No Apologies: Coping By Cussingadmin
I cuss. I cuss a lot. My husband calls me trucker-mouth mama. Sometimes, I use it too casually, which doesn’t have as much impact as I would like it to. It was a life-saver of sorts. It came into my life at a time when I struggled to express myself to the outside world, and it also gave me permission to say how I felt, even if it was just in the privacy of my room as a 7-year-old girl. I grew up in southern California where the summers were hot. I can almost remember the first time I swore. I can feel the heat of the sidewalk bouncing off my bare feet as I walked outside, I imagine I wore my white sundress with flowers. I know this because my mom has told me it was the only item of clothing that felt comfortable on my skin. How does it sound to express myself in a new and different way? It’s foreign to me, but I say it anyway, “Shit. I hate this.” I think I like it better than throwing shoes against the wall, screaming inside my head, blaming God, or crying until there aren’t any tears left.
I’m a bald woman, and it’s not because I have cancer, am making some kind of statement about my sexuality, or am practicing radical self-acceptance. It’s because my body is rebelling, telling my hair follicles that they don’t belong on my head or anywhere else on my body, and it’s working. It’s called alopecia universalis, an autoimmune condition that is often misunderstood.
I grew up attending church and having a sense of being a child of God. Swearing felt like a somewhat neutral way to rebel against some of the things I heard like, “God would never give you something you couldn’t handle.” and “Everything happens for a reason.” Hmm. What does “handling” it look like? What does not handling it look like? What was I supposed to learn from being called “baldy” and having my wig ripped off my head, any time I had my back turned, by those little shits at school?
Using language as a way to cope became safe, but only rarely in the presence of my family. My support system away from home, a misfit of friends from school and Girl Scouts, would often hear me randomly whisper, “fuck”, even in a situation that didn’t really call for it. I was just trying it out to see how it sounded, and you know what? It was “Fucking Empowering!” I didn’t know that phraseology back then, but I knew the feeling, and it’s one that I fully embrace, especially these days. EMPOWERMENT, the often overused word in these zen and spiritual times, feels incredible, and that’s what swearing allowed me to feel in the times of uncertainty when my confidence needed a bit of a boost. Being a bald child and learning to access an understanding of how the world perceived me didn’t come easy. But choosing to live as a bald woman, deciding to not cover it up becomes less and less work as I make a choice. Will this be a day where I choose to educate when people stare or ask questions, or will this be a day when I express, using profanity only with the squint of my green eyes and the pursing of my lips, “What the fuck are you looking at?” – It all depends on the approach of the stranger and my mood for the day. Most days, I choose the education route.
I am well-respected in my field of work. I coach parents with children living with alopecia, along with adults who are living with it too. I educate in the medical community. I am a podcaster, and marking my episodes, “explicit” is something I want to avoid because of something I might say, but not my guests. They can say whatever they want, however they want. I published a book and wrote my own story, and I think if you asked anyone in my professional life, they would say, “She’s so sweet and quiet.” They might even be shocked to understand how much I swear in my personal life.
This post could have been more about the struggles I endured as someone living with a visible difference, about being mistaken for and called “sir” on more occasions than I can count, or about having to listen to unsolicited advice from strangers who had the “perfect remedy” to cure my hair loss. But I’ve already written my story, and I talk about it a lot in my work. I wonder as I write this if it will negatively affect how clients will perceive me, or if it will just give them a view of what else made me who I am today?