In the never-ending battle of the sexes, it sometimes requireth a writer to illuminate certain truths and consequences in this column that you might not get elsewhere.
That is, let us now talk about Swearing while working. Not swearing like a swearing in or “I swear I saw it over here earlier.” No, we’re talking the good old classics: "%#@&!", "#@(%", $%^&!", etc. etc., the ones that make your wife's hair stand on end.
And that’s the point: when men swear, they are rarely upset. Many women hear them swearing and internalize the tension — especially when the guy is working away on some project, in his shop, alone and unheard (he thinks) on some piece of mechanical equipment, outside — swearing away to beat the band. “My heart is in my throat,” she will say, thinking he is unhappy, angry, depressed or frustrated. No, no, no, no, no no. He is having fun. This is how guys have fun. They work, they strive, they seek perfection. Anything short of Superman, Mr. Goodwrench or Tom Brady will elicit an epithet. We swear at the parts, the fastenings, the broken thing itself, bad luck (when the screw rolls off the work bench onto the grass while you are holding the heavy frame, etc.), the light, the wind, the dog's wagging tail knocking the screw into the grass again and the tools (a good carpenter never blames his tools — but he swears at them). But — and this is what listening women fail to understand — mostly we are swearing at ourselves, at our failings to be perfect, which we never are. My “You Stoopid ****ing Idiot !!" is nearly always directed to myself not getting the right screw driver the first time or stripping the groove on an old fastening. It’s from Me to Me. So that makes it harmless, right? Just having a good time solving the problem. Didn’t realize anyone was listening.
But unfortunately, wives misinterpret this merriment. Of course if a bunch of kiddos are in range, that’s a different story and swearing while driving is not included in this assessment. Both are ill-advisable. But just good old-fashioned, American classics are de rigueur when working alone out in the garage, barnyard, wood house. If there are no swears, then everything went “too” smoothly.
Shoveling dirt, splitting wood, varnishing, window repair, putting on shutters, mowing, fixing the mower, fixing the mower again, the outboard, your truck, the boat — anything to do with the TV or electronics, fence repair, the basement, cutting yourself — you get the idea. It’s usually done almost in a dialogue between you, the object and the swearword.
That’s why a guy doesn’t swear the same way when there’s another person working along with him. Swearing is not a conversation between two people, it’s a soliloquy, a statement of pride, of fact, of progress. After all, you wouldn’t swear if you weren’t making progress — no, it’s perfection we’re after here. That perfection has high standards set by the guy himself. You expect to score a touchdown on every drive — but more often, you don’t. Swear away ...
But not at people, that’s different. That’s not having fun, that’s hostile. No, no, we’re talking ambient narrative swearing where the chapters and verses are different for every job. But there’s just as much guy swearing in successful jobs as failures. That's the point. Often, there are virtual spider webs of swears where they are interlaced in chained, mostly non-sensical ways. That is part of the comedy: the overloaded , inter-mixed, incorrect, inside-out, gol’durned, dad-blasted, motherbleepin’ cartoon style swearing as if we were back in a "McHale’s Navy" episode, working on the PT boat.
So let it bounce off you, ladies, if your hubby doth laden the garage air with foul oaths. Imagine instead that it is backed by a laff track, like old sitcoms. Or provide the laugh track yourself — that’ll disarm him. Or offer these new curse words for him to use, like: you Rampallian!, lump of foul deformity, a Fustilarian! Yes, the veriest varlet that ever chewed with a tooth!, as ignorant as dirt. You are a foot licker, a Bolting-Hutch of Beastliness!” All from Shakespeare for him to use.
So fear not, internalize now, damsels. Only know that these swears are only the quintessence of dust — all eyes and no sight — an hourly promise breaker. And when his swears get too loud or numerous, just tell your man: “I do desire that we may be better strangers ..."
Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.