I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I’ve been struck by how common it is to hear adults using obscenities in public places these days. I’m not talking about occasional “hells” or “damns,” either — I’m talking about people speaking loudly into cell phones at airport gates and repeatedly using the queen mother of curses, or audibly muttering to themselves in angry, f-bomb-laden tirades in the cabins of airplanes.
It’s a weird phenomenon, too. The people who are cursing their brains out for all to hear seem totally oblivious to the fact that they are in public places, where people within earshot might find their profanity bothersome or unsettling to their sense of personal security. In every case that I’ve experienced recently, there were small children in the area who also were exposed to the cusser’s lack of self-control; I’m sure their parents appreciated their child’s unexpected and unwanted exposure to the coarsest of language. And apparently the speakers either didn’t understand, or didn’t care, that people might be troubled by loud vulgarity in a crowded public setting where standard social niceties require you to sit down, stay quiet, and keep your four-letter words to yourself.
I’m not a prude — at least, I don’t think I am — but the increasing prevalence of casual obscenity in our everyday lives really bugs me. I think it’s unfair to people who would still like to believe that there is a little decorum left in the world, and that strangers we encounter every day will obey basic social rules.
I can’t help but think, too, that there is macho element to the public use of curse words. I’ve occasionally heard women using profanity in public places, but this is predominantly a male problem, involving self-important guys who have no sense of personal space boundaries and apparently think that their use of locker room language makes them seem cool, cutting edge, and unconstrained by convention.
They apparently don’t realize that, instead, everyone within earshot of their expletives thinks that they are stupid jerks who lack any semblance of self-control and who are unnecessarily making the world a little bit more unpleasant for the rest of us.