Seeing traffic on the 405 North backed up after school pick-up, I opted for the Sepulveda alternative. The woman putting on mascara in the car alongside us, blindly moved in the same direction and cut me off. “Fuck” I said, as I hit the brakes to avoid impact. The words, “Dad, you said the ‘F’ word!” were delivered in an authoritarian manner from the back seat. I squirmed and apologized like any good parent. Enjoying my discomfort, my son smiled and said “Dad, seriously, I’m kidding, I hear it all the time.” I thought about the indiscriminate power given to words through socialization and its profound effects. We teach, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” but they often do.
In that instant, I had an “F word” flashback. As a young teen, my younger brother exhibited rebelliousness in its highest form. One night’s vivid memory: an Ozzie and Harriet, nuclear family kitchen scene: white Formica table, yellow pleather chairs, table set perfectly. My father arriving military prompt at 7 p.m., fatigued from a day that began at 5 a.m. Hungry, we waited respectfully for him to be served, followed by a frenzied race to plate and eat in the hope of seconds.
“Pass the potatoes” my brother said, followed by a “What did you say?” from my father. My brother repeated his same words. “I believe you forgot a word,” Dad said louder. I prayed my brother would simply say “please” to eliminate my growing anxiety. Instead, without missing a beat, he said, “Pass the fucking potatoes.” I froze, watching my father ominously rise.
The cannabis industry has its own “F” word. Instead of the letter “F,” the letter is “H,” and the word …