I've heard it since the beginning of my very short public writing career: I use the word fuck way too much.
My former Sunday School teacher/mother has many a times come at me with her best concerned parent face and asked me to "tone it down." I've had advisors tell me that I should consider removing it to be taken more seriously. Mark Zuckerberg continually refuses to allow my advertisements of blog posts on Facebook, citing that my vulgar language violates Facebook's advertising policy (but don't worry, advertising alcohol to kids is okay). One time a colleague pointed out that when he searched the word fuck on my blog home page, he got 37 hits. And in the past year alone, I've had over 10 people send me the following meme:
These moments make me cringe.
I have tried - and failed - to tone it down countless times (witness the blog post titled Poop, Ice Cream, and Spirit Holly in which I used the word poop 13 times, afraid to utter the word shit). I've likened this battle to that of breaking an addiction. In a moment of clarity I will declare I'm DONE with cursing forever! and then 3 hours later there I am, dropping more f-bombs in a sentence than there are in a Tupac album.
Always it comes down to the same polarizing debate: Does using the word fuck diminish my point? Does leaving it out diminish my authenticity?
A few months ago, I was interviewed on my own podcast by my partner Laura (Episode 3, Who Is Holly). Before we released the episode, I sent it along to one of my most trusted advisors and editors. She listened, and immediately said in the most sincere and gentle way "I love it. But all I hear is fuck."
I went back through and listened, and sure enough, it was all I heard, too. In fact, I personally lost complete touch with the points I was trying to make EVEN THOUGH IT WAS MY STORY, because all I heard was a continuous stream of curse.
A boyfriend once told me that his step-father was a truck driver, and his grandfather was a sailor, and that I put them both to shame. "Holly, you are literally worse than a truck-driving sailor."
My friend/editor/advisor who texted me that night was right - if I wanted to change the world, I was not going to do it by also fighting for my right to talk like Tony Soprano. In her words, "a well placed f-bomb can be game changing and stir emotion. But a fuck parade makes you sound like a teenage girl." I re-recorded the episode, and the lesson has stuck (for the most part).
I don't want to be a conformist and I don't want to tone down who I am or compromise my authenticity. But I do want to be heard, and I do want my words to have impact.
Fuck is one of the best words known to man. But like anything else in this world, too much of a good thing always turns bad. And so it is (outside of this particular article), I strive not for the right to stream expletives, but rather, for the well placed fuck.