Huffpost Media
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Cheryl Pappas Headshot

Vulgarity Is The New Black

Posted: Updated:

Surprisingly, I have become a vulgar person. Anyone who knows me would be surprised by it too, but that doesn't matter. The truth is the truth.

All of us who were raised by reasonably civilized people either consciously or unconsciously know the social imperative of self-control. You know, not blurting out any old thought or obscenity just for the hell or thrill of it in the company of those who are not unconditional fans of your every utterance.

My last blog submission opened with the evidence of my desire to be vulgar.

I began the piece with the following quote from author Paul Auster's memoirs of his early life, Hand To Mouth:
"In other words," the man said, finally realizing what a numskull he was talking to,
"you've taken a shit, and now you want someone to flush the toilet for you."

What a gift of a metaphor, I thought. I laughed for twenty minutes after reading it in the author's context, which was different than my regrettable context. Coincidentally, I had read this the same night of the televised health care vote.

In recent days, I have been so disheartened and disgusted with what is imposed as truth in the media, when truth is not at all being communicated. These dog and pony presentations span from the cheesy ("reality shows" that are obviously scripted and not at all real) to mammoth "special" political presentations (White House dinners, arriving political "celebrities" and faux invitees, et al) involving the President himself.

Solely in terms of presentation, was it really necessary to have a digital countdown to the zero moment of the vote? Were these game show graphics considered necessary to grab viewers, i.e. health care recipients, away from other television watching? Did ratings trump plain-spoken explanations about the bill itself?

I wholeheartedly understand that the passing of the health care bill was genuinely heroic in righting the longstanding wrong that left huge numbers of Americans without health care protection. For this reason, the passing of the bill is clearly a major achievement for freedom in this country.

So I am happy I was convinced, in the nick of time, to lose the afore-mentioned quote, which I had chosen to capture my alarm about the commercialization and production value of the vote, something I believed worthy of including, in its presentation to the American people,class and information. I mean, we're not talking about graphic design for The Celebrity Apprentice.

I therefore appreciate the lack of subtle restraint in my wise in-house critic's response. Reading those first words, she contorted her face as if freshly food-poisoned, spitting out into the air repeatedly, "I hate it! I hate it!"

I got the point, deleted the toxic first beats, resubmitted the piece and, thank God, gratefully remain in the company of this brilliant online blogging adventure.

I'm still ambivalent about my instant responses to that feedback. "That's exactly what I want to say!" "I stand by those words!" I was petulant, adamant. "Why write at all if it's not honest?"

I briefly monologued the essence of the "why write?" dilemma, the heart of what I imagine has plagued and perplexed writers since the original search for sharp and colored rocks to carve their points.

What remains is the issue of vulgarity itself. Is it effective for social commentary to include specific "vulgar" words that are not just self-serving and sloppy, but deliberate and meaningful?

Or has vulgarity slipped quietly like sewage into the waters of everyday parlance, serving as a crudely simplistic dividing line between blowhard bombasts and those who desire a more meticulous descriptive application?

Is vulgarity the new black?

Since my obsession is to analyze and understand human social behavior, I am endlessly reaching for the closest words I can find to approximate any given emotion and experience. The potential hypocrisy of wanting to let it rip -- it's fun! -- does not escape me. Obviously the events of these days are sometimes so alarming to me that specific vulgar words seem required. In my own way, I am experiencing first hand what motivates the very social loss of control I constantly decry.

For anyone who cares about communication, neither censorship nor promiscuous word-farting is the answer. There's a place for vulgarity when actual vulgar events are being normalized and quality is being downgraded before our eyes. I think it goes back to the matter of being conscious about what we say and how we say it. After all, we are creating a trail with our choices in word and deed of who we choose to be.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a prescription for living a quality life as a man (I'm sure his dis-inclusion of women was an editing error) in the snippet from his poem, If," if you can keep your head when all about you/are losing theirs..."

It is up to each of us to figure out the best time and place for vulgarity.
When you make a mistake, sometimes you have to flush your own toilet.