Friday, April 6, 2012

Whales And The "F" Word

It was an all-too-common situation; cocky college kid comes home eager to impress his blue collar parents with his newly acquired knowledge. The topic? Not politics or religion or social values. The topic was…whales. Dad was wise enough to rise from his chair and scurry from the kitchen before Mom and I drew our weapons. In my defense, I had no idea this topic would prompt a yelling match, or that I’d resort to yelling out the “F” word in our house for the first time.

It started out as a harmless comment. “We’ve been studying whales in my zoology class. They’re certainly incredible creatures.” This was back in the early Seventies when whales were being hunted to extinction.

Mom agreed. “They certainly are.” It wasn’t a given that she’d agree because Mom, to my shame, liked to broadcast that her Portuguese grandfather had been a whaler.

“We need to do all that we can to protect them,” I said.

She nodded, and pulled a drag on one of her Virginia Slims.

So we weren’t going to have an argument after all. Finally, we agreed on something. Mom and I had argued about everything under the sun, but here at last was something we could agree on. Her next statement was also something I could agree with. “The Japanese are the culprits. They’re the reason whales are going extinct.”

“The Japanese are certainly contributing to the problem.” I admitted.

“That’s because whale meat is the mainstay of the Japanese diet.”

I had to take issue with her on this one. “You’re right about Japan killing the most whales, but rice and fish are the mainstay of the Japanese diet.”

She looked down her sharp nose and said, “I don’t know what they’re teaching you at UCLA, but everybody knows Japanese people eat whale every day. They survive on it.”

Granted, Mom was a voracious reader, and even if she didn’t go to college she was knowledgeable about many things, but what she was suggesting was impossible. “Numbers don’t back up what you’re saying,” I said.

“I don’t care about numbers; I know what I’m talking about.”

In my mind I saw a giant McDonald's in downtown Tokyo with a sign that read ten million whales served. We went back and forth on the issue for nearly two hours, screaming at each other as usual. She remained adamant; Japanese kids went off to school every day with whale blubber sandwiches in their lunchboxes. As far as she was concerned, every morning when the sun rose over Mt. Fuji, the Japanese tucked into a breakfast of whale and eggs.

I became exasperated, as I often did when stuck in these vexing situations of my own making. My final argument was a long winded shriek that went like this: “Mom, you’re right about the Japanese being culprits in the destruction of whale populations, but the Japanese don’t eat whale meat every day! It just isn’t possible. There are twenty million people in Tokyo alone! There are 120 million people living in Japan, not to mention another fifty million scattered throughout the Pacific rim. Conservative scientific estimates put whale populations at only 100,000, and I don’t give a flying F*#K how big whales are, a 100,000 whales can’t feed over 200 million Japanese!!!!”

Since we’d started arguing about whales, she’d burned through three Virginia Slims. She dropped a butt into a nearby ashtray, a curious expression spreading over her face. I wondered if my brilliant logic was about to pull off a rare accomplishment—convince my mother to change her mind about something. But I was wrong. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Young man, what was that word you just used?”

“What word?”

“The one after…flying.”

I repeated the word. That was when the conversation really heated up.


  1. I had to really chickle at the thought of the Japanese eating whale every day and the McDonald's serving McWhales! It sounds like you all didn't have too many dull moments~

  2. Young cocky college kids are so stupid! Weren't we.

    Cranky Old Man

  3. The bravado of youth. That is a great story! Not only about the cockiness of being young but your mother's "that's my opinion and I am sticking to it" attitude.

    Funny, how the F word has progressed since the 70's. I once used the word damn as a teen and I thought the world stopped on it's axis. Truly, it shocked those around me. Now, the F word is in the title of top 40 songs and half hardily bleeped on the networks, never bleeped on cable appears regulary on the Internet.

    I am curious how the rest of the conversation with your mother went.

  4. I remember the first time I used the F bomb in front of my Mother....whew...she said "Young lady just where did you learn that word?"
    "From you Mom when you were driving"

  5. I once dropped the F bomb in front of my mother. Only it was part of a four syllable word. She'd evidently heard it before, because she didn't even blink

  6. You were right.... you win the argument..... But how come everybody cares about the whales.... and not the plight of the poor (f bombing) tuna??? They can that poor fish like crazy!!

