Language, Intimacy and Social Norms


Welcome! Today I’m taking a day off of my normal work and enjoying a day of self-care, reflection, and contemplation. It’s like a perfect day for this — sun shining etc…

I started off today with a 1-hour float in salt-infused water at Seattle Float. During these floats I often meditate. During these meditations I often think on questions and see what answers come to me. Normally this takes me to the question, “Who am I?”

Normally, this question leads me to beliefs I am working to fully accept — “I am, that I am” or “I am love.” However, today I got a different answer. Today my meditation resulted in “You are here to learn through experience, so WE can all learn from your experience.” After this floated around in my head for a bit I got to “Then, what should I do?” One answer was, “Write!”

So here I am writing. If you haven’t read my articles before, I look for inspiration in my writing from experiences in which I make a different decision than in the past. Its a reflective look at transitions I’ve made. I believe I have come here to experience transitions, a lot of them.

Today I’m going to write about my reactions to the religious side of my family.

In my biological family, my parents came from different sides of the track, so to speak. One side curses like sailors, and the other side does not. 😉 One side goes to church regularly and one does not. 😉

I recently experienced being around the part of my family who have negative judgements of cursing. This is not something I normally run into in my life as I’m not normally around them.

In early parts of my life, I jumped from one side of the tracks to the other on a weekly basis. Eventually however, I landed on the cursing side almost full-time. This is the part of my family that in the past I have felt the most acceptance and inclusion from.

This is why I joke that I speak two languages, English and Bad English, and I’m not very good at English. It’s a reference to this split in my family around cursing that I experienced as a child.

So as a child I knew that the religious side of my family didn’t think much of cursing. I knew the church saw it as a sin. I knew that when I wasn’t with them I was, therefore, a sinner.

Over the years of coming to my own beliefs, I have agreed to disagree with the church. Then, this last winter this came up again. This time I felt almost no stress or anxiety around the fear of judgment of cursing. I didn’t feel a need to hold my tongue and neither did I notice any social discomfort by feeling a need to confront it.

What follows is my contemplation on noticing this change in me.

Movies like My Fair Lady, Breakfast Club, and Wayne’s World help demonstrate the importance of language. From their stories we can see that:

Language is important.
Language is established by social norm.
Language is both a way to build intimacy and to establish exclusion.
Language, and our use of it, places us so concretely in our lives that often it itself is a barrier.

However, I don’t think this goes deep enough to discover the sources of anxiety I felt around cursing.

Cursing is some of the most confrontational and intimate language. This is likely why comedians use it and politicians don’t.

I understand that to use cursing without intimacy is a violation of the social norms that we all live by. It’s too familiar. It’s too confrontational. It’s too discounting of the nature of the relationship. For example, I don’t order a Starbucks Latte by saying, “What is the best fucking thing on the menu?” Nor would I recommend calling the Barista “my bitch.” You’ll likely get thrown out or at best a cold stare, unless that Barista and you are good friends.

However, most of the people in my life use this kind of language all the time with each other. We establish its use to share our experiences and build a sense of team. We do not look on each other as “wrong” or “inadequate” or “low.” We instead gain a stronger sense of inclusion into the group.

So now back to my discomfort with my family — on the surface I can conclude that I stopped looking for this level of intimacy and inclusion with them. Which leads me to think that I’ll never have the intimacy with them, or that I don’t know how to build intimacy with them.

Therein lies my dilemma from the past. I wanted to blame them for my lack of intimacy with them. I wanted to say, I don’t believe what you believe, I don’t practice your religious practices, and I don’t share in your stories.

I want to be victim to the barriers of different beliefs. I wanted intimacy on my terms. I want them and I to see eye to eye on all these things in this life, in this place, and in this time. Cursing was just an obvious place to start.

Well that is a lot of self-indulgent bullshit. What I really want is for them to accept, see, and acknowledge me, to feed my ego that I am right. I want them to prove to me that I really do matter to them and that they will accept me no matter what I do.

I want this because I feel disconnected from them and God. My need for them to see it my way is that I lack confidence in myself. I was afraid because I didn’t believe I was worthy. The real reason I felt less anxiety this year is that I’m feeling stronger in my sense of who-I-am, my self-worth, and my connection to God.

I love all of my family. I curse like a sailor. Some of them don’t. When I’m around them I’ll try not to trigger them so much by curbing my cursing, if only because it makes for a more intimate connection.

I love you all. I am on your side. I encourage and support you in feeling worthy. It’s a great place to live from.

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One thought on “Language, Intimacy and Social Norms

  1. Interesting….. I’ve never known you to curse! I can’t even imagine you talking like that.

    Your article reminded me of a time when I was in college when I said something was bullshit in a letter to my mother. It wasn’t anything about her at all, I was just expressing an opinion about something. She was shocked beyond measure and I got quite a scolding! I don’t think I said that around her in the future, but it was still part of my vocabulary.

    I enjoyed your article!

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