When I was eight years old and lanky with huge square teeth I used to spend hours at a neighbor’s house indulging in every contraband known to a child reared in a Mormon household: MTV, Nintendo, re-runs of “Three’s Company,” and endless experiments with flammable bodily excretions, to name just a few.
The first time I ever actually spoke the word “fart” out loud was underneath that neighbor’s bed, in the dark. And I whispered it. The luscious jump of the “f” from my lips had me reeling for weeks. Fart.
My mother considered use of the word “fart” a violation of what should have been the 11th commandment, and so taught me and my siblings to say “pass gas” if we ever felt the need to talk about the specific activity. “Just say that you passed gas. That’s all. See how easy that is?”
I found it so easy, alas, that I uttered nothing else for the next four days: “Pass gas. Pass gas. I passed gas!”
Horrified that someone from church might stop by and witness my bodily function bonanza, she soon pulled me aside and suggested that I just stop talking about it, for crying out loud, or at least just say that I’d stepped on a frog or something.
I spent the next four years passing gas on frogs.
In high school after mastering the exclamatory punch of substitutes such as “heck,” “crap,” and “dadgummit,” I took the first step down a treacherous path that could only end in the destruction of my once pure soul: I told a referee that he was “full of shit.” Had I not been standing in the middle of a volleyball court surrounded by a couple hundred parents and teachers, I’m certain my mother would have just yanked me off of my feet by my ears and hurled me onto the nearest sacrificial alter, instead of just yelling above the roar of the crowd, “God is watching!”
While attending BYU my linguistic treason extended beyond potty related themes into religious and sexual parlance. If I couldn’t say, “Oh my god,” without suffering academic probation, no one was going to stop me from an occasional “Oh my John the Baptist” or the wholly acceptable and church-sanctioned “Oh my heck.” I was known to dance with the devil from time to time and end prayers with a thundering, “In the name of Jesus H. Christ, Amen.”
On March 12, 1997, ten minutes after opening a rejection letter from the admissions of one of BYU’s graduate programs, I stood up next to the open window of my bedroom and shouted, “FUCK!” for the first and most precious time of my life. It was a euphoric rebirth, a ceremonial exit from the womb and refutation of everything that had tethered me to what I now regard as mythical nonsense.
Plus, I wasn’t getting any. If I couldn’t do it, I could at least say it.
After five years of incessant “fucking,” “fuckering,” “motherfucking,” and “holy be-jesus fuckballing,” I’ve come full circle to a kinder, gentler “fart.”
Fart. FART! I can’t stop saying it, or doing it for that matter.