I should be clear that the toddlers were fine. It was the grown-ups who needed to use their inside voices.
The kids and I were focused on our slices, and I'm sure the loud, profanity-laden conversation coming from the next table washed over my girls like ambient street noise. I, however couldn't help but flinch every time I heard the so-called adults at that table say "shit" and "bitch."
I have already established that I'm a hypocrite, and I'll be the first to admit that, in many social situations, I cuss like a motherfucking sailor. There are definitely times when swearing is appropriate and effective. And it's kind of bullshit that there are certain words that make people clutch their pearls when used in an "inappropriate" environment. They're just words, right? I mean, there's a lot of classist fucking horeseshit wrapped up in that, as there is with people using certain dialects and speaking ungrammatically. We instantly judge people's intelligence, values, social position, competence, etc. on how they speak, and that shit is pretty fucked up.
Nonetheless, I almost never swear in front of my kids, or anyone else's kids, as difficult as it may be. (Actually, it's gotten easier, and I find myself cussing less frequently even in situations where it would be appropriate.) I also very rarely speak ungrammatically in front of my kids, even when it sounds a little bit formal for kiddie chit-chat. The reason is simply that I want my kids to speak Standard English, using the kind of diction and tone that will not get them judged negatively by all the fucking judgmental assholes like me in the world. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this thinking.
So the fuckwads at the next booth at the pizza place were yelling and swearing and drinking (illegally--the restaurant doesn't have a liquor license, but turns a blind eye to people who BYOB) their Coors Light (their lowbrow taste in beer was yet another thing about which I judged them), and at one point, one of the moms got up and ran to the bathroom, her toddler in her arms. But she was thwarted as the one-seater was ocupado.
"Oh, shit, you guys!" She yelled. "Someone is taking a shit in there! That's not cool! I have to piss so bad!" Then she ran over and banged on the bathroom door and yelled, "Hurry up in there! I'm gonna shit on the floor!" She giggled and ducked behind a wall in case the person in the bathroom were to come bursting out.
I must have shot her a look, because she covered her mouth guiltily and said, "Hi, pretty girls" to my kids.
So the dipshit mom was eventually able to take care of her business, and then she sat back down at her table full of stupid fuck friends. One guy worked the word "shit" into every sentence. Sometimes "shit" was the entirety of his contribution to the conversation. I continued to feign the same level of obliviousness as my kids to the crass spew of these fucking lowlifes.
As we finished our pizza, the conversation next to us grew louder and more vulgar. The asshole mom who had threatened to drop a deuce on the floor casually dropped an f-bomb, using it as a modifier to emphasize the extent to which she didn't care about something or other. I was surprised when the guy whose vocabulary seemed limited to the word "shit" and derivatives thereof, reprimanded the fucking dirtbag mom.
"Hey, c'mon. Don't use the f-bomb in front of kids," said Shithead.
"Fuck you. I'll fucking say what I want," replied Mama Fuckface.
"That's not cool. I never drop f-bombs in front of kids," the righteous Shithead declared.
"What do you want?" Fuckface said, "A fucking Brownie badge?"
This went on for a while and the rest of the crew of shitheels joined in, with the table divided into pro-f-bomb and anti-f-bomb camps. The potty-mouthed mom argued that she was essentially being a responsible parent by exposing her pre-verbal child to filthy language. "I don't want him to be confused when he hears people say 'fuck'," she said.
At this point, we were finished with our pizza. I bussed our table, and, since the trash can was (appropriately) right next to this table teeming with human filth, I leaned in to add some insight to their lively conversation.
"You know what?" I started. "It's entirely up to you how you speak in front of your own kids, but as a courtesy to other parents, it would be nice if you didn't hurl f-bombs at the top of your lungs in a restaurant full of kids."
I didn't really think it was possible to get drunk from Coors Light, but Mama Fuckface must have shotgunned quite a number of them, because when she went off on me, she took a perplexing approach.
"Oh, yeah, right..." she said, contorting her vapid features into a taunting duckface and bobbling her sloshy head from side to side. "You're so awesome, dude," she mocked, throwing sarcastic shakas with her meaty paws. "Hang Ten, bro." This amused some of her companions, and I could hear laughter as I walked away with my kids.
I chuckled, bemused, at the idea that she thought I was some kind of surfer dude. I was wearing grey Dickies shorts and a black t-shirt that had grout stains on it because I had been tiling a kitchen that morning. I also wore a green baseball hat with a faded Mountain Hardware logo on it. I was carrying a nylon across-the-body-strap backpack thing (okay, a murse) and was accompanied by two little girls in sundresses and Hello Kitty shoes. How did she get "brah" out of that?
I've been tinkering with some theories about how a rebuke in Standard English from a square, if a bit dirty, dad could be mistaken as surfer aggression. Maybe Mama Fuckface went to high school with a bunch of surfer kids who were rich and entitled and bullied her because she was so fucking stupid? Or maybe everyone who speaks anything besides Vulgarian sounds so foreign that she can't quite place the accent?
Anyway, I was glad I spoke my piece. I got it off my chest without making a big deal about it (my kids didn't notice the exchange at all), and those assholes needed to know that not everyone thought their fucking shenanigans were cute.
But--and here I expose myself as a hypocrite again since I generally discourage judging the parenting of others--I wasn't really being honest when I gave the impression that I didn't care how many fucking f-bombs she dropped in front of her kids. I feel bad for those kids. When they are in kindergarten (probably at the same school as my kids), yelling about how fucking much they love going on the monkey bars, how much of a disadvantage are they starting out with? What are you going to say, Mama Fuckface, when the teacher calls to tell you that Junior's show-and-tell presentation was titled "My Fucking Pet Turtle Is the Shit!"? Are you going to tell the teacher to blow it out her fucking ass? Or are you going to say, "Oh, heavens! I don't know where he's hearing that language! It must be from his classmates!" Will you then start to do remedial work to get him to unlearn the words that stuck-up people like me have decided must not be used in polite company? Or will you stick to your guns and let Junior be at the vanguard of a brave new generation that shuns classism and talks how the fuck they want regardless of how they are perceived by their peers, neighbors, teachers, and potential employers? Why not, right? How the fuck could anything go wrong with that plan?
(Please fucking share this, unless you don't give a shit about kids.)