Saturday, August 25, 2018

The first time I ever said a swear word out loud

I'd like to think I had a liberal upbringing.

I really do.

I was born in the 90s, my parents were in their 20s, life was pretty chill. Never did anyone in my immediate family ever force me to do anything or behave a certain way. Growing up, I had open discussions about a lot of things with my parents - including words and their meanings, especially the stuff I'd heard in school or on TV. Whenever I was confused about anything, I was explained in a PG fashion and sent on my way.

This is why I think all the conservatism of my childhood was literally my own fault. I don't know where I got the ideas that dating boys was wrong, kissing was disgusting, and saying swear words was THE ABSOLUTE SIN, because my parents never told me any of these things. Neither did my grandparents, come to think of it (the only thing I absolutely HAD to do in front of my family was display impeccable table manners). I suppose the process of growing up in Pakistan just twists your moral compass in a way that your childhood is screwed up with half-baked truths and the fear of doing anything wrong.

This means, throughout my childhood, I NEVER swore. Never. Not when I was enraged about losing a very intense game of Name Place Animal Thing, not when I broke my collarbone in three places after falling off a slide... not even when I stubbed my poor defenseless pinky toe on the edge of a wooden table (the worst kind of pain one can ever imagine). I just always had this belief that I would be sinning if I swore.

So, as you can imagine, it must have taken something HUGE to have me swear aloud for the very first time.

It all started in Grade 6. After suffering bullying from the same group of girls from Grade 2 till 5 (now that's a whole other blog post altogether), I was FINALLY put in a new classroom entirely. My new classmates were different from the rest. They spoke kindly to me, they included me in everything, they came over to my house, they appreciated my hobbies. Having been deprived of that kind of camaraderie for years, I was desperate to do anything for their validation and friendship (they never made me feel this way, it was just my own insecurities playing up). So when one of the girls invited me to join their Secret Book Club, I was enthralled.

Now, if you think the Secret Book Club was about reading books, you're wrong.

It was literally a club about ONE book which was TOP SECRET.


Because all of us had to write our secrets in it.

If you think think is weird and cultish.... I agree. But back then it just seemed like the norm for 10-12 year olds to partake in such activities.

The secret book was a green notebook with white polka dots on it. Pakistanis, please don't hate on my non-patriotic approach - but that's a garish color combination, especially for a piece of stationary. Anyway. Every week, one of us in the 'club' had to write something that was either a juicy piece of gossip or a personal secret, and then pass it on to the other member of the club when the week was up. This happened smoothly for a few months, so there was a fair amount of content in that book.

Looking back, I'm pretty sure the material devolved from our own secrets to just petty gossip about everyone else quick enough. I do feel guilty for engaging in that, but it wasn't anything harmful or vicious. Most of the pages had stuff like 'I think this girl likes that boy' or 'so-and-so only gets good grades because he's the teacher's son' (WHICH WAS TRUE!!!). Despite the shallow nature of the content itself, a lot of us put in loads of effort to make the actual notebook look pretty. Glitter glue, multi-colored pens, pockets made out of fabric - there was some pretty artsy stuff happening in there.

I had possessed the book a few times, and was pretty careful with it every time I had it. I only wrote in it during break/lunch time or a free lesson - I never let any of the students outside of our secret book club know of its existence. I prided myself on being vigilant - but alas, even the best of us make mistakes.

It all happened so fast. It was break time - I had written something in the book, and absentmindedly left it on my desk instead of putting it in my bag. Break ended and the lesson began. We were around 15 minutes into the lesson when I realized that the book was sitting right there on my desk, in all its green-and-white glory.

Accurate representation of what I thought it looked like on my desk.

It was miraculous that no one had spotted it already. In hindsight, what I should have done was brushed it off and waited for the end of the lesson to casually slip it into my bag. But of course, as an eleven year old with no common sense, I did what made the most sense to me at the time.

Within seconds, I:
  • let out an audible gasp which reverberated across the silent classroom
  • yanked the book from the desk in full view of everyone who had turned to look at me after the aforementioned gasp
  • hurriedly attempted to stuff the book in my bag, spilling out all the other contents
All this commotion was enough to attract the teacher's attention. She marched over and snatched the book out of my bag, where it still wasn't quite stuffed in properly.

I imagine it looked pretty much like this to her.

I was horrified. This book was one of the key elements of my friendship with some of the other girls in my class. This book was labored on with so much effort and glue by everyone. This book had eluded everyone's eyes for such a long time. This book..... had EVERYONE'S SECRETS.

And now, a teacher had it in her hand.

To her credit, she didn't mortify me further by opening it up and reading out the contents like other teachers would have done. After she had taken it from my bag, all she did was walk back to her desk and keep it there. It was then I realized that the other girls who were a part of the Secret Book Club were staring at me. For a bunch of eleven year old girls, having a teacher read all their secrets was pretty much the worst thing that could happen. And I was the facilitator of their doom ;(.

