I’ve got a dirty mouth. I don’t say this with pride exactly, but there’s no shadow of shame either. I wish I could plead an inability to prevent these words from coming out of my face, but I can and have controlled myself. My daughters were young when their mom and I split up, my oldest in third grade and my youngest in preschool. The girls spent half their time with their mom and half living with me. Throughout their childhoods, I was the parent who never swore—not to say my ex-wife has a dirty mouth—she doesn’t, particularly—but I made a conscious effort not to swear in front of the girls, who noticed. In fact, Meri, my middle daughter, kept track of the number of times I swore in front of them—after three years, she announced I’d said seven swears, and three of them came when we were rear-ended at a stoplight. So . . . I have no excuse for my foul language.
When I was in seventh grade, for instance, I was sent to the principal’s office for telling my reading teacher she was a sexless whore. I don’t know what I meant by that, but I thought it was funny. In fact, I found it hilarious because of the oxymoronic nature—what could that even mean? Neither the teacher, nor Mr. Platine, the principal saw the humor potential. I believe I was given a week’s detention, and a requirement to apologize. Apparently I fought off the impulse to tell her she was a sexy whore, because I’m certain that would have resulted in suspension, and I don’t remember that as one of my junior-high felonies.
When I was in eighth grade, I had one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mr. Hodgdon, whom I insisted on calling Chuck, because that was his name, although here I’ll stick with the honorific. Mr. Hodgdon taught American history, and he was willing to let me write my five-page biographical paper on Superman while everyone else wrote about Eleanor Roosevelt or Herbert Hoover. He was a good man and a good teacher, and, except for my dirty mouth and love of a joke, I had no reason to ask him in class if he’d seen my socks. When he looked surprised, and said no, I told him I thought I’d left them under his bed the night before when I’d been with his wife. Even Mr. Hodgdon, even Chuck, couldn’t let that slide, and I spent more time with Mr. Platine.
I could go on with ways the words dripping out of my face have hurt people and caused me problems. Documenting my bad language would take up too much space, and not lead us any further than this conclusion: I’ve got a dirty mouth. There are, however, two words I try never to use together, a phrase that I keep off my filthy lips. I can see you mentally placing bets—is it the CS-phrase? The MF-phrase? The QQ-phrase? None of those, whatever they might even have been.
The two-word phrase I don’t use is . . . “tiny house.”. I live in a well-designed and perfect (for me and for now) 72-square-foot converted motorcycle trailer. I call it a Tiny White Box—and I would have used Small instead of Tiny, but that domain name was already taken. (If you’re an Australian reader interested in having a website designed, please go to smallwhitebox.com—tell them I sent you just to confuse them.) The reason I don’t use those words to describe where I live is because I am not trendy, not cute, not clever, not anything but a man pushing 60, writing a lot and plotting the next phase of my life. Any time I describe where I live, someone will say, “Oh, how lucky! I’ve always dreamed of living in a (expletive deleted)! Do you watch that show?” Without wanting to sound holisticer than though, I haven’t seen THAT SHOW or any others—except for an inexplicable binging of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which I can’t explain except by my love of musicals—in years. If I were to change my stripes and start watching television, I would not start, middle or finish with the province of wealthy folks who dream of perfect simplicity in a too-too-too perfect redwood dollhouse. I dream of finishing a book, hiking with Sam (is a dog) and helping some veterans have a chance to write. I may call someone an MF or a CS or, even, when very angry, a QQ, but I do not and will not live in a TH.