wtf would you say wtf on a first date?
January 20, 2008 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Am I a prude to be put off by cursing/swearing on a first date?

I'll preface this by saying that I grew up in a pretty conservative background where cursing does happen, but is generally frowned upon, especially in its stronger manifestations (fuck, sexual expletives, etc). I'll also admit that I myself curse when the occasion merits a strong word, and my mouth is more foul in the privacy of my own car ("f**#@# idiot drivers") than it is in public.

In the past few months I've been on a number of first dates where the woman I'm out with will curse strongly and repeatedly. I feel torn about this - I don't want to be "that guy" who is a soulless, conservative prude. At the same time, I feel like cursing around another person without really knowing them demonstrates a certain lack of social graces that is a red flag. For the record, I don't swear on these dates and so it's not like I've given an indication that I'm comfortable with it. I also don't have a problem with hearing swearing from people I know well - it's just that it seems weird for it to be a fixture of a first date. Am I just too much of a prude or is this a bit strange?

Also, in case it matters, I'm in my early 30s dating professional women who are in their late 20s-early 30s.
posted by sherlockt to Human Relations (89 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on the woman right? If you meet someone you really click with, but she drops f-bombs like the US on Dresden, then you'll have to figure out if you're willing to deal with some personal discomfort in the hopes that it will be less of a problem later.

BTW, no offense, but this post is just begging for some sarcastic answers.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 7:15 PM on January 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

I would say yes, you are a prude, as swearing is so commonplace these days that I wouldn't even bat an eye-lid if someone, even a date, swore in front of me.

But the way I see it, you're asking the wrong question here. While the answer to the question you've posed is, to my mind, a "yes", the question you should be asking is "Should I go out with, or put up with, people who curse when it is an obvious turn off for me?"

In response to that question, the answer is that you are entitled to be with someone who meets your needs, your desires and expectations. This is what dating is about. Going out, meeting new people, and finding someone who you like. If your dates swear, and you don't like swearing, thank them for their time and move on until you find a woman who doesn’t swear and who meets your needs and expectations.

And maybe, just maybe, if she feels you meet her needs, desires and expectations, presumably things will move forward.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2008 [7 favorites]

I think you've lost sight of what the issue is here. You're looking for someone who you will be happy with. If gratuitous cursing is a turn-off to you, then there's nothing wrong with that. It will be up up to you to decide whether her positives outweigh that negative.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

You are not a prude- and by saying that, I mean that I don't think your expectations for a first date are completely unreasonable. You want to be turned on; cursing is a turn off. Perhaps you should begin to screen for swearers?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:23 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter whether you're a prude, or that guy. You're put off by cursing on a first date, so you are. Preferences are given. If you're right about who you are -- if conservatism or traditionalism really is as important to you as you think/say it is -- then it seems to me that cursing on the first date is a useful screening tool to weed out people who aren't conservative or traditional. If you're trying to find someone like you, things that weed people out who aren't like you are good.

If your question *really* boils down to you having some second thoughts about whether you're really so conservative or traditional and that maybe you want a woman who will help you let your hair down a bit, that's a different question and one that only people who've known you for donkey's years can help you answer.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:25 PM on January 20, 2008

Without knowing exactly what is being said or the way they are saying it, it's hard for me to say whether you've just run into some particularly crude women or if you are being a bit of a prude.

I personally like a little bit of swearing, but then again I lived for a little while in London and I think it makes conversations a little more colorful. I'm also very against the sanitization of American culture, so I may be a bit of an outlier.

However, from the gist of your question, I'm guessing you are a bit of a prude and while there is nothing wrong with preferring that people not swear, I really wouldn't make a value judgment on those that do. A date isn't supposed to be a job interview, it's supposed to be fun, relaxed and social, and for most people this means that some degree of light swearing is perfectly appropriate.
posted by whoaali at 7:26 PM on January 20, 2008

It sounds like these women are a little too comfortable on these first dates, or more likely that they are simply not keyed into the importance of social cues and traditional graces.

