One of the true little joys of being a Mormon is that you never know what you will hear in Fast and Testimony Meeting. On the first Sunday of the month after a period of fasting and personal prayer, the pulpit is placed open for any person in the ward (A ward is the basic Latter-day Saint congregational unit). It can be the person who attends every week or a person who is just now attending again for the first time in 10 years. It can be an octogenarian or an eight-year old. Any attendant is welcome to rise up to the pulpit and speak a few minutes on nearly whatever is on their mind. The bishopric member is instructed to tell the congregation to primarily give a brief but heartfelt testimonial about our Savior Jesus Christ and how his influence shapes and helps their lives. The testimonies I look forward to the most are from the children, they are the most earnest and the most straightforward and sometimes are usually just simply adorable! I always still laugh at the report my sister gave of a testimony meeting when a little five year old girl got up and started confessing family secrets. “I am thankful for my family and Jesus,” she said tremulously, but her next words really got the congregation to pay attention. “We try to be good, but sometimes… (looks down, sighs), sometimes we get mad and use the F-word and the S-word.” I imagine that most of what she said next was forgotten as the typically moderate quiet of Mormon worship became profoundly, and for the young mother of this child, oppressively silent. There was nothing for it, the child’s mother would just have to get up and make her way to the pulpit. In my mind I see the ward family at this point intently looking up at her. Perhaps some are judging, but I think most are praying for her. Even the three-month-olds are quietly working the heck out of that pacifier instead of crying, and the three-year-olds are dutifully munching on those Froot Loops instead of whining to their daddy about how long the meeting is going on. My sister told me that her friend’s face was bright red as she looked down at the rostrum and began her explanation. “I just have to simply start by telling all of you that in our home…,” here she looks up and faces the ward squarely to reveal that a thin smile may actually be suppressing a tremulous laugh, “…in our home the S-word is shut-up and the F-word stands for fart.” (Relieved chuckles).
In a few short years this mother’s sweet little moppet will have had her horizons “expanded” and she will have been exposed to a wider range of profanity than what she has heard in her sweet little home. She will have learned by then about that other F-word. I find the non-flatulent F-word offensive and I try not to use it or reference people to it. It has become, however, so ubiquitous and so many people have started using it as merely another form of cadence and punctuation that it may have seemed to have lost much of its prior offensiveness and power to many. But for me it is still a dark and ugly word.
When something is important to you, you care what it is called. None of us like to be called mean names, and we don’t like it when people we love are called mean names. The F-word is the ultimate name calling for the wonderful and miraculous act that brings two people together in intimacy. It matters what you call something – it shows how you regard it. Sometimes sex will be referred to as “intercourse,” but I find this a clinically bland and transactional moniker that reduces a potentially beautiful shared experience to the level of the quid pro quo. I prefer to name sex as love-making. This describes a vulnerable opening of one’s heart and very life to another in an free act of trust and sharing. If you are making love, you are not focused on mere reciprocity, rather you are building a precious emotional bridge through your bodies with another soul. The F-word, on the other hand, denigrates love-making, moving it from a transactional sphere to a certain level of violence It shapes the act beyond recognition, at best lowering it to the level of casual meaningless acquaintance and at worst framing it as a predatory grasping and controlling of another body for violent and selfish consumption. This is why it is such a powerful curse in a strange and nearly literal sense. Almost like black magic, it transfigures a human into a mere objectification – flesh into stone if you will- and turns sweet lovemaking into a painful and rapacious weapon.
I realize this is not the meaning and context that the F-word carries for every user, but it is what it connotes for me. The word seems most confusing and incongruous when I hear it used as an exultant superlative. In 2011 I had the opportunity to go with my son to the Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta. He really wanted to see Coldplay which was headlining the festival. I had never really had a passion for Coldplay, I find them pleasantly competent, and can hum along with some of their songs but I had never really understood what all the fuss was about. But at the time, my son was a huge Coldplay fan, and he really wanted to go. He was a good kiddo, had been doing well in his high school classes, and I was happy to bring him to the show. Besides, the Black Keys were also at the festival, and I really liked them a lot (my goodness! you would not believe the joyful energy of the Keys- they sounded like at least as big as Chicago and there were only two of them on the stage – at one point I texted out in reference to The Black Keys that “Hot Work beats Cold Play every time”). But I did eventually end up enjoying Coldplay’s show as well, it was at least moderately pleasant, but relied more on laser effects, big bouncing yellow balls, and repetitive phrases than on any soulful musicality or lyrical power. “Yellow” didn’t make me jump up and down like the BK’s “Tighten up” did. But my son was loving it, and the crowd was loving it and that was fun to see. But Coldplay just about turned me toward some real respect when they did an intimate tribute to Georgia’s own R.E.M. with a stripped down version of “Everybody Hurts” and then (shockingly) actually brought tears to my eyes when I found myself listening carefully to their song “Fix you.” Now there was a truly beautiful song. I was ready to give them their due, when Chris Martin shouted out:
Good night Atlanta! You’ve been F***ing fantastic!
He had been such a positive, almost goofily nice young man for the whole show. It just seemed odd, it seemed like something that Chris Martin wouldn’t say: like he was the nice slick arena performer just trying to be a tad edgy in order to fit in at the Indie festival or something. It just seemed hilarious, but the feeling seemed especially strange when I transposed my view of that particular word onto his statement. Just Imagine if he had shouted the following instead:
Good night Atlanta! You’ve been predatorily-consumptive-and-selfishly-like-we-just-had-casual-sex-that-won’t-matter-in-the-morning-or-perhaps-even-with-violently-controlling-or-rapacious-overtones… fantastic!
I imagine the crowd at this point becoming awkwardly silent and reaching nervously to munch on a hidden stash of emergency Froot Loops. Well anyway, I am a middle-aged dork, and somewhat of a fuddy-duddy, and obviously most people didn’t see it that way because they were all still cheering, but for me that little word had just seemed out of place. It was like the Mona Lisa had burped. It still makes me laugh to think about it.
Ironically, the only reason why I have even broached the subject is because in my next post I reference a song that I have found to be very important and powerful to me in which this particular word (not fart) plays a prominent role. This little rant is, I guess then, perhaps a type of disclaimer or embarrassed apology for the reference to the F-word in the coming post (I really AM a dork, aren’t I?). I guess I just wanted y’all to know that I don’t take the use of such a word lightly. Thanks for sticking with me. Y’all be well! Lona.
All rights for text reserved by Lona Gynt, Septmeber 2017.