When I was a kid, I was pretty immune to peer pressure. I was a goody-two-shoes of note because I was incredibly fearful of authority. Authority included adults in any shape or form. Parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, sports coaches. So I usually toed the line. I was wild and adventurous. I was often described as naughty. But I didn’t really do the ‘bad’ stuff. I didn’t smoke. I didn’t drink. I didn’t take the car without asking. I didn’t come home after curfew. I didn’t do drugs. (Clearly a wasted childhood).
My biggest transgression, my major rebellion, was swearing. From the age of about 12, I started swearing like a sailor. In fact, I probably went through phases in my early teens where I would have made sailors blush. I was pretty inventive too. Stringing together expletives like a championship fighter putting together a combination of jabs and punches and then delivering a knock-out punch. My second language, Afrikaans, is a great language to ‘vloek’ in and throwing some rude Afrikaans descriptions into the mix only enhanced the edge. On one particularly memorable occasion, another kid who was only slightly older and bigger tried to steal my bicycle at knife point. I loved my bike. It was my freedom. I wasn’t going to just let it go. I started hurling curses at the would-be thief and made him so uncomfortable, he just walked away. A victory? Maybe.
I don’t really know why I started swearing. I don’t know if that was just my way of stepping out of line with minimal risk of being caught. This was before the time of cellphones with video-taking capability and YouTube. I think that I believed it made me fit in with the cool crowd a bit more. I was usually on the outskirts of the cool crowd. Not entirely spurned but not entirely accepted either. My habit certainly didn’t help me win any admirers of the female persuasion. My barbed tongue stayed with me for a long time. I’m not too sure when I realised it was unseemly and uncool. Thank goodness I did.
Ah, youth. What a time. What a time. Looking back, I wonder if a different form of rebellion might’ve been more fun and less embarrassing. Nostalgia, as they say, is a thing of the past.