If you were the kind of guy who never cursed around the opposite sex, I'd say this was a deal breaker, but since it sounds like you loosen up in time, you may just need to make a mental note and stick with these sailor girls should you otherwise like them. These are times of loose lips and gracelessness, and your dates may simply be reflecting what's normal for your generation better than you are.

It is okay to say something about the cursing when it first appears, though. If you express non-judgemental discomfort and she still does it, that's more of an issue.
posted by Scram at 7:26 PM on January 20, 2008

OMG! I can't believe you exist! My mother always told me that men were put off by swearing, and when I was in college I asked guys if it were so - they always roundly disagreed, but apparently I wasn't getting a broad enough sample of opinion.
As to your question.... I really sympathize with a 30ish person who cringes at cursing, since it's so pervasive in our age group. As for myself, I don't do it at work, or around other people's parents, etc... but on a date, or when I'm otherwise with peers, I don't really think about it. Based on the people I know, I'd say it's very common, and that it isn't indicative of personality, politeness, ability to behave appropriately at A Fancy Event, etc... If it's offputting to you, then there's nothing wrong with avoiding ladies who do it (although you'll be limiting your pool a lot, I think) - I guess I'd just caution you against making broader judgments about a lady based on whether she swears. Maybe 30 years ago, definitely 50 years ago, you could make certain generalizations about class, education, etc. on that basis - but not today.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:28 PM on January 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just a thought here, if you are dating professional women, then you may be dealing with women that have to "ramp it up" to deal with the boys at work. If that is the case, they may not even notice it.
posted by slavlin at 7:29 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're a prude. I swear, but I think it's common courtesy to only do it in front of people that I'm familiar with. (By swear, I mean the biggies: fuck, shit, asshole, etc. I'd certainly say damn or hell without batting an eye.) So whenever I meet someone for the first time - be it a date or a job interview or a new friend - I'd refrain from dropping the F-bomb for a while. It's just something I do to be polite. And if I met someone new, and they immediately threw out a "cocksucker" in casual conversation, I might think twice. If it was clearly merited by the situation, then it's fine. If it's outta nowhere, I'd definitely be a little uncomfortable. I'm with you on this one.
posted by web-goddess at 7:30 PM on January 20, 2008

I really sympathize with a 30ish person who cringes at cursing, since it's so pervasive in our age group.

I'm in my 40s -- I've been swearing a lot less in recent years. I wonder if there are stages re swearing (and 30s is a lots-of-swearing stage). Or not.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:32 PM on January 20, 2008

At the same time, I feel like cursing around another person without really knowing them demonstrates a certain lack of social graces that is a red flag.

I agree with that assessment 123%. Yes, swearing may be more common than it once was, but there is also a place for swearing and a place for refraining from swearing. First dates, imo, fall into the latter category.


I would say yes, you are a prude, as swearing is so commonplace these days that I wouldn't even bat an eye-lid if someone, even a date, swore in front of me.

I call B.S. on that. I would say that anyone who sees swearing as that commonplace hangs out with a pretty low breed of company.
posted by Doohickie at 7:36 PM on January 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

I don't think your discomfort around swearing on a first date makes you a soulless, conservative prude. However, I also don't think someone who swears on a first date is demonstrating some kind of innate "lack of social graces." The two of you just don't share the same cultural norm around swearing. It's like how in certain cultures people greet each other with a kiss on each cheek. If you weren't raised that way, it could feel like a total invasion of your personal space. That doesn't mean you're a prude, it just means it isn't your cultural norm. But it also doesn't mean the person who is kissing you on each cheek is some kind of crazy molester, either. It's just his/her culture.

The issue isn't whether you're a prude or not. It's whether you can tolerate someone who has a different attitude than you do about swearing on a first date. There's nothing inherently wrong with someone who swears more or less than you do, or in different situations. It's just not what you're used to. Only you can figure out if you can get comfortable with that.