An entire week passed, and nothing had happened. I kept expecting a telling-off, a thorough interrogation, or at the very least SOME sort of acknowledgement about the contents of the book. But the teacher seemed to have either forgotten about it or was saving some sort of punishment for me (and the others) for later.

While she didn't say anything, I did receive an earful from my friends. They blamed me for being careless - and rightfully so. I deserved that. They didn't do anything drastic like end the friendship over it, but they were understandably mad. It was the reaction from the other students in the classroom that was both annoying and unprecedented.

Out of the other students was a girl who was the entire package: smart, good-looking and super popular. It's like everyone in school was given a triangle diagram where they could only pick two sides, but she cheated the system and had all three.


I was always on civil terms with her. But after the incident of the teacher finding out about The Secret Book, that girl completely flipped. Since she wasn't part of the club, she didn't actually know about what was in it - but that didn't stop her from making far-fetched assumptions that everything in the book was somehow about her.

To be specific, this girl thought that:
  • the pages were filled with details about her and a guy she liked, and how they were seeing each other
  • we obsessed over her high grades in every subject
  • we made fun of her straight hair (????)

Not only was she wrong about what we wrote, she was wrong with her entire assumption that we wrote anything about her at all. You see, people who get all three sides of the triangle are automatically immune from any sort of talk about them. It's the law. This is why I got so annoyed. She literally made a huger deal out of the teacher finding out about the book than any of my friends did, because she somehow thought she would be the most impacted by its discovery as opposed to the ACTUAL producers of the damned book.

This girl made my life hell for the entire week. I was already under a lot of pressure from losing the book, having the looming thought of a punishment awaiting, trying to mend the precarious friendship between all the other members of the Secret Book Club... having that girl somehow make all of this about HER was just too much.

I felt like.... I was about to swear.

Now, this thought didn't occur to me at once. It definitely cooked in my brain for the entire week. As I mentioned earlier on in this post, I was highly opposed to swearing. I just thought it was wrong. Before this incident, I couldn't have even fathomed tainting my pristine eleven-year-old tongue by uttering any bad word. But here I stood, so IRRITATED by this one person, I was willing to risk it all.

I carefully planned my move. The next time she would barge up to me with her complaints, I would silence her with a sharp, quick-witted statement and ONE swear word. I spent time deliberating over which word to use for maximum impact. I crafted that sentence with care. I was ready.

Towards the end of the week, my chance finally arrived. The girl was ready to approach me and chide me for all my wrongdoings. She was about to spew her narcissistic rant about how her entire future  was ruined due to some non-existent childish notes about her in some ugly, green book. But I was prepared.

Her: Fareeha, I think-

Now, that echoed. It literally went ((Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.))

She was stunned into silence. Heck, I was stunned into silence. Even though I hadn't shouted it out, it seemed like everyone had heard it. But the looks I received weren't those of disappointment or disgust. They were of awe. I did it. I SWORE AT THE SMART, POPULAR, GOOD-LOOKING GIRL THAT WOULDN'T SHUT UP! It was my first swear word, and I felt pretty good about it. And it did the job - she never brought up the book again.

A few days later, after the entire incident was almost completely forgotten by all the students, the teacher walked up to me and dropped the book off at my desk without a word. That's it. Everything my friends and I (and that girl) were stressing about was a plain old confiscation. The book didn't even look like it had been rifled through. And that was that. No punishment, no consequence. 

The rest of Grade 6 went pretty smoothly. I didn't ever feel the need to swear again that year, because that one 'bullshit' made a phenomenal impact which left me in an afterglow for months. I don't know if it was because no one got in trouble for the book, or if swearing was a badass move that no one expected from me... OR if it was because everyone was thankful that I shut up the girl's annoying nagging - but yeah, I definitely came out a winner.

I don't know if there's a moral to this story but there definitely is a takeaway of some sort:


Laila N Mysis said...

Oh my goodness... that was hilarious, I love playground drama. And it's funny how absurd this whole 'secret book club' thing is, but it's so ... typical... of that age group.

Sorry, I also feel like I have to share my first swear word story. I remember my older sister was bullying me as usual, and we were at home alone after school so there was no mummy to cry to. I don't know how or why it came to me, but suddenly I yelled "STOP BEING A B***CH!" Unfortunately, there was no feeling of relief, no adoring gazes or applause. All I got was the evilly triumphant look from my sister, and realising I was in for it, I burst into tears. Yep. Such a wimp. Maybe the lack of satisfaction of this one moment is why I still struggle to swear today. Eh.

Hanis. said...

I know the Name Place Thing Animal game. Hahahaha. I always hated it when they choose E because my 11 year old self only know of England and Elephant.

I don't remember the first time I cursed... but I think I was around 11. I remember my brother's first time cursing in front of mom. He got a mouthful of chillies 😂

Hira Nazir said...

Hahhhahahahahhah! I loved it thoroughly. So dramatic and genuine and very much expected of that age group. Also, makes me so happy to see it had the same old pattern of doodles that are distinctive of your posts.

