OPINION : Caribbean Manners - A Good "F..k"

Anthony Best Lifestyle Editor

Recently, while trapped in my bubble, the attempt to balance my meal, drink, book and my iPod ended in a messy tangle, splayed across the floor. I didn’t cry! Honest! Instead, I did the next best thing. I conjured one of my best “fucks”, dusted it off and let it rip. As soon as the expletive went soaring into public domain, my social radar sensed activity behind me and I turned to see an older lady, her daughter and grand-child shadowing me  – condemnation and judgement engraved across their entire faces.

Loose Profanity

wagging-the-fingerSocial persecution filled me with regret, but only for a moment, as I felt they deserved to be spared my profanity, because – well, one was older and the other was just a child. The immediate longing to apologise is perhaps, a reflex of a traditional West Indian up-bringing, and the residual fear of a grand mother toting a leather-strap, her teeth clenched with indignation. As I shifted to let them fearfully pass, and set about tidying my mess I wondered: ‘why, of all people, did I see this as a real issue, and why did I seem to think bad of something that felt so good?’

Caribbean standards dictate that your manners or lack there of, reflects on your “brought-upsy” – specifically the way you were raised in your home. This scandalous tenet was made all the more sinful after church, as those pew gossiping, panty-girdle wearing, elderly ladies clip-clopped home from praise and sanctity. To say or behave in anyway that remotely impacted negatively on your home would not go unpunished.  The “Manners maketh man” mantra, legendary on a small island upbringing, would preface a cut-ass for any such infractions.

Judge Not

Tyle Perry MediaThere is something to be said for well trained members of society. How often have you had to cope with some belligerent drunk on public transport, or the notorious mobile phone hog who lack full grasp of the functionality of the microphone of said phone? Social etiquette is imperative to the balance and order of any community, but it is impossible to deny the thrill of a good ‘fuck’ out loud or any of ones specific choice of swear words you choose conjure to label the asshole who cuts you off in traffic. There is a social principle that denotes how we should act and where we may be allowed this freedom – but why does a word cause such a genuine displeasure to the ear? What has traumatized us so completely that we cannot let go of the stigma of a word?

As I tidied my lunch from the floor, I philosophized inaudibly about my intellect and my reclamation of the F word.  They were gone, but I continued to question why I was the one seemingly bent out of shape over what, a word?: ‘Was it really about word? Surely I wasn’t the first person they heard utter such an expletive? I certainly wouldn’t be the last.’

The nuances between perverse and expressive would probably strike a nerve with those that live conservative lives, but there is no doubting that the F word is here to stay. My mother, bless her heart, still takes time out her day to scold me, a thirty year old, if I swear on my Facebook timeline. The reasoning might be far more complex in my case, but the purpose is the same. My manners are still a reflection on my parents and what people think of me matters to them – it is the way it should be; and while I might roll my eyes from time to time, somewhere deep down it’s cute to know that you are never too old to be chided or coached to do better.

Old fashioned?

nun-wagging-finger2Swearing has always been a pseudo language.  It allows us to colour outside the lines and release steam when faced with a precarious situation. For example, a gentle “nofuckingway!” is used to emphasize genuine shock or disbelief.

The word “fuck” is believed to have been first used in literature in the late 1400s, the divide caused by its use is a little more than old school vs. new age. In my youth, obscene words were left for street walkers and rum shop goers – ‘definitely character types us respectful members of society should never follow!’ Back in the day, more like back in the early 1990s, you were expected to be dressed appropriately, speak when spoken to, and be respectful of the laws and standards of society.  As I watch a child go ape shit in a public space, I must admit that the nostalgia of a more socially bearable time looms coyly – Call me old fashioned!

So, having established that I “know better” it is within a bracket of self expression that I choose to enjoy utilizing the F at times to really drive a point home. My mainstay expressions includes: the stone walled ‘F- Off!’ The passive aggressive ‘F- him!’ Not to mention the deprecating ‘F- Me!’ And the obviously confrontational ‘F- you’. While I am obviously waving my flag in support of the F-ing cause, I equally embrace that many of us refrain from profanity as a means of expression.

F bombs and Quantum Physicist

Naturally, how we live is ultimately defined by our actions and not merely our words. A foul mouth is as much an asset in the right circumstance. F bombs don’t make you a bad person, nor does being a quantum physicist make you a good one. Manners go deeper than social expectations, but they hold you to your values, they balance the internal and the outer parts of your experience. The true challenge would be to lose the Fuck, but not forever, just long enough to know its true worth when you are compelled to use it.

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4 August, 2013