On preview: what moxiedoll said.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:38 PM on January 20, 2008

As you see from the responses, there's a wide range of comfort levels and the only one that matters is yours. If you're not comfortable with someone's demeanor - for whatever reason - don't date them. There are plenty of people in the world who might better align with the unique set of values that matter most to you.
posted by judith at 7:39 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

My theory is to try to cut people some slack on the first date. People are nervous, especially if they're with someone they're attracted to. They often do stupid stuff and then go home and hit themselves upside the head. I do not know of one person I've ever dated who ended up being EXACTLY the person I thought they were on the first date. People have a lot of layers.

Besides, even though I'm a delicate, petite little flower, there have been phases in my life (particularly at the age you mention) where I cursed like a fucking sailor. Especially when I was working a stressful corporate job. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes it's kind of refreshing and healthy to be able to feel comfortable enough with someone that you can let it out without being judged.

Doesn't necessarily mean they're the type of person who's going to talk that way when you introduce them to your mother.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:41 PM on January 20, 2008

I am also relatively 'prudish,' and dislike rampant cursing.

You are completely allowed to have preferences against these women. What does it matter if they think you are a soulless conservative prude if you aren't dating them? A woman who thinks similarly to you, or doesn't prefer cursing at all will appreciate you for it.
posted by that girl at 7:42 PM on January 20, 2008

Oh, but that said... if it makes you uncomfortable you should try communicating that to them. Relationships are about communication anyhow, so you should be able to talk to your date about it. Find out if they realize they are cursing so much. Maybe they don't. And maybe upon finding you're uncomfortable they will cut it out.

Or they'll tell you to fuck off. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 7:44 PM on January 20, 2008

Thanks for all the responses thus far - the responses have been less sarcastic than I had guessed :-) To clarify a bit, I'm not talking about someone who let slip "damn" a few times in a conversation - I don't even really notice that. I'm talking about dates who went on about their f*#@#@ boss who is such an a##hole for making me work late yet another f*$#ing night. So, to quote web-goddess, someone who used "the biggies" and repeatedly.

Also, I'm not uncomfortable with swearing in general; as I said, I swear and have friends who have quite colorful language. It's just the first date context, when two people are supposedly trying to make a good impression, that it bothers me.
posted by sherlockt at 7:47 PM on January 20, 2008

I think the question of social awareness may depend somewhat on the context and how they use the swearing.

Using your thread title as an example, say I was telling a story about having been cut off in traffic on the way over. If my date was a bit of a geek and likely to be familiar with general webisms, I might say:

'And then, after all that, the guy just cut me off. I mean, dude, what the fuck, right?'

On the other hand, I would probably not say:

'And then the fucker cut me off.'

The first is an attempt at social awareness -- trying to speak from common experience with someone. It might be a slightly off read, since she didn't realize you were conservative (I won't say a prude, but yes, I think your take is on the conservative end of the spectrum) but it's still showing awareness. The latter is just more aggressive and tone-deaf, and would seem surprising to me on a first date, and I swear a lot.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think one thing you need to remember is that if you filter out women who swear, you may be doing yourself a great disservice. In this day and age, swearing or not swearing is merely indicative of whether a person likes to swear or not and really not much more.

Also, to be honest if you don't swear at all most people will eventually modulate their behavior to more closely meet yours. People just naturally mirror people they spend a lot of time with. I try not to say "God" or "Jesus Christ" in front of my hyper religious aunt, not because she is going to ever say anything, but because I know she doesn't and so I try to (not always successfully) do the same. If I can tell someone is really uptight about swearing, chances are I'll greatly decrease how often I swear. It's just what people do naturally, but that isn't going to happen right away on a first date.
posted by whoaali at 7:49 PM on January 20, 2008

And now, having failed to preview, my point is moot.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 PM on January 20, 2008

If you don't dig it then you don't. However, I'm very apt to swear among peers, and I hold my tongue for elders, children, and in the workplace.

