Why I Want My Daughter To Curse

No. Not right now. She’s 2 1/2 years old, silly people! Right now I want to her to spout goofy things or get all serious like she did the other day when she said, “I love you, Daddy.” I’m not ready for her to go all Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy of George Carlin on me, though come to think of it it’d be pretty cool if Sienna started dissecting language the way the great Carlin did. No. I just don’t want her to become like me, a person so scared of being judged that he’s unable to say the four-letter words that comfortably fill the public lexicon.

I’m not ready for Sienna to have her mom’s sailor mouth, but eventually, when she’s a teen, I don’t want her to be afraid of speaking the language of her classmates (yes we’ll have the comedic swear jar) and once she reaches adulthood, I hope to be ready for her to speak such words in my presence as part of normal conversation because the reality is that cursing is ordinary and sometimes, often even, acts as a release for pent up stress.

I wish I had that release, but I’m terrified of what people will think of me if I curse – fear of judgment, just another aspect of suffering depression. I’ve been trying to figure out where this particular one comes from and I believe it’s from my father who in turn got it from his mother. My grandmother doesn’t curse at all and doesn’t believe either of her children, their spouses, any of her grandchildren or THEIR spouses use words like s–t or f–k…EVER. She lives in a perpetual dreamworld, a life of denial, because as far as I know, just about all of them curse. My sister dropped the F-bomb at least 4 times during a magazine interview about the prominent comedy club she runs and I can only imagine my grandmother’s face as those bombs exploded before her eyes. My late grandfather, teller of bawdy jokes, probably cursed, though never in front of my grandmother. My aunt, I’m not sure. My dad? I assume he did when he was younger in front of friends and while in the National Guard. I know he does at work sometimes. I heard him once when I temped at his office. But he seems uncomfortable with it, like my grandmother’s directly in his brain.

My dad never cursed in front of me when I was growing up and seemed terribly uneasy when my mom did. And I think I took that discomfort and internalized it to the point where I can’t curse in front of anyone…not even my wife. I think I feel that if I utter a f–king this or f–king that or call someone an a-hole, my dad will know and think less of me. To be honest I imagine everyone will think less of me. And that’s insane. It’s ludicrous. Why would anyone care? But just like with my anxiety it manifests physically, twisting my stomach, weighing on my chest, my veins feeling as if shot with cold radioactive dye. I even have trouble writing the words as you can see by my incessant use of hyphens.

I tried to change when I went to college. I went in there thinking that I’d start cussing like Al Swearington on Deadwood (ok, Deadwood wasn’t on yet, but you get my meaning). I wanted to create a new identity. I wanted to be normal. So I tried. Freshman year I said something about my roommate to my best friend, something like my roommate’s “getting off” on being a jerk and my best friend’s eyes widened to the point where I thought they’d burst.

“You’ve never said anything like that before!” he shouted. I know he was proud, but I took it as criticism – and I didn’t even really use a swear word! And that was it for me in college. I couldn’t curse after that. Freshman year became a pathetic war with hallmates trying to get me to utter obscenities.

I’ll never forget Chad, a tall, lanky, long-haired blonde fratboy who’d corner me daily.

“Say s–t,” he’d say, but I wouldn’t. “Come on. Just say it.”

And he’d laugh when I I couldn’t because at that point he’d win. They’d all win. I’d be cursing for them, not for me. And the pressure in my head built.

When alone, profanity swirls through my head and expletives spout from my mouth. If driving alone I’m not immune to deriding a bad driver with a “motherf–ker” or even give someone the middle finger. When I’m alone vulgarity comes easy, but my jaws clamp in front of others. “Friggin’” I’ll say. “Morons. Jerks. Idiots.” For the longest time I wouldn’t even say “hell” or “damn.”

18 years post-college and I’ve cried in front of my therapist about my inability to curse, tears streaming, face scrunched and reddened with embarrassment and anger.

“You’re safe here, she’ll say,” leaning towards me as twist myself into a pretzel. “Let go. Say f–k.”

I sputter like Fonzie trying to admit he’s wrong. “Fu…fu…fu…fu.” But that’s as far as I’ll get.

“I’ll leave the room,” she’ll say. “I won’t hear it. Just say it.”

