Generally, I swear like an intoxicated seafarer all day long. I didn't grow up that way and sometimes I wish I wouldn't. My mother, who always had a cool head, muttered damn now and again, and my Dad, a lapsed Catholic / born-again Christian (oh dear), would let loose with an imposing, rhythmic Jesus Christ Almighty! a couple times a year, sounding like a wild-haired Moses calling fire down from the sky, but that was about it from Dad. I vaguely remember we five kids weren't allowed to call anyone stupid, and once my older brother was mildly chastised by Mom for calling someone a son-of-a-bitch. She pointed out that the insult was really to the mother, not to the person, and that was hardly fair.
My pal S.Y. recently deFriended me on Facebook because I shared a poster that had The F Word (fuck) in it. I didn't even use the word myself, but I guess just permitting it into our small mutual world was too much for her tender sensibilities. She, too, is a born-again Christian who has had lovers out of wedlock since her conversion. I don't know if the rules are hers or her god's (I suspect the former), but apparently it's okay to fuck, but not to say it – or even read it.
And that's fine. God knows I have my idiosyncrasies.
I used to drive Jimmy to meetings several times a week. I didn't much like the guy but I was being of service. I used The F Word a lot. Well, one night when he was sitting in my car in front of his apartment, completely ignoring all my body language and the running motor, he told me my self-esteem would be greater if I would quit using The F Word. I told Jimmy his self-esteem would be greater if he'd use a man's name.
That's when I started using The MF Word (motherfucker).
But "bitch"? I think it's a perfectly lovely word for "carp." There's more sting to someone bitching than someone carping, and that's useful. I don't mind it for a female dog, except for the adolescent sniggering that often accompanies it. I don't mind it if someone says I'm acting bitchy because, yes, I am complaining or, more likely, touchy.
What I do mind, and mind heartily, is the gender-specificity of the word as an insult. It's bad enough to engage in name-calling, but basing the word choice on gender is just as offensive as basing it on race, color, or creed.
That sophomoric tittering I mentioned up there? That's how I feel when I say someone's dicking around. I can't quite just say the phrase, but I'm working on it. I'd never call a man a dick, though.
Every time I pick up a needle, I prick myself, but I'd never call a man a prick.
With the advent of youngsters calling men and women dude, my complaints about gender would be moot ... if I weren't a middle-aged woman who simply but firmly refuses to succumb to pop culture. Of course, some men have been called bitch, too, but after the initial thrill ("Hah. How's that feel, you– you– ... uh ..."), I just can't endorse it.
This morning, I was driving down 49th Street South, headed for the French bulldogs I tend, and the driver in front of me slowed down because a woman on the side of the road was yelling at him. She wore a toxic-green vest and, done yelling, shook her head sadly. We recognized each other as having been in a painting class together, so she didn't yell at me, but she was visibly upset. Then I noticed orange caution cones on the lines in the center of the road. That was weird.
And then I saw people trotting on the right side of the street. Maybe they even had numbers on their backs. I'm not sure. I was too busy trying to stay within the cones and not run over the people.
They weren't even running single-file, and it got scary. I nearly ran into one woman and I yelled (through my closed window), "Get outta the way!"
She yelled back, "I'm in a race, bitch!"
I still don't know what the real story is, but I doubt the cops are to blame. There are plenty of fund-raising run-a-thons here in Gulfport, FL. The police know how to manage that. Someone dropped a ball somewhere, though, for automotive traffic to suddenly be in the middle of a foot race.
It took me a long time to cool down from being called bitch like it's my name. I told myself the woman probably reacted out of fear. Or she was raised by people who don't mind name-calling. I certainly knew it wasn't personal. It wasn't Barbara Nicolazzo she was screaming at. It was, um, The Woman In The Artcar Whom She'll Never Forget she was screaming at. Still, I know it takes about twenty minutes for the adrenaline to ease on out of my system, so I just fed the French bulldogs and came here to tell you all about it.