Thursday, October 8, 2009

radio, parenting, & "the filter"

i realized, the other morning, that being on the radio and being a parent have at least one thing in common: the filter. see, i like me a good f-word. in fact, i'm partial to a lot of "curse" words - sometimes, there is just no alternative; nothing else will cut it. there are some days where i feel like every other word out of my mouth is a "bad" one, and i have other moments when i feel like, sheesh! i was an english major, i'm a professional 36 year old woman and a MOTHER, goddamnit, i should REALLY know better! but the second something startles me, the profanity flies out of my mouth like doves being released at a wedding. wow! rad simile.

so, back to the filter. you cannot curse on the radio. the FCC has rules about this. profanity. obscenity. offensive content. we take mandatory tests once a year at work to remind us what is and isn't allowed to go over the airwaves. and it's simple, really - you let a bad word slip while your mic is on, there's a good chance you might lose your job. george carlin had a bit about them, the seven dirty words, but they are no joke. people get fired because they let one fly all the time, and that's where the filter comes in. it's something i developed early in my college radio days and now it is just second nature; it's like an on/off switch, a little self-editing that just has to happen, so it does, and i don't even think about it anymore when i'm on the air.

that's not to say i've NEVER cussed on the air - i have. once. and radio DJs LOVE to trade stories about both their own on-air slips, and catching other DJs sliding in a nugget. my coworkers tell me my own boss even let an f-bomb fly one day before i was hired. i only slipped once and i think it freaked me out SO much, for so long, that it scared any possibility of future on-air slips right out of me. it was 1995 and i had just been hired for my first full-time on-air shift at 92X, a new "alternative" station in denver. i'd moved out there right after i graduated from college and began doing overnights: midnight-6am, six nights a week. i was in hog heaven. but at first, the adjustment to those hours? it was pretty brutal. i'd drink tons of coffee for the first half of my show but even that was not enough to stave off the 4am sleepiness. so i like to blame it on that - i was exhausted! living in a new city! trying to adjust! whatever it was, one night at about 3 o'clock in the morning, i played a song by civ called "can't wait one minute more" and i was so excited to be playing it on the radio, having been a fan of new york hardcore and wow! here was civ and we can play him on the radio, that is awesome! so i "backsold" the song by saying something like "that's civ on 92X, that song is fucking AWESOME!!" and as soon as i said it, i slammed the mic pot down and commenced FREAKING OUT. fortunately, it was 3am, which is "safe harbor" and also, really, was anyone who happened to be listening at that hour going to be offended enough to report it to the FCC? notsomuch. after a few months i realized my boss hadn't heard it and it had not been reported, and i was able to relax about it. still, it took me a few years to even admit it to anyone - it freaked me out that much. i loved radio and i loved my job and the thought of losing it was just too much for me to even ponder.

so parents, you know the filter, right? as soon as f started attempting to speak, our filters kicked into high gear around her tiny little ears. i remember when she was a baby, even knowing she had no idea what we were saying, it still felt weird to me to cuss around her, like, too harsh or something. i don't know. but now that she is a chatty little cathy, that filter is on all the time when we're together. i did yell "SHIT!" one morning on the way to the airport when i realized i'd forgotten our rental car info, and she happily yelled, "shit, mama! SHIT SHIT SHIT!!" as j and i cracked up. it was impossible not to. but that was that, and since then, she hasn't repeated any more curse words that i know of.

so the other morning, when we were getting dressed in her room and she was naked and on all fours pretending she was a dog, and all of the sudden this 99% potty-trained little lady started fully PEEING ON THE CARPET, my filter? it wasn't in full effect. i think i ended up sounding something like this: "F! WHAT THE FFFFARGARGARG ARE YOU DOING?" i came thisclose to f-bombing a two year old. not one of my proudest parenting moments. thankfully, i mostly caught it, and i mean, whatever. a "bad" word is not going to be the end of the world, right? i know there will be more moments to come where the filter is going to be off, or where i might just hurl that filter right out the window because i am so pissed off, goddamnit. but for now, i continue to try, when i'm with her, to keep it on. at least i know with f, i'm not going to lose my job over it.

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