And she’ll leave, the door clicking. I’ll sit there furious with myself, face blotchy, hands tightened into fists. The room dulled and quiet. Sometimes I’ll whisper it, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. No one’s there to hear me so I’ve still failed. “F–k” and “s–t” and so many others remain missing from my daily speech.

I have, however, added some over the years. For some reason I can now say “hell” and “damn” and even “bastard” and “son of a bitch.” It took 30+ years for me to say those words out loud in front of people. I’m not sure if I say them in front of my dad. I KNOW I don’t say them in front of my grandmother. But I still feel so much internal pressure when it comes to swearing, like the world would stop, a collective gasp catching in everyone’s throats, fingers pointing, judging, always judging, if I dare utter the f-word in front of another person. And I don’t want that for Sienna. I never want that for her. The cycle that began with my grandmother, passed to my father and then to me seemingly by osmosis will end. I want my daughter to curse.

I look forward to having a swear jar and by the time Sienna’s old enough, I hope to be adding a few coins to it myself.

15 thoughts on “Why I Want My Daughter To Curse

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    September 29, 2014 at 11:32am

    Hi Lorne,

    I liked this. I swear like a sailor but I never could do it in front of my grandmother. During the 40 some years I knew her I heard her curse once and that was so out of character I literally wondered if the sun was going to explode.

    Nice job with this one.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      October 1, 2014 at 7:36pm

      Thanks, Jack! That’s exactly how I feel about my grandmother, though the once would be zero times. She actually is so delusional that she thinks no one related to her curses. It’s insanity.

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    September 29, 2014 at 1:41pm

    My wife literally said last night, “I need to start watching what I say.” Neither of us are sailors, but we drop curse words quite often for much needed emphasis. Isabel just turned 1, so we’ll see which cuss word she blurts out first!

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      Lorne Jaffe

      October 1, 2014 at 7:35pm

      Sienna’s gonna get it from my wife who curses all the time and often forgets she’s doing it. I’m gonna make millions off my wife when we introduce the swear jar!

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    Mr. A

    September 29, 2014 at 3:53pm

    I have only ever heard my dad swear twice, and I remember still when he told me “people swear to much, and when you do it all the time, it looses it’s meaning”. It took me many years to get comfortable to swear, and I can’t do it in front of my parents. I try my best not to swear in front of my children, but I too want them to be comfortable speaking however they wish in front of me.

    I have also since worked on adding swears into my vocabulary, because I find it helps me fit in better with my peers. I still often leaves a bitter taste in my mouth though, and my fathers words often come to mind at those times.

    Mr. A.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      October 1, 2014 at 7:40pm

      Thanks for the comment, Mr. A. That’s exactly the thing. I don’t want to drop curses every other word. I just want to be able to say F it every once in awhile w/out it ever feeling like the world’s gonna end. We shouldn’t have that bitter taste in our mouths. That taste is guilt. I agree that cursing’s excessive, especially in certain movies. Often it’s not necessary, but sometimes it can be. Like you, I just want my daughter to be free and comfortable to speak as she chooses. End this cycle of guilt handed down by family.

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    September 29, 2014 at 11:00pm

    I do swear sometimes but I really try to limit it. I just think it’s not necessary and adds little. I don’t like hearing people swear excessively.
    Sienna not being afraid of being judged and changing because of it is a point I can completely appreciate. She should be independent and not swayed by those around her. I hope my children can also stand by their convictions even when those around them disagree.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      October 1, 2014 at 7:33pm

      I def agree w/ the excessively thing. I can think of tons of movies that have excessive language JUST to have excessive language (22 Jump St comes to mind). I just wish I could swear in general, like I don’t feel like I have to limit myself. If I’m listening to music w/ someone in a car, for instance, and there’s a curse, I’ll stop singing when we reach that word. Sometimes I’ll cover myself by picking a conversation strategically at that spot. It’s ridiculous. It’s the feeling of “can’t” that I want her to avoid. Like I said, break the cycle from my grandmother to my dad to me as the guilt’s gotten worse w/ each generation. Thanks for the comment, Larry!

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    October 5, 2014 at 10:43pm

    I think you should do what makes you comfortable. I have a swearing hangup too. I think it should kind of be reserved for when you’re really angry, and most of the time, I’m not really angry. It certianly sounds bad for a kid to say it. That said, there are lots of people who cuss a lot who I admire, and lots of f-word-filled movies I love (esp Clerks). It doesn’t bother me if others do it; it’s just not my cup of tea. Maybe I don’t want the the world to be so angry. Or maybe I am afraid of what people will think. I don’t like the idea of people pressuring you to do it in college though. It’s not that big a deal and it’s not that necessary.

