Swear By It


Illustration by Tracey Berglund

To celebrate my 50th birthday earlier this month, I invited the author of the book, “50 Is The New 50,” Suzanne Braun Levine, to be a guest on my weekly radio show, “Juggling Act.” While she discussed the many benefits associated with embarking on this new decade of female freedom and independence called, “Second Adulthood,” what I recall most from this interview is her chapter entitled, “The F-U Fifties.”

But don’t assume for even one moment that the “F-U Fifties” reflects a self-reproaching attack by this birthday girl for reaching that pivotal age gravely considered “over the hill.” Au contraire, this term is actually meant to be aimed at others, as ‘Finally,” Levine writes, “we feel empowered to tell others to ‘f—off’.”

Now, I don’t propose that we, as professional journalists, indiscriminantly curse at others either verbally or in writing, as did a University of Mississippi student journalist last year who was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and sent to prison. Instead, I am suggesting that, as Erica Jong says, “We need to save ourselves.”

In her book “Fear of Fifty,” Jong wrote: “In our twenties, when success and motherhood are still before us,  we could imagine that something would save us from second-classness — either achievement or marriage or motherhood. Now we know that nothing can save us. . . The anger of midlife is a ferocious anger.”

And, yes, I have certainly felt ferocious. As I now think back on my 30-year career in the media, many times I had wanted to tell a condescending editor, arrogant interviewee, or callous co-worker to f— off. This anger only elevated when desperately trying to balance my work and family responsibilities as a new mother 20 years ago, I tried to explain to too many disbelieving bosses that I had leave the office early to attend a school play or take care of a sick child. As my appeals continually fell on deaf ears, I would ultimately concede, since as women we are taught early that rather than stand our ground, we should instead know our place, which translates to primarily remaining polite, humble, demure, timid, fearful, cowering, submissive (feel free to insert additional adjectives here).

And this is not surprising since, according to Louann Brizendine, author of “The Female Brain,” women have much less direct relationship to anger than men.  “Pushing someone else too far, demanding too much and escalating conflict are all situations that, for most of our lives so far, we would do almost anything to avoid.”

But the importance of conflict should not be underestimated, and the need to sometimes curse should be even less so. According to the results of a 2009 research study from the school of psychology at Britain’s Keele University, swearing has been found to make people feel instantly better by imparting a “pain-lessening effect.” And, after all, men must have known about these health benefits for years. Just look at some of the male leaders of our great nation who have used the f-word, without apology. Former Vice-President Cheney, for example, said “f— off” or “go f— yourself” to Democratic Senator Leahy, and current Vice President Joe Biden told another senator to “Gimme a f–ing break!” Neither Vice-Presidents regretted or apologized for using this word and, now, neither will I.

I feel better already.

— Lori Sokol

Lori Sokol is president of Jersey City, N.J.-based Sokol Media Inc., publisher of NY Residential, Green Matters and Work Life Matters magazines, and host of the weekly radio show, Juggling Act, on 1490AM WGCH.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: