Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. ~ Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)
I was raised in a home where “obscenity, foolish talk [and] coarse joking” were NOT the norm. Private matters were kept private and private parts had cute, little nicknames—which I will refrain from sharing at this time.
The first time I sought clarification on a word I’d heard an older boy spew on the playground, I was five years old. I remember it like it was yesterday.
“Mommy, what does #$%& mean?”
Her response was swift—if not helpful. “If I ever hear you say that word again, I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.”
Not that I wish my family life was otherwise—I know now I was blessed—but there were times I felt uninformed, insecure, and naïve. I thought “off-color” meant dull and “double entendre” meant we could have second helpings at supper.
As I got older, my peers found my ignorance amusing. I found it humiliating. Like when I was thirteen and a member of the Camp Fire Girls. One day my troop leader motioned to one of the girls and said, “Anne won’t be participating in this afternoon’s activities because she has her friend.”
I spoke up, “We don’t mind if her friend joins in.” I looked around, wondering where her friend was and why the rest of the troop was gawking at me.
The leader said, “No, dear, it’s her monthly visitor.”
I extended the invitation again. “Even if she can’t attend every week, it’s okay.”
I was sent home with a note. My mother read it, then produced an old, faded “You’re a Young Lady Now” booklet and sent me to my room with orders to read it.
From that moment on, I was on my guard. I pretended to get jokes, giggling when others giggled, rolling my eyes when others rolled theirs. When I got my very own Webster’s Dictionary that Christmas, the first thing I did was look up words I thought I should know. I didn’t plan to use them, but I was tired of being caught unaware. (Of course, not knowing the words to look up didn’t help much.)
As a freshman, when I overheard an upper classman whisper to her friend, “Did you guys French?”, I wondered why she would ask such a dumb question since they were all in the same Spanish class.
Married right out of high school, I learned the details of having a baby through—you guessed it—another booklet. Mortified, for years I blushed every time I heard the word “stirrups.” Riding lessons are still out of the question for me.
The mandatory health class in high school was one big blackout. Which might explain why, as a new Christian at the age of thirty-two, I thought the pastor was speaking about male body parts when he spoke about St. Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.
I was widowed at fifty and fell for some dumb lines. It took the young adults in my church group to warn me that “Want to come in for coffee?” was tantamount to “Want to come in for a nightcap?” And it took my thirty-something co-workers to discourage me from using the expression “hooking up.” Apparently, it meant more than I thought it did.
After dating David for a year, we married. It was a mixed marriage of sorts. He was a WASP from suburban DC; I was French and a former Catholic from Cape Cod. He’d been in the Navy; I had not.
One day, in the honeymoon phase of our marriage, David went out to run errands. I heard the garage door go up upon his return. When he didn’t come in right away, I looked out the window and saw a neighbor approaching him.
I was surprised when David entered the house a minute later. “You sure didn’t talk very long to Roland.”
He leaned over and kissed me. “Why would I want to talk to Roland when I’ve got a warm sandwich for you?”
A warm sandwich? My mind scrambled. I’d heard of spooning, snuggling, and canoodling, but what on earth was a warm sandwich? Was this a common WASP expression or a term specific to DC? Or worse, had he picked it up in the Navy? I panicked.
How well did I know this man anyway?
I mustered my courage. “What do you mean by that?”
“A warm sandwich.”
He plopped a brown paper bag on the table. “The steak and cheese sub you wanted for lunch.”
Of course. The sub. I knew that.
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. ~ Matthew 10:16 (NIV)
PS: This was The Law of the Camp Fire Girls when I was a member:
- Worship God
- Seek Beauty
- Give Service
- Pursue Knowledge
- Be Trustworthy
- Hold onto Health
- Glorify Work
- Be Happy