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Before my son was born, my husband and I became very interested in the idea of teaching him sign language. Proponents of sign language insist it’s necessary for minimizing a child’s frustration, since a person’s will develops before the ability to speak. But since motor skills develop early, a child can use sign language to ask for what he or she needs. As far as I am concerned, sign language is necessary for minimizing frustration for the parents, because when I am up at 3am listening to Max screaming his head off like I am torturing him or something, I just want him to tell me what in the hell he needs so I can just give it to him and go back to bed.

I never promised anyone a rose garden.

When Max was as young as two months old, I started introducing signs. One sign, actually, which was the sign for “milk.” While I nursed him I would make the sign, hoping that in the near future I would live in a utopia where Max would simply let me know when he was hungry because – no matter how many women told me I should be able to determine what he needed just by the sound of his cry – all of his cries sounded precisely the same to me.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: You can see the sign for “milk” here if you are interested, but basically it entails making a fist and then opening and closing it like you are milking a cow. Right. That makes me feel so good about myself. I could expand on this but it really would have to be its own post.)

I was pretty consistent about making the “milk” sign to Max every time he nursed so he could associate the sign and the activity. That is, I was consistent until Max was about four months old. What changed, you ask? The answer is very straightforward: I went back to work. And from that point on, trying to follow through on all of my commitments to Max and to my clients became an exercise in bending the space-time continuum. When I was nursing Max I considered it a win if I only focused on him, instead of writing business emails in my head.

(ANOTHER AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is where my husband hangs his head Charlie Brown-style and lets out a sigh, because at this point his needs were a distant third. Sorry, Baby!)

Needless to say, once I started work again I rarely remembered to make the “milk” sign. So imagine my surprise when, just a couple of weeks before his first birthday, Max crawls up to me and opens and closes his fist like he’s milking a cow. With an expectant and slightly frantic look in his eye, he clearly told me that he just realized he was pretty damn hungry. I thought to myself:

What an amazing thing the human brain is! How incredible that, even though I haven’t made this sign to Max in about seven or eight months, he still learned it! He is like a little sponge! I can’t believe he is so smart! Well, he’s at least as smart as Koko the gorilla. Although in fairness, Koko knows over 1000 signs, so I guess Max isn’t quite as smart as Koko yet, but he’s showing great potential! It’s amazing to me that he can actually replicate something he last saw when he was only four months …..

And then it hit me. In that moment, I understood how completely screwed I was. Because at the exact same time that I was making the “milk” sign to Max, I was sleep deprived and cursing up a storm. My typical level of swearing once caused a man who worked for me to request that I scale it back a notch, because it made him uncomfortable to work for a truck driver in a skirt suit. Yes, sad but unfortunately very true. To make matters worse, my sleep-deprived cursing was more severe and a bit more colorful. So when Max clearly raised his fist in a triumphant gesture for sustenance, I realized that it was only a matter of time before he walked up to me and casually said, “Mom, do you know where I put my goddamn Elmo?! I swear I would lose my fuckin’ head if it weren’t attached to my goddamn body!!”

Again, I never promised anyone a rose garden.

Max found Elmo...it's all good now.

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This past weekend, I attended my eight-year business school reunion.  Yes, our class became so tight that we are resorting to non-round number reunions.  The program was a full-time MBA that we pursued on the weekends while we were working full-time during the week…for two years.  It was a lot to take on at once, and I am sure that one reason we all became so close was that the experience was similar to that of being in a foxhole together – we weren’t quite sure that we would survive and we needed to rely on each other to make it through.

Being at the reunion reminded me of an incident which I will now recant for you.  Believe it or not, this is the first of two posts about foul language.  Sorry, Dad.

A little more background…as I mentioned, our MBA program was more stressful than the regular kind because we were working full-time and going to school full-time.  It was manageable if either work or school was going smoothly while the other was busy, but at least twice a semester both work and school would blow up on me at once. 

When I am under pressure, my go-to stress reliever is cursing.  I don’t know why it makes me feel better to use profanity, it just does.  Maybe it’s because there is a component of anger in stress, and cursing is a way of expressing anger.  Maybe it’s just efficient, because throwing a couple F-bombs takes a lot less time than getting a massage or meditating.  Of course, I can’t just use any old expletive when I am stressed; only those with hard consonants do the trick.  Something like “F*CK” is much more effective and gratifying to relieve stress than something like “SH*T.”  Think about it.

One day, on a break between classes, I was lamenting the fact that I had an upcoming test for school and a serious customer issue at work within the same week.  I felt like I didn’t have time to handle either thing well, but that was par for the course.  So I am with two of my classmates who are also stressed, one of whom was from Paris, France, and we are talking about our situations.  You know what happens next.

I say, “I am going to fail this F*CK-ing test unless I can get this customer issue resolved in time to finish studying, goddammit.”

Then, recognizing that these two particular people were not entirely down with my chosen form of stress relief, I say,

“Oh, sorry, pardon my French.”

Following this statement I notice the completely horrified and offended look on my French classmate’s face.  Whoops.  I am sure many of you have heard that saying before, and some of you have said that saying before, but have you ever thought about what it actually means?  Essentially, it implies that French people are rude and use obscenities, and when you say something offensive you can try to pass it off as French.

Which was worse, using the offensive language or blaming it on my classmate’s entire society?

When I told this story to one of the program administrators at the reunion over a drink, and she laughed and said “Who cares?  He was anti-American anyway.”

Well, I wonder why?

About Me

The purpose of this blog is purely self-expression - being creative for the sake of being creative. It has evolved into a collection of non-fiction essays.

All of the anecdotes and incidents you read in this blog are completely true and not exaggerated, no matter how sad, pathetic or unbelievable they may seem.

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