I started openly swearing in medical school and well..what could I do? Medical school makes you do so. Now I swear like a sailor without a filter and I think it's the best thing. :D

I believe more than any other thoughts involved in upbringing about right and wrong or sin and no sin, our cultural construct is so that it thinks swearing publicly is indecemi.

Anyway, I wouldn't stop anyone from swearing and take the frustration out, it's therapeutic. :D

Please continue writing! I love you and your posts.

ds said...

this is fucking amazing.
hands down, best thing I've read in a while.

your command of the english language is intimidating, your pacing is perfect, and your writing is fucking IMMACULATE.

how did you find my blog? I'm glad you did and commented, because it's compelled me to read yours and i couldn't be more impressed.

your illustrations are tickling me on the inside in that way maybe music does, or stand up comedy.

don't stop writing.

also, fuck yes for swears. i understand intimately that kind of upbringing and self-imposed standard. you're fucking beautiful.

Martin Alexander said...

Well, goddamn! That backstory was incredibly engaging, and the suspense had me fearing for the consequences that awaited younger Furree.
So did you open some sort of floodgates that resulted in other kids growing courageous enough to swear like it was nothing?

Don't really recall my own origin story when it came to cursing, but, I did go through a period in my college days when I had decided to give up swearing completely. As you well know, that's no longer the case.

I just remember my Psychology professor teaching us that the faces we make have a significant influence on our mood and behavior. If you force a smile when you have no particular reason to, you can trick your body and mind to sync and your conditioning leads you to being happier.

Inversely, swearing reinforces negative emotions upon the user. Which leads to more stress, adrenaline and an overall decrease in mental and physical health. Of course, a couple of swear words a day won't be enough to give you a heart attack, but it definitely felt like reason enough to stop, smile more, and live a longer, healthier life.

I did well enough, and maybe it was a placebo of sorts but I seem to recall feeling more at peace. Of course, even if I wasn't cursing aloud, the words still formed in my mind. Ultimately it felt too fake and phony to force my happiness and censor myself. I think you just have to be yourself.
But now I do find that cursing when I'm happy can still enhance my mood, so that's usually what I find myself doing automatically :)

It's a damn good thing I never heard about those triangles when I was younger, though. I only had 'Smarts' unlocked, but even then I was too depressed to bother doing any homework or project assignments.

Furree Katt said...

@Laila, HAHAHAHA OH NO! I love your swearing story but I'm so sorry that you felt bad about it and not liberated :(. Thanks for your comment <3

@Hanis, LMAOOOO THAT GAME WAS MY ENTIRE CHILDHOOD. Even I used to struggle with E. But have you ever had 'U'? What animal can there possibly be except... urchin? ty for your comment <3

@Hira, Hahaha I swear uni does that to a person. I too, found it easier to swear once I was around people who just naturally incorporated swearing into their vocab. Thank you so much for your comment <333

@ds, Thank you so much! Your comment means a lot. I'm so happy that you like my writing style and my drawings. It motivates me to think of more stories from my life that I can convert to blog posts. I came across your profile through clicking the 'conspiracy theories' link on the Interests section in my own profile. I'm glad I did! :)

@Martin, I don't think my swearing incited anyone else to start swearing. I don't really think I heard any of those people swear till 8th grade at least. Or maybe I'm just unobservant haha.
I'm going to try smiling even when I'm pissed and see if that helps uplift my mood. Thanks so much for your comment, it made me laugh!

IceMaiden said...

Name Place Animal Thing!!!!!! OMFG I HAVEN"T THOUGHT OF THAT IN AGES HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH (also low-key your drawings are backkkk yay!) I have been swearing for so long I have no idea when I actually started doing it haha.. I think it was a bigger deal to swear in Hindi than in English when I was growing up though, swearing in Hindi was the *gasp what did you just say gasp* moment, swearing in English was so passe because everyone did it!

Tracking Happiness said...

This was an epic read. Haha I love your writing style, it almost felt like you sat down with me and told me this story yourself. Looking forward to reading more stuff like this :)

Arvin U. de la Peña said...

can you be my friend....nice blog..

Furree Katt said...

@IceMaiden, Mentioning Name Place Animal Thing is such an instant throwback for us desis. Hehe. And yes I completely understand, swears in our own language felt more 'real' and indecent than English ones!!! Thank you for your comment <3

@Tracking Happiness, Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! :)

@Arvin, Thank you!

Maryam said...

You have NO IDEA how much I can relate to this post. From the not swearing, being friendless and picked on, the worst gaali I'd ever even thought of being 'gandi' to the secret book and first swear word I'd ever uttered also being 'bullshit' - this was my school life in one post.

Monster Potato said...

Ah, slam books. Good times. The post is amazing! Such flow, such plot twists, such drama! Thoroughly entertaining!

I confiscated one a few days ago and unlike your teacher I got curious enough to rife through it. I'll tell you what happened next in a less public setting.

I remember being very young like 10 or 11 and I had just squashed a mosquito in my mum's presence. I went "Look ma! A bloody mosquito" and I got beaten up. I stumbled into my first swear without even realizing it!

Kalie Devine said...

I love your stories so much!