I also find that there's a difference between cursing in conversation ("That project was a bitch", "He knows fuck-all about physics") versus cursing someone out. The former is casual conversation which seems appropriate for someone you'd like to be getting casual with. The latter could be a potential turn-off, as I'd like a prospective S.O. to not embarrass me in public.
posted by explosion at 7:51 PM on January 20, 2008

"At the same time, I feel like cursing around another person without really knowing them demonstrates a certain lack of social graces that is a red flag."

Agreed. Honestly.

There are some things people should know about *meeting*/*going on a date* with people for the first time, like you probably shouldn't talk about abortion, politics, religion, or use profanity, say things like "retard", or use racial slurs (even in their most mundane forms). A first date, at least with a woman of class and quality, should omit the above.

You want a woman you can introduce to your boss, your grandmother, or your religious leader (if that applies), without worrying about her making you look like a buffoon, correct?
posted by mhuckaba at 7:58 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't swear often. Not because I mix up language with morality, but mostly 'cause I believe that words have *power*. Consequently when I *do* swear it tends to really punctuate what I'm saying -- and lets me drive a point home (or tell a sick joke that floors 'em.)

Swearing indiscriminately doesn't itself make you a coarse or vulgar person... but it does mean you're burning through your capacity for emphasis and meaning like a lottery winner burns through his or her winnings; it's all gone sooner than later, and for naught. So I guess there is a certain morality involved after all: it's simply wasteful.
posted by deCadmus at 7:59 PM on January 20, 2008 [12 favorites]

Not a prude- first dates are not an appropriate time for salty language. At least in grown-up, professional land.

Profanity is one of those things that are only OK when they are OK. Like kissing. Lay an f-bomb out there and it will sink you as surely as going for a kiss that's not reciprocated.
posted by gjc at 8:07 PM on January 20, 2008

In addition to joining the many people who say that it's not at all weird for you to be put off by it, I'd like to throw something else in: I find it really odd that people would swear on the first date. This is when you're supposed to be sweet and nice and normal. Someone who started ranting profanely about their boss (or whatever) on the first job would come across to me as someone with major anger management problems.

And I think whoaali is right: I don't think too consciously about it, but I'm much more apt to swear around my friend (college-aged males) than I am around, say, my extremely pious friends in the same age group.
posted by fogster at 8:10 PM on January 20, 2008

I try to be myself on a first date. I curse. Therefore, I would probably curse on a first date with you.

If your dates are cursing and you're put off by it, you need to find other people to date, that's all.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:18 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

As someone who never curses at all (due to lifelong Southern social conditioning), I don't think you are a prude. I also find it a turn-off when guys curse on the first date.

But I'm also of the opinion that manners and social graces are of the upmost importance on dates. First dates should be on-your-best-behavior type situations, ideally. I'm very reluctant to compromise on this. Which is probably why I'm perpetually single.
posted by Zarya at 8:23 PM on January 20, 2008

I think that people will often use stronger language in an attempt to make a connection with someone, as if to say "we're close enough that I can say that in front of you." I can think of four different people where our friendship moved to a deeper level coincident with a conversation in which the other person said "fuck" for the first time. Maybe because swearing is a tiny bit transgressive, doing it when talking to someone new is like making them your partner in crime, trusting them to understand you and not judge you harshly for doing it. Perhaps there is a certain amount of this going on with your dates. They may be doing it in a miscalculated attempt to signify that they are comfortable with you.
posted by Enroute at 8:24 PM on January 20, 2008 [6 favorites]

Swearing, especially around strangers demonstrates a lack of finesse with the language, and a lack of class so to speak. I dont think you are a prude, and I curse, I never do it around strangers unless I am extremely mad at them.

Good riddance, and good work.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:32 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seems like you're getting a wide range of answers, so I'll just throw in a thought. Are you sure that it's the "first date" part that bothers you, or are you just using that as an excuse to not think of yourself as a prude?

Put another way, if you're bothered by the idea of a woman casually talking about her fucking boss being a fucking asshole, is that something that's going to soften for you on the third or fifth date? Is it going to stop bothering you if you end up living together and she comes home and more often than not tells you about the fucking asshole at the grocery store or the fucking asshole at the DMV?

