The ‘F’ Word — Rebecca Goldberg
The “F” word….Fuck…forget the “U-C-K” just the “F” can stand on its own and still sound so bad. A word so forbidden it comes with a warrant to fill children’s mouths with soap. Before ever truly understanding how so very good and so very bad the word could be, I wanted it; longed for it to be a part of my vocabulary.
I remember a day in elementary school: I saw the word scribbled in my Math book. There it was, F-U-C-K, right next to long division. I had jabbed the girl next to me in order to point out the gem I had discovered on the page. The alarming four letter word we would not dare say aloud.
I’m sure I was one of so many fourth graders to meet the same fate as Holden Caulfield, yet, while the famed youth of the literary world was so appalled at the very sight of the word, FUCK thrilled me (years later a man told me that I had a certain “rated R” quality about me). I swear I stared at the word so hard. I could not take my eyes off of it for even one of the allotted 42 math period minutes. Had the word grown a pair of legs, walked off the page and strutted down the street, I would have cat-called it all day just to get it to look in my direction.
In the tainted days of my childhood afterwards, I used to daydream about how “cool” I’d sound the first time I dropped the “F” bomb. I would visualize scenarios, one more perfect than the next, where I would finally unleash the word. I imagined it would leave my friends stunned and onlookers in awe as I let the it slip so coolly off my tongue; as if it was one I had said a thousand times. Ideally, I’d be in high school having a public argument with my boyfriend (he was part of the fantasy too). That’s when I’d use it. “Fuck you!” I’d shout, maybe even pair it up with the middle finger. I would storm away, my friends in toe, my boyfriend heartbroken.
I used to say the word to myself while looking in the mirror just to watch it come out of my mouth. For me making the word my own would finally make me a grown-up.
This past winter, I was walking down Third Avenue. It was the first snow fall of the season and enough white powder had fallen to coat the streets. As I approached 91st street, I could hear what sounded like a chorus of a thousand children laughing. I got closer and saw that the street had been closed off between Second and Third Avenues. The steepness of the block made for the-perfect sleigh-riding hill. Bundled in the appropriate NYC snow gear, (way cooler than the suburban nerdy-ness of my childhood) hundreds of kids were zooming down the hill. I stopped to watch them as they laughed hysterically while rating each other’s technique and speed. This was fun in its purest and most innocent form. I suppose I was staring long enough for my presence to have been noticed; a little boy approached me and asked if I wanted a turn. He was offering up the sled he held in his mitten-ed hand and believe me, I did consider it. But, I was in heels, and I was already running late for work. And besides, if I got hurt, well then I wouldn’t be able to work and then who was going to pay my rent?
There I was, officially an adult. I told him “no thanks” and walked away. Even from a distance, I could still hear the children laughing. I sighed and shook my head…all grown up…nothing left to say but…fuck.