When I was a teenager, and probably well into my twenties, I suffered from a verbal affliction that plagued the youth of my generation: Every other sentence I spoke was punctuated with like, you know: “I was talking to Jenny about going to see “Valley Girl”, and she was like, you know, I don’t like Nicolas Cage, and I was like, you know, he’s kinda hot.” Well, I’ve noticed recently that the teens and twenty-somethings of today have a new verbal tick. “Like, you know” has become “Fuck.”
Because this annoys me enough to write a rant about it, I will now switch to the time-honored style of using asterisks in place of the word “fuck” and all its variations. But let me transcribe a recent conversation I overheard by two girls sitting next to me at a coffee bar, who were most likely students at the nearby university, to which their parents pay fifty grand a year for them to become educated, sophisticated adults.
“He keeps f***ing texting me about that f***ing party, and I’m like, f***, I’m too f***ing exhausted!”
“Well then, f*** him.”
Classy, no? Now here’s the thing that really pisses me off. All these kids who use the F word with abandon do it everywhere, with absolutely no thought to who is walking next to them on the sidewalk, being subjected to their very loud cell phone conversations, or sitting next to them trying to enjoy her skim latte in peace. They can’t seem to process the idea that the world doesn’t revolve entirely around them. I can’t even count the number of times my young and impressionable daughter has almost been knocked over on the sidewalk by someone swinging his elbow as he declares, “That movie was so f***ing awesome!” She always impishly looks up at me and rolls her eyes, and later we talk about how using those words constitutes a failure of imagination — that dude was obviously not clever enough to come up with a more appropriate word.
While I have learned to keep my annoyance and anger in check most of the time, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. One Sunday night about a year ago, my husband and I and our two kids were enjoying a nice vegan sushi meal at a restaurant across town, when a group of four deeply tattooed and pierced biker types sat down at the next table (they were well past thirty — or maybe teenagers who had seen a lot of hard living). Their conversation proceeded to be a very loud compendium of every filthy word you could ever imagine. Finally, my clean-cut, mild-mannered yuppie husband had enough, and he stood up to say something. I pulled out my cell phone and was fully prepared to dial 911 when the bloodshed came, but instead, this happened:
Mild-mannered husband: “Hey guys, I dig your ink, but would you mind toning down the language a bit? It’s really upsetting my kids.”
Tattooed biker chick with forehead piercing: “Oh, man, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t even thinking. We’ll move to another table. [To herself] I can’t go anywhere, I’m such an idiot.”
So that’s the thing. I understand that sometimes people need to let out a good old F word (yes, I use it, too, but not when my kids — or anyone else’s kids — can hear), but when they are out in the world, at a vegan sushi restaurant, on a crowded street, or skimming Civil War histories at Barnes & Noble, people need to realize that they do not exist in a bubble inhabited by only them and their admirers.
So my advice is, go home and curse up a storm, be as potty-mouthed as you want on your Twitter or Facebook posts, but when you’re out in public where there are children, impressionable tweens, old ladies, and, well, me, around, please shut the f*** up.