I know you've said you don't mind hearing swearing from people you know well, but there's a big difference between someone you know well and someone with whom you're sharing an intimate romantic relationship.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 8:33 PM on January 20, 2008

At the same time, I feel like cursing around another person without really knowing them demonstrates a certain lack of social graces that is a red flag.

Either that, or a worse red flag - most of the girls I can think of who are into swearing tend to be shitty riot grrl types, who generally suck dead dogs' balls. The swearing doesn't come across as natural or unselfconscious, but as some kind of fucked-up demonstration of screwy sexual politics: "Hey, look at me! I'm so fucking hardassed & liberated that I can be more obscene than any guy!" Wankers of that description you'd be well advised to avoid if you ask me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:36 PM on January 20, 2008

Also, I don't think I'd have a problem with dating someone who swore on the first date, but dating someone who started talking about "people of a certain class and quality" or "the importance of traditional graces" would have me waving for the check like a semaphore expert on meth.

So I guess I agree with those who say that it's more important to find someone with whom you're compatible than to worry about where you sit on some spectrum of prudishness.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 8:46 PM on January 20, 2008 [13 favorites]

You are the definition of a prude. But so want what you want.

I recently lost interest in a girl during a date because she flopped her greasy napkin onto the table without folding it up or doing anything else to conceal the fact that there were particles of food all over it. I find that disgusting. No doubt that's ridiculous to a lot of people but...those people can be saved the trauma of dating me, so it all works out.
posted by bingo at 9:00 PM on January 20, 2008

Women, swearing, on a first date? WTF is up with you youngsters? Women are supposed to be chaste and gentle and encourage genteel behavior from their man, not sailors.

Oh, wait. This is the 21st century. I forget, I'm old. When I was a boy, a professional woman who swore wasn't the kind of professional one dated without first paying. Use of bold language can be a cue that they consider themselves in friendly, safe company. Language that wouldn't be used, perhaps at work, comes out upon relaxation.
posted by Goofyy at 9:03 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I too swear like a fucking sailer, but I agree that it's a bit weird on a first date. I just started a new job and I'm totally toning down my language because I don't want to offend anyone who could possibly be uncomfortable with swearing - I don't see why it should be so different for dating.

That said, I'm in agreement with ROU_Xenophobe - whether or not the label of "prude" is tattooed across your forehead, it's not going to make any difference to the fact that it doesn't sit well with you, so there that is.
posted by forallmankind at 9:09 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

On one hand...Shouldn't you be making your best impressions on a first date?
Perhaps, she's trying to impress you by 'throwing down' and showing she's an adult?

But personally, when I hear people who are sensitive about such...I tend to think...why would you be ashamed to use words to describe actions that you do?
posted by filmgeek at 9:13 PM on January 20, 2008

I don't think you're much of a prude, given that you swear and say that you are comfortable around friends who swear. It may be possible that you're a little more prudish than your words would suggest if, for example, your friends see you visibly flinch when they swear. I'll accept your self-description for now. :-)

But I wouldn't be too fast to assume that someone who swore thoroughly and often on a first date was someone lacking certain social graces or was otherwise waving the red flag.

For example, how well do you know these first dates? Are these women you've met through online dating services, or members of your social circle, or what? I tend to swear with a flourish not only around friends, but around acquaintances in social circles that are tolerant of swearing. If these women are similar to me, they may not feel that a first date with someone from that social circle requires that they suddenly self-censor.

No matter how well you know these women before the first date, though, you are perfectly within your rights to feel uncomfortable about swearing. But if swearing was the only issue during that date, don't let it be a dealbreaker. If you otherwise like them, try a second date. If they continue to swear, be honest about your discomfort -- assuming you're still uncomfortable. Maybe this is something you two can work out, maybe not, but at least you'll both know what's going on.

Just keep in mind that if uninhibited swearing is a dealbreaker, you may miss out on your own Suzanne Pleshette.
posted by maudlin at 9:21 PM on January 20, 2008

I would find dates whinging about their boss (or whatever) worse than swearing. It's interesting that people link using certain words to "breeding". If, of course, "breeding" is important to you, and class and culture, then these people probably aren't for you, and it's more than your right to make that choice - it's your obligation. How awful it is when two people's most important values clash.