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    October 6, 2014 at 11:57am

    I’ve been thinking about this more. I have the same hangup about using a racial slur, even as part of art. If I’m in the car singing with a rap song, I’ll stop singing if the lyrics are a slur or version of a slur (or a homophobic slur for that matter). I think it’s a good thing that I have these internal controls – it’s about respect and politeness. Maybe you don’t curse much because you’re polite. SO WHAT?? In days of yore it would be fine. I think your headline should be “I want my daughter to have the freedom to curse,” not “I want my daughter to curse.” Maybe she’ll have good reasons not to do it, or maybe she just won’t feel comfortable doing it at whatever age she is, and that’s fine.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      October 8, 2014 at 7:40pm


      Very much appreciate the comments. Agreed on the racial slur thing. That’s something I’ll never say. But what I was trying to get at is that I don’t curse because of the pressure I felt from my family (whether directly or indirectly) and how I never want to apply that same pressure to Sienna. W/ me, attempting to curse in front of others is such a hangup that it manifests itself as stuttering (w/ my therapist). I haven’t really tried with other people since college…since I used the phrase (“gets off”) in front of my best friend and I saw his reaction. Then the peer pressure thing kicked in which you refer to. But at 40 years old I should be past that. I should be able to quote a favorite movie line of mine. I don’t like too much cursing. I think too many films use it for cheap laughs or overdo it in action films. But then you get the perfect one like “Yippie Ki Yaya MF” and oh how I’d love to quote that w/out it tangling my insides!

      I agree w/ you though that maybe I should have used the phrase “freedom to curse” in the headline, but I was kind of going for the reader grab lol.

      Thanks again!


  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    October 6, 2014 at 10:22pm

    I’ve thought about this for a while and here’s what I’ve come up with:
    1- peer pressure, can be good or bad depending on what it is
    2- profanity is not a sign of “normalcy”; you (and I) not cursing does not mean that we’re not “speaking the language of our peers”. I agree with Caren when she says, “Maybe she’ll have good reasons not to do it, or maybe she just won’t feel comfortable doing it at whatever age she is, and that’s fine”.
    3- I freely admit that profanity is not my thing and as Larry says, “I just think it’s not necessary and adds little”.
    4- I have family/friends who use profanity and that is their right/choice, however I also have the right/choice not to want to hear/speak it. By the way, I thank my sibling very, very much for respecting my choice and exercising a very loving restraint!:)
    5- If we are going to be 100% neutral and non-biased, then Sienna should also know/be exposed to whatever her parents don’t necessarily agree/believe in…And I’m not talking about things that are generally accepted as toxic and dangerous.
    You not cursing is not to me, (emphasis on “me”) a sign of weakness or absence of courage. Sienna should be be exposed to other points of view. If she does, well, so be it; but she has to know that there is more than one choice and that she should have the courage and fortitude to follow her heart.
    Whatever happens down the road, I dearly hope that she will do what is right in her heart and be true to herself. I want her to be truly content.:)

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      October 8, 2014 at 7:44pm

      Thanks as always, M!

      I do think you either missed or I failed to show just how much my inability to curse stemmed from pressure associated w/ my grandmother and father (whether directly or indirectly). The idea behind this was not to get Sienna to turn into a cursing machine, but to end that pressure cycle with me. I want her, as you said, to be free to do what she likes in regards to language after being exposed to people who curse and people who don’t and people who do sometimes. But for me it’s a mental hangup, not a choice, and that’s the problem. That’s what I don’t want passed down. Maybe I just didn’t do a great job of explaining that 🙂


    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply


      October 23, 2014 at 1:29pm

      Yeah, I kind of get that – why not quote a movie line? I have that hangup, as I said, and yeah, it can be a problem. But I guess I don’t want to feel angry or come off as angry, so it’s also an internal control on my part. The headline is a good one.

      • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

        Lorne Jaffe

        October 24, 2014 at 2:54pm

        I wish it were an internal control on my part instead of this awful part of my brain judging me. Once again it’s proof of my living my life for others instead of myself

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