Recently, I was in a bookstore with a friend. We stopped at a table near the front of the store and it was loaded with different books that had such obscene titles that many of the words were expressed as @?*#.
She picked up one, a New York Times bestseller, and said, “This book is ridiculous. I just flipped through and read a few pages. The guy is a real jerk.”
I picked up other books. “Look at these. Can you believe there is an entire table of books with obscene words in the titles?”
Where has our sense of decency gone? Where is the propriety that called for such ugly words to be used, if uttered at all, in privacy and not violate the dignity of others? Especially ladies? I grew up in a home where the Lord’s name was never taken in vain and once when I said “darn,” Mama rose up, drew her shoulders back and said, “I’m gonna wash your mouth out, with Lava soap.” There is no fate worse than Lava soap. It is an extra duty, dark-gray soap that Daddy used to wash the car grease from his hands every night. It is industrial-strength yuck.
In thinking about it, I would bet a good Sunday dinner at Louise’s house that my mama never heard the F word. Seriously. The last theater movie Mama saw was in the early 1940s when she was dating. After the war and marriage, money was too tight for such frivolity. Then kids came along, and money got tighter. And you all know that Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Gary Cooper never used the word. They were too dignified on screen for it.
In her later years, Mama had only extended basic cable so she didn’t hear that word there. She certainly never heard it on her favorite show, “Larry King Live,” and no one in our family or outside of it was dumb enough to use that kind of language around Mama. The only books she read were the Bible and mine, and you can be guaranteed that I knew better than to use such language in one of my books. So, I think it’s highly possible that she died, never knowing that such a word existed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be that naïve?
When I went to work in sports reporting and later in NASCAR, I heard that word a lot, sadly, to the point that I became immune from the sound of it, though, at first, the tiny hairs would raise on my arms. Word of caution: Don’t ever listen to a race-car driver on the radio if you don’t like profanity.
But I can get over all that. I can overlook it when it is used in my presence, but I am most grateful for the occasional gentlemen who will catch themselves and say, “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry. That ain’t no way to talk in front of a lady.”
What truly takes me aback are kids and teenagers who use language like this, the kind that my mama never heard. I cringe. My stomach turns. And my heart falls. It’s sad. Of course, they’re probably learning this from movies, books, television shows and at home. Still, there should be some decorum. Or so I, dinosaur and prude that I am, believe.
Though I come from hardscrabble folks where education was a luxury, they had enough learning to know that others should be treated with decency and respect.
Whenever Daddy was aggravated enormously about something, he would say, “It’s enough to make a man take up cussin’.” Though the occasional cuss word came from his mouth, he never uttered one in front of a woman.
Yeah, the world is a dirty place now, but it’s nothing that a bar of Lava soap couldn’t clean up.
One taste is all it’d take.
Rich is the best-selling author of There’s A Better Day A-Comin’. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her weekly newsletter.