There's a number of reasons covered above as to why these women might be swearing, including a male-oriented work (or family) environment, a personal decision not to let words have power, a level of comfortableness that's unusual on a first date, or a mistaken assumption about what's 'typical' behaviour. Maybe they're testing you to see if you're prudish? (though, if they are, best fail that test.)

Why would it be important for the woman to match her behaviour to yours. After all, you're not reciprocating, are you? When she lets fly with coarse language, you don't join in, right? So maybe she's just being herself.

How can anyone here generalise about what's normal on a first date? Just look upthread - we've got people upset about napkin placement, sexual politics, social graces, 'breeding' and lack there of, and sanitation. Normal? It doesn't exist.

If you don't like people who swear, don't date them, you don't need to survey other people to find out if your decision is fine.
posted by b33j at 9:22 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

This thread is really interesting to me. Because forallmankind's statement:

I just started a new job and I'm totally toning down my language because I don't want to offend anyone who could possibly be uncomfortable with swearing - I don't see why it should be so different for dating.

Is one I totally disagree with. For me, there's an enormous difference between people I encounter professionally (who I want to like me at all costs, and if I have to fake it, so be it) and men I date (who I *want* to like me, but if they don't, c'est la vie, because faking wouldn't do either of us any good). I don't swear, and attempt to be blandly inoffensive and cheerful around children, the aged, bosses, clients, new co-workers, clergy, older family members of friends, etc. etc. etc. But if I'm on a date - why would I want to not seem like myself? So I understand the logic of judging those who curse, but I don't understand judging those who curse on the first date.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:27 PM on January 20, 2008

As shown by the answers upthread, I think the swearing invokes a whole lot of gender stereotypes that could potentially be undesirable. It's not smart of the girl to be doing it, and you're totally right that it can be crass and a signal for other crude behaviors, but it's also up to you to try to put it in context while on the date and avoid the whole "girls who swear are too mannish/girls should be delicate flowers" crap that other people are invoking here. Is the girl otherwise well dressed, clean, polite to wait staff, and not offering inappropriate conversation topics along with the swearing? Then you should probably give it another date and see if it's a trend or just a slip (maybe even a nervous one! I know people who tend to be a little more aggressive and therefore more swear prone when nervous). If she failed on any of those points, however, I would say drop the b%tch.
(Oops, I almost forgot that I'm a well-educated, normally polite girl for a sec there).
posted by slow graffiti at 9:27 PM on January 20, 2008

I also agree that it is a bit strange to cuss on a first date. I swear, and I still find it odd to talk about an effing a-hole boss on the first date.

You are not a prude.
posted by LoriFLA at 9:30 PM on January 20, 2008

it's just that it seems weird for it to be a fixture of a first date. Am I just too much of a prude or is this a bit strange?

I swear a lot and probably wouldn't not swear just because I was on a first date. That said, if you're not someone who casually swears and you find this off-putting, that seems totally fine to me. It doesn't make you prudish. A date is not really about putting a best foot forward, it's about putting an at least somewhat accurate face forward (in a good way) so that you're not being some sort of fakey you.

those people can be saved the trauma of dating me, so it all works out.

See, exactly. Someone who was put off by someone swearing on a first date would likely be a bad match for me. So, this is just a good early litmus, if it makes you feel weird, it's a bad match. No need to call yourself names about it, but I don't think you'll get a good read on which one of you is the "weirder" one in this scenario.
posted by jessamyn at 9:57 PM on January 20, 2008

"Do you curse a lot?" should send the message by way of curiosity. Personally I try to show that I'm capable of cursing to pretty much everyone I know, but I can see where you're coming from. A dealbreaker is a dealbreaker, and they as different between people as they are valid.
posted by rhizome at 10:14 PM on January 20, 2008

But if I'm on a date - why would I want to not seem like myself?

