I watched The Great Gablowski (sp?) while at Kate’s a while back. It seemed to have a deep spiritual meaning but that isn’t what I am recalling right now. My son-in-law’s son, Justin, commented to me, “I didn’t think you would like it because of all the swearing.”
That made me wonder about how other’s perceive me. I could write his comment off as a young man’s perception of an old woman. It is kind of humorous that young people perceive old people as being somehow pure and easily shocked. I mean, the older you get the more of life you have seen. That should lower one’s shock capacity, don’t you think? On the other hand, the more of life you have seen, the more you have a handle on what is consequential.
It is true, I was once shocked by foul language. I grew up in an environment in which men did not swear around women or boys around girls. There are words that I didn’t even hear until I was into my middle age and still don’t know the meaning of. “Dirty language”, those words that are sexual by connotation, always made me uncomfortable. Hearing them felt like a personal violation.
What I have learned over the years is that swearing and “dirty” words are learned and often the people who indulge don’t know their meaning. Even if they do know the meaning, they often don’t know their impact on others. Children learn swear words from the adults in their lives. They learn that swearing is a way to get attention. In parenting classes I used to suggest ignoring the first swear words that come from a small child’s mouth. Give attention to the behavior you want repeated. If a child learned a word from the adults around them, fix the adults. If from the media, change the channel.
I have adult friends who sometimes use foul language. I tend to go past the words and address the feelings behind it. “Wow, you sound angry.” That often moves them forward, beyond the words. They get attention, but the attention goes to the heart, rather than the words being spoken. As people get to know me, their language around me tends to clean up. I find this a sign of respect and I appreciate it.
But, getting back to the shock factor, I do not get shocked as I once did, or embarrassed. In fact, in the case of media, if a character is in pain and consumed by anger, foul language may be the best vehicle to show these emotions. If it is used simply to shock or, as in movies, to get a certain rating, I find it offensive. It the case of the former, I try to look through it as when I encounter a person in real life. In the latter case, I abandon the work, turn off the TV or whatever.
Some words go beyond shock value, in my opinion, to being sexually abusive. These feel like the face of evil to me intended to harm. When I hear such language coming from a person, it is fear that rises in me. I seldom hear such language. When I have, it has been from people who need help beyond what I can offer.