Jill Kargman

Is it ever OK to let a kid drop the F-bomb?

Jill Kargman turned her daughter's foul-mouthed outburst into a children's book -- and outraged the New York Post


Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 20, 2011 6:21PM (UTC)

A few years ago, when author Jill Kargman's daughter Sadie was a student at a posh Upper East Side preschool, a little boy told the child that her dress was "hideous." So Sadie told the kid to fuck off. Ah, you never forget your first call from the school administration.

Kargman, whose daughter is now 8, says the school told her that "not only did her toddler have a foul mouth but was 'divisive' and 'instigating gender wars' within the classes, dividing everyone into pirates and princesses." How did Kargman respond to her barely potty-trained offspring's potty mouth? She shrugged it off with the grateful observation that "Well, she used it in the right context!"

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Kargman, who admits, "I just write like I talk and I curse all the fucking time," chronicled the episode in her memoir earlier this year, "Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut." But she ran afoul of the F-word police when she used the incident as a springboard for her first literary collaboration with Sadie, their expletive-free new children's book "Pirates and Princesses."

In a typically scathing rant this week, full-time hater and New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser described Kargman as a "schizo parent… the kind of gal you adore to hate, a rabid socialite and wealthy wife… " In other words, "The What the F--k Mom." According to Peyser, Kargman's dereliction of parental duties appear to include coming from a well-to-do family and writing best-selling teen novels and chick lit, all of which apparently prove a sense of entitlement that lead her to be supportive of her "proudly bratty" daughter.

Peyser, it should be noted, consistently manages to distinguish herself as the most nonsensical, hateful writer at the New York Post, which is a lot like being the drunkest person at the Gathering of the Juggalos. You've got to work for it. Somehow, in her world, the use of a profanity by the child of successful parents should "frighten the average, non-moneyed, non-skinny working parent to the core."

"Pirates and Princesses," by the way, isn't some foulmouthed spoof like the hit "Go the F**k to Sleep." There's not a Tarantino-inspired moment in this G-rated tale of a little boy and girl who find themselves dissatisfied with the schoolyard gender divide.

But the book's backstory is enough to shock Peyser's supporters, who've been quick to label Kargman "nothing but trash" and her child someone who's likely "to grow up to be a C.U.N.T." See, name calling and profanity is totally okay when it's directed at someone you disapprove of!

In my own family, I try to instill my children with manners first and foremost, along with an understanding of the importance of thinking before speaking. To that end, I'd be hot steaming mad if one of my daughters told a classmate to fuck off.  Of course, a boy who critiques a fellow child as "hideous" is in the wrong, but cursing someone out is a disrespectful way to treat a fellow human being. I've no doubt our school's teachers would agree.

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But my children, like Kargman's, also have a mom who reguarly enjoys deploying colorful Anglo Saxonisms. I'm the lady who strolls through the supermarket with her family in a "Fuck Cancer" shirt, whose daughter's first imitation of mommy involved pretending to type while muttering the word "Goddammit!" repeatedly.

My children's ears have never been shielded from periodic parental outbursts of "bullshit" and "pissed off." Nor have I explicitly told them they can't say those words themselves, an option that they have chosen not to exercise so far. They are, however, constantly drilled about kindness and courtesy. I wouldn't give much mind if my kid blurted "ass" to me, but I was all over it last spring when my then-first-grader told me about a classmate the other children were taunting as a "sissy." And a summer camp anecdote involving an activity deemed "retarded" promptly led to yet another of what the kids disparagingly refer to as "one of mom's little talks."

Words have power. I want my children to know that -- and to think carefully about how they wield them. I want them to consider their company, and to moderate their thoughts appropriately. But there's a difference between profanity and the truly profane. And putting a few dashes between your F and your K don't make you a good person, Andrea Peyser, especially when you're ripping into a little girl. And an occasional fondness for a bleep-worthy turn of phrase has nothing to do with how good a mother you are -- or how good a child.


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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