Christmas: always makes me feel like an orange in a Nutri-bullet. Yes, there is wonder and delight and magic, but being one who’s prone to gloom and sadness, this dichotomy can render me a trifle raw this time of year. So anyway, in a long queue in Forestside the other day I was heavy of heart and short on patience. I tend to go a bit ‘Tourettesy’ in such situations and thus was swearing away to myself quite audibly and I caught a few ugly looks. I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but then a little cross. I was clearly agitated, I didn’t need other people to make me feel even worse.
Choice language is something for which amongst my friends, I’m renowned. Allegedly there was a sweep-stake as to which child would say utter the F-word first. It was of course Father Jack but at least she waited until she was two and half. Clever little buddy though. When I went pale and did the usual, “Mummy only says that when she’s very, very stressed, you NEVER say that word,” she nodded, sweetly. So she sang it instead. We called it the ‘Fucking Hell’ song. She would sing it away happily in her car seat, imitating the profanity I use when trying to make a right turn coming out of the crèche. Little shit. The older one would look on agog, half shocked, half thrilled at her audacity. With teaching though, it’s quite the occupational hazard. You never know which little sod is going to run home and tell their mum that you let rip with some expletive in class and cause heartache all round.
For someone with an English degree though, my knowledge of etymology can be somewhat shaky, and has led to some inappropriate use of insults. For a time I became quite fond of the word ‘scrote’ and bandied it about the classroom with abandon. Indeed, in their end of year thank you card three girls signed off, not with their names but as ‘your three favourite scrotes’. It was only when one likeable chap asked “Miss, have you thought what scrote actually means?” and I sounded it out, that the penny dropped. A friend taking me home after school almost crashed his car when I told him of my learning experience. “WHAT? So you’ve been going round all this time calling your pupils ball-bags?” Put like that, it did indeed sound crude. Honestly, I’d had no idea. Neither had my mum; she’d been calling my brother and me scrotes for years.
The thing about me is, I’m dreadfully judgemental about the swearing. It’s ok if I say it, but if it’s a crowd of youngsters on a bus then I’m the first to feel disgruntled. I don’t want to be one of those eejits who uses the eff word as punctuation, but I must admit, I think I’m sworn more profusely since becoming a mum than ever before. Children will do that to you. Christmas will do that to you. Life is very, very stressful. There’s a satisfaction in uttering the harsh fricative ‘f’ sounds of ‘fuck’, and it relieves a bit of tension when fiddle-dee-dee just won’t cut the mustard. In fact my swearing has helped my kids develop a bit of empathy. When I’m stricken by another dreadful news report or have been cut up by some wanker on the road, I can’t contain myself. The older one, who has a bit of sense, just sighs and says: “What’s wrong now mummy?” They get it. I get it. So the pious can clear away off and leave me alone. You never know what people are going through and why they may be letting off steam. Plus, I guarantee there’s still a few kids in Belfast having a chuckle about their nutty teacher.