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Kicking It with swear words

Elizabeth Young-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Now that Santa’s wrapping paper mess has been tossed in the can and the relatives are making going-home sounds, we can now embrace the new year. A new beginning.

As I write this (it’s always two weeks before ink) I won’t know if I got anything I really wanted for Christmas. Consequently, should you be even remotely interested in what a woman of a certain age believes she wants, you’ll just have to wait. Although, I do hope your Christmas was jolly.

What I am thinking about is next year’s New Year’s resolution. Whether you resolve to make one, or bother to keep it, or just forget about that idea all together, Jan. 1 will come. God willing.

In times past and for decades, when I was an active contributor to Catholicism, I would resolve every year to give up my favorite thing. Swearing. I still like to curse boldly much to my daughter’s chagrin.

Back when I was in my “high-Catholic” years from ages 23 - 30, I would make a true sacrifice for Lent. Kneeling at the altar, after getting a smudge of ash on my forehead, I would pledge my troth to Jesus-on-the Cross, to forego swearing from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

My penance for cursing was one Our Father, followed by 10 Hail Mary’s, followed by another Our Father, for each curse word spoken or thought. Again. That is 12 prayers for every curse word I used, whether spoken or unspoken.

Each Sunday, I would clear the slate during Mass for the following week. Which is why by the first Sunday of Lent, I would be kneeling the entire Mass from Father’s first blessing to his final “May God be with you.”

In my defense and in the spirit of “no cheating,” remember, I was honor bound to not only count the curses I said out loud but also the ones I thought. So even if no one else heard me, it still counted as a set. After all, ya can’t cheat, what would be the point?

Just so ya know, I was not repenting at a slow remorseful pace. What I’m talkin’ ‘bout is from Father O’Mahoney’s first blessing, I would be on bended knee repeating, in rapid-fire succession, the beautiful words written to the sacred Mother Mary preceded by and after an Our Father. Doesn’t sound so hard, does it?

Actually, it turned out from the time Father O made it to the altar, I was on the kneeler for the next 50-minutes.

Looking back, my penance was probably not that divine. All the same, I did it for the entire six weeks every year and did it for a decade. Looking back, even if every prayer wasn’t as contrite as it could have been, at least I was true to my vow and fulfilled my chastisement.

See how fast you can read this: “Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Now amp up your reading and see how fast you can knock it out, because I could whip through it like lightning.

Regardless of your feelings about The Catholic Church, this is still my favorite prayer for all women.

Each set required 12 prayers. First one Our Father followed by 10 Hail Mary’s, followed by another Our Father. Which was why a rosary was helpful to track my atonement. I was such a good swearer; I could knock out a rosary in a heartbeat because too often my penance required multiple rounds.

Even with all that, I couldn’t break the habit of swearing. Now, imagine saying these 12 prayers so many times, you barely finished in time to leave after a 50-minute service. Obviously, I swore a lot.

Here is the thing. I still love to swear and have ever since I discovered I could get away with it without getting my mouth washed out with soap.

Once married, I considered myself somewhat of an independent woman, discovering quickly that I could recite any previously forbidden four-letter word with alacrity and without recourse. It was fun.

Apparently, my husband didn’t care. Which only invited me to try more scandalous words forbidden in polite society. As a result, I started peppering my speech with lots of naughty words because nothing happened when I did.

Imagine, at the ripe old age of 18½, I discovered I had a potty mouth. I frequently said the F word, the S word, the F-U words. As a married woman I could say any damn thing I wanted to.

For me, the really good fractious outbursts primarily now happen while I’m driving. Lucky for you guys, I don’t drive much. Naturally, over the years I have linked many blue oaths together. It’s like the Big Bang of swearing that leaks through my smiling lips as you pass me driving like a stupid doo-doo head.

Some would say, “I can make a sailor blush” especially when I hear network news. That’s when expletives fly out of my mouth like Tourette’s Syndrome. Without warning, my brain spews foul words over my tongue and through my lips directed toward the television screen.

Which reminds me, maybe I should reconsider a New Year’s resolution for 2024. I’ll resolve to turn off the national network news until Nov. 5. Happy New Year!

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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