  7. I really like your mom. She's never dull, and many mothers/grandmothers are dull. Not at your house.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  8. My folks have still not heard me use the "f"word. In fact, only a select few ever have. I save that one for moments of extreme frustration. Your mother's argument may have been "f"worthy--hehe! I'm glad I gave up arguing with the stubborn and close-minded when I was young. It's quite pointless. As useless as a political or religious debate. You were still young at that time, though--LOL! ;)

  9. I'm told (I can't personally remember it) I had my mouth washed out at age 5 for saying "crap". No telling what the "F" word would have gotten me.

    The obvious question....could you out run her? ;)


  10. Ah, yes, nothing like a fine college education!

  11. This reminds me of the "that's when the fight started" jokes.

    My grandmother taught me the most about the use of the F word, to use it only under the most dire of circumstances. She used it only one time in her whole life, and the rest of the family didn't even realize she knew it. It stopped grandpa in his tracks and he never made her roast duck for Thanksgiving again. Really.

  12. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. The only time my mother objected to my language was the only time I used the F word. She said everything else herself, but I never heard her say that one.


  13. Wouldn't you like to know the origin of the flying f*#k? When and how did that happen, or who first coined the term?

  14. Knowing my mother, if I had that discussion with her, she would have argued that IT IS POSSIBLE to feed 200 million Japanese with 100,000 whales...if they just believed in Jesus and he got involved. After all, he did something similar before.

  15. you got such a fine education!

  16. I think I might have gotten away with the flying f*#k. I'm not sure my mom ever heard that word before. I was in sixth grade before I saw the word "shit" on the bathroom stall, and I thought someone in my class had made it up. On the other hand, she got upset if we said "God." Like, just, "God." I still don't know what it means to take someone's name in vain. Golly.

  17. family - they're the ones you love the most, and as a result the ones that can hurt you the most

    Philip Larkin once wrote - they f*&k you up, your mum and dad, they don't mean to but they do

  18. Oh, man. I do NOT look forward to having these conversations with my son. The only time I cursed in front of my parents was when I was nine and I called my sister the "B" word. My father washed my mouth out with soap, and that was the end of it.

  19. Yep, that word is called a 'bomb' around our house for a reason. I think I can remember about twice that I have used it in front of them. Once, avoiding a traffic accident, which I was nearly IN. The other when I dropped something heavy on my foot. The first, I was given a pass, because we were all trying collectively not to crap our respective drawers. The second... Not so much.


  20. And hopefully you have since learned that it is not possible to win an argument with a woman!

  21. I learned a long time ago that being right isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'll bet you did too.

  22. Thanks for your comment, you're totally right, I'm surprised too how different the art is that graces my computer screen every week! Some are really great though! And wow, your mom and my dad sound like kindred spirits. lol.
    Happy Easter Stephen,

  23. I love the picture. Yes and no matter what the argument I didn't use the F word with my parents. But I bet that's a UCLA thing ;)

  24. It's the middle of the night, I'm exhausted and I'm grinning from ear to ear. Your dad is a smart man.

  25. :) i had to smile for this one.
    my mom and i always argued when i was growing up. we still do sometimes.
    never the 'f' word but i've hurt her i know.

  26. I have to admit that I use that particular word more or less as punctuation these days. I suspect that you and I grew up in very, very different environments, though. It is true that we Canadians tend to have potty mouths. I've been using the four-lettered trump cards since the age of 7 or 8 - all except the one that starts with "c". I didn't pick that one up until I started hanging around with Australians.

  27. Every time the F-Bomb is dropped during an argument, things heat up. I have certainly been in a similar situation before with people around college. Gotta say, it's hard to keep the argument going without getting mad and dropping the F-Bomb to try and get your point across.

  28. Your example of a heated argument with parents made me smile.

    A frequent spat I have had with my parents concerns what they would describe as the "good old days". According to my mother and father, prior to the 1980s there had never been a murder, robbery or assault!

  29. Amazing that whales can make such a great subject for an argument!