Family Practice: Birds, nipples and four-letter wordsWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Although I maintain political independence, my guess is that most people would peg me as fairly conservative on a personal level, and I would agree for the most part. I co-lead a nuclear-type family and I’m a big fan of order. I have no qualms about taking personal responsibility and I love me some good old-fashioned tradition. That being said, I’m not bothered by things like middle fingers and exposed nipples. I’m just not.
I suppose I’m expected to be all up in arms that rapper M.I.A. showed my three innocent children her middle finger during the Super Bowl. I should probably be declaring my disgust on Facebook and vowing that our family will never fork any of its hard-earned money over to the likes of her or anyone who supports her. I suppose I should be banging down the doors of NBC and the NFL until my voice is heard.
Instead, for my voice to be heard on the matter, I need only quote Jerry Seinfeld circa 1990: “It seems like such an arbitrary, ridiculous thing to just pick a finger and you show it to the person. It’s a finger. What does it mean? Someone shows me one of their fingers and I’m supposed to feel bad? Is that the way it’s supposed to work?”
Indeed, a middle finger did seem highly offensive to the young me being raised in a society that was highly offended by being shown a particular finger. However, after thinking about it years later I fail to see the merit in trying to protect my own children from such a thing. If we want to be a thinking society, we need to take a minute and consider the true horrors set in motion by an extended digitus medius. I can’t really think of any, can you?
The M.I.A. “incident” is being compared to Janet Jackson’s infamous 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” in which she exposed a nipple to my innocent then-9-month-old son. Perhaps I should talk myself down from the middle finger disaster by declaring that at least it wasn’t another nipple. The problem is that, in addition to not caring about a middle finger, I wasn’t really offended or outraged by Ms. Jackson’s supposed impropriety either.
My son was still seeing a woman’s nipple (i.e., mine) several times a day at that point in his life, so I doubt it would have fazed him in the least had he actually spotted it. Even if a nipple had made an encore presentation at this year’s Super Bowl, he still likely wouldn’t think much of it. If anything, after eight years of recognizing that breasts make milk, he would probably just wonder where the nipple lady’s baby was. Yet, if he does eventually find interest in breasts beyond the food source thing, which then allows me some grandchildren on down the road, I’m OK with that.
While we’re talking taboo, might I suggest that we go so far as to let the “F” word have its last three letters back? At this point I’m only protecting my children’s ears from it in observance of historical convention rather than out of it actually bothering me. I suppose it bothers me when someone uses it repeatedly, but it also bothers me when someone (e.g., my 6-year-old) says “apparently” a few too many times a day or I watch too many episodes of “The Smurfs.” The “F” word has as much meaning left as the word “Smurf,” so I’m ready to let it go free-range until the general public loses interest in it altogether.
If memory serves from junior high and high school, where I experienced raised middle fingers, interesting cleavage displays and colorful language on a daily basis, the main point is attention-getting. Considering all of the truly attention-deserving ills of the world, I’m not so sure that policing things like fingers, nipples and F-bombs completely warrants the time and energy it saps from society. I wouldn’t be happy if my own children were the offenders, as I do think a society’s mores deserve respect from its populace. However, I also don’t mind if the conventions that don’t make a whole lot of sense are allowed to simply fade away.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.