So...the confessional about potty mouthed Belles really touched a nerve with folks. Although I am admittedly fluent in profanity, I’m certainly not the first child to “colorfully” express their feelings and I’m quite sure I wasn't the last.
Case in point: My brother. He was raised by the same family and, ostensibly, in the same way (he got away with a lot more stuff than me, but that’s another blog unto itself). If Dad wasn’t able to cure his potty mouth for his adorable first born, there really wasn’t much hope that things were going to change for the second little Culbreth.
As a matter of fact, I would submit to you that thing got a little more colorful. Ethan really was an angelic looking little thing: White blond hair, cheeks ripe for pinching, big brown eyes and eyelashes that women would kill for (so unfair). Of course, all of that was the case until he opened his mouth. If you think that I call ‘em like I see ‘em, I sound like a Nobel Peace Prize Diplomat compared to my baby brother.
It’s not possible to adequately express in words how much my brother hated veggies when he was little and the lengths he would go to so as to avoid anything green. Many a night was held up at the dining room table as none of us were excused until Ethan ate his damned vegetables. When he did finally capitulate, he would choke them down and gag himself to the point where I often grew concerned that I was going to be showered in partially chewed peas. He was a master.
Brussels sprouts were particularly vile to Ethan’s palate. They were the Joker to his Batman or Boss Hog to the Duke Boys, if you will. I actually quite liked them, so Mom would make them with more regularity than you would probably see in any other household. That particular night started off like every other night. There was no foretelling what was about to take place.
The showdown approached as Ethan (3 or 4 years old at the time) doggedly ate everything on his plate except for those sprouts. Finally, three little balls of green were left on his plate and there was no way to put it off any longer. Ethan sat there and stared at them as all sorts of allusions to High Noon popped into my head. It went a little something like this:
Mom: Ethan, I didn’t even give you that many Brussels sprouts. You need to at least take a bite.
Ethan: F*ck Brussels sprouts.
Silence. Oppressive, ominous, painful, awkward and uncomfortable silence.
Of course, I’m sitting at the table right next to the Olympic Gold Champion Cusser of All Time and his wife who could keep up with him if the situation presented itself and what’s comes out of my parents' mouths? “Where could he have heard that word from, Ashley?”
Are you f*cking kidding me? To this day, I swear on a stack of Jimmy Buffett albums that Ethan never, ever heard that word from me because I never, ever said it and I can tell you why.
Back in the day, I was on one of those awkward play dates with a girl who was several years older than me. You know those play dates where children who have nothing in common are thrown together simply because their parents are passing acquaintances? Yeah, fun. Some of my most traumatic memories are from those damned play dates.
Anyway, the girl with whom my lot was cast for the day randomly decided to test my cuss word aptitude. As you might expect, she was seriously impressed with my advanced knowledge, but I left one word off the roster and she felt the need to educate me. I’m sure you can guess the word of which I speak. That was the first time I ever heard "The Word” and it was imparted with a caveat: “Ashley, that is the worst word you can ever use, so you should never, never say it.”
Well, the girl was older than me and she was pretty remarkable in her Eddie Haskell-like ability to snow adults, so I figured she knew what she was talking about and I took her advice.
To this day, my parents believe that Ethan learned his little Brussels sprout commentary from me. My only argument is that now, over 30 years later, I have no reason to lie. Mom and Dad can’t ground me and they can’t take away my television privileges. ETHAN DID NOT HEAR THE WORD FROM ME. LOOK INWARD FOR YOUR CULPRIT.
As a matter of fact, I can remember the first time I ever uttered the word outside of my head. It was my freshman year at Peace College and I was stuck in super-remedial double dumbass trigonometry—I flunked my college math placement test with the flare of Liberace in Vegas. My professor, Mr. Ritchie (think Gollum from Lord of the Rings) decided to be the very personification of evil and throw a pop quiz the morning after State pulled out a fantastic win against Duke on the basketball court. Several other Peace Sisters and I felt the need to assist the State students in their victory celebration on Hillsborough Street. It was the polite thing to do.
As I sat in class, squinting at Mr. Ritchie with my less blurry eye, my heart dropped into my already unhappy stomach when I saw him whip out the canary yellow paper that he preferred for his tests. The vocabulary filter in my head was disabled and, without another thought, uttered “Oh f*ck.”
At which Gollum smiled and said, “Yes, Miss Culbreth, I imagine so.”