When I read you I sense such a very real and vibrant person who is fighting the battles of life in a way that gives me hope in my own. You are genuine and honest.

And I'm sorry, but I do feel that Ann Althouse is tightassed and a bit sanctimonious. But you hit me in a totally different way.

You give far, far more of yourself in your blogging than she does. You are a brave person - really brave - and it comes through.

Melissa Clouthier said...

MoM,

That comment is so kind, so over-the-top, I am speechless. Thank you for sharing it, but honestly, I feel the same for you. You literally came back from the dead and every day, when I read your blog, I'm glad you did. Thanks again.

sandy said...

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