We have two daughters – Agatha, who is twelve, and Cozette, who just turned ten. They’re good kids. They don’t cuss. But because they’re my kids, they’ve definitely heard cussing. No, I don’t walk around flinging expletives, but over the course of twelve years the lid on the boiling pot has definitely blown off at times. Plus, I routinely use words like ‘damn’ and ‘ass’ around them, but not gratuitously.

We’re big movie people. In fact, Friday nights have become our family pizza and movie night. As a protective father who doesn’t look forward to the idea of dating, my hope is that it’s a tradition that sticks around until the girls are well into their twenties. Hell, we may even implement a Saturday movie night just to be on the safe side. You know what? In the next couple of years we might just make every night movie night. Anyway, my wife and I have always tried to do our best to vet the movies we share with the girls. A few of things we try to avoid include gratuitous violence, sex, and the use of expletives. Sure, I can’t wait to show them Pulp Fiction one day, but for now we stick to the safe stuff. Mostly. Cleaning up from dinner the other night we were discussing potential viewing candidates when the movie Stand By Me came up. It’s a story about four boys. It should be harmless, right?

“Nichole at work saw it recently and said there was heavy use of the “P” word.” My wife said. “Heavy use.”

“What’s the ‘P’ word?” Agatha asked, innocently.

“Pussy!” Cozette yelled from another room.

Everyone gasped.

“WHOA!” I shouted to my baby girl, who has always had a penchant for throwing around some of the more pedestrian expletives – in context and under supervision, of course. “Who told you that?”

“Agatha.” Cozette replied.

Agatha blushed. “How did you hear about it?” I asked.

“Come on Dad, I’m about to go into seventh grade.” she responded.

“What does pussy mean?” Cozette called out.

“Stop saying that word.” My wife replied.

We all sat in silence for a minute, looking at each other. Cozette entered the room. She wanted to know. “Even though I can’t use it, I’d like to know what it means.”

“Why don’t we ask Agatha?” I said.

“It means a girl’s private parts.” My wife said.

“It’s weird when you think about it.” Agatha added.

“What’s weird?” I asked.

“Well, because the private parts for boys and girls have bad names attached to them.” she said.

Knowing damn well that they’d heard me use it in context before, I decided to test which child would be first to answer the question, “What’s the bad word associated with the boy’s private parts?”

“DICK!” Cozette shouted with pride. I knew it would be her, and allowed it even though we all said, “Cozette!” with some embarrassment. She didn’t blush. “What? We’re all talking about it.”

“Plus the word ‘ass.'” Aggie said.

And I thought about it for a second. She had a point. It’s not as though our private parts are bad, after all. They haven’t done anything to deserve intimate alignment with people who lack courage, or are mean, or who make stupid mistakes. We (responsibly) talked about the connotation of these words and all agreed that it’s strange how people use them in this way.

“Well, the bottom line is that we can’t watch Stand By Me just yet.” My wife concluded. “And this conversation is pretty much over.”

We all giggled.

“But Mom,” Cozette asked. “Is there a bad meaning for boobs?”

“No,” I said sharply.


Jim Mitchem

Finding Neverland: A Story of Belize
A Little Advice

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.