No, see, I think you're misunderstanding a little bit. I'm not saying I'd pretend to be a person who doesn't swear. I'd just tone it down until we knew each other a little better. Just because I do something in the comfort of my own home (or with my good friends) doesn't mean if I stifle that behavior in front of others, I'm somehow hiding my true self. At home I swear. At home I walk around in ratty sweat pants. At home I fart. But if I'm trying to make a good impression on someone I've just met, I don't do those things. I suppose it saves time if, on a first date, you're willing to show the other person every facet of your personality, warts and all. But there's a time and a place for everything, and I don't think refraining from telling a date about a "fucking stupid customer" I met that day would mean I was trying to be something I'm not.
posted by web-goddess at 10:29 PM on January 20, 2008

Sign of bad breading. Sometimes, when the circumstance warrants it, it is acceptable. For instance if Mexico just took over Texas, or you stapled your hand to a rocket ship, just about to take off. Otherwise it is just rude and antisocial.
posted by oxford blue at 10:40 PM on January 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

You're not a prude.

My wife and I swear "like sailors," but I would still have been put off if she had sworn profusely on the first date.

It's not a question of whether a person swears --- it's a question of whether they have the taste and good sense not to swear on the first date.

Now, having said that, I can imagine that it might be possible to swear once or twice on a first date without being really offensive. But generally, what one is looking for in a first date is common sense, a not-crazy factor that swearing on a first date casts doubt upon.
posted by jayder at 10:58 PM on January 20, 2008

Swearing in front of strangers or near-strangers is very poor manners. You should look past it for the right person-- as none of us are perfectly-mannered-- but a guy's got to have some standards.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:12 PM on January 20, 2008

I completely agree with you. That is bad manners.
posted by lsemel at 11:29 PM on January 20, 2008

Yes, you are a bit of a prude, but it is completely besides the point.

If you don't like swearing, then don't date someone who swears profusely.

You should not feel at all guilty for seeking out traits you like, and dismissing those with traits you do not like. That's what dating is for, after all.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:33 PM on January 20, 2008

Prude, schmude. If it bothers you, it bothers you. If you were a schoolmarm who shushed people who speak in ways that displease you, it might be an issue, but if it is simply an matter of who you want to spend time with, you get to set the parameters, based on whatever you want to.

On the other hand, if you are horribly lonely, can't seem to make friends, never get to know someone well, and reject almost everybody you meet for small peccadilloes, well, that's another issue. But that doesn't sound like what you're describing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 PM on January 20, 2008

You are not a prude.

Kind of makes you wonder why their vocabulary is so limited. I'm not trying to be a fecal oscillator either.
posted by JujuB at 11:42 PM on January 20, 2008

Are you a prude because you think they have bad manners? Fuck no.

If you think they are a bad person because of it, then you are.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:20 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dude, I'm with you! We didn't curse much at all in my family growing up and still don't amongst family and family friends or in any polite social situation. I curse often enough amongst my friends, though, maybe more than you from the sound of it. It's fun and satisfying. But it's only something I do around friends I know well and who also curse. But I went on a first date with a girl and she cursed within the first ten minutes. And it was at brunch! Who curses at brunch, for crying out loud? Being a curser myself, I was surprised at how put off I was by it. Instantly my impression of her went way south. It wound up not working out for a number of reasons, but that was the little gateway into the rest of it. I guess in a way I'm glad she did it, so I could more quickly figure out we weren't going to fit. But still.

I think it reflects a different sort of upbringing. Nobody I grew up with or spend time with now would do this. Whatever sort of loose demographic this is that you and I share, that's just not tasteful behavior in it. It's something about the rituals of polite company as defined by said loose demographic. Even if arbitrary, these are the set of accepted norms. As far as first dating, you do want to be genuine, but I also think it's silly to say you're not trying to make a good impression. It's important when meeting anyone for the first time. You probably wouldn't curse on a job interview, but might curse around that interviewer at some point after being hired. You wouldn't initially curse around a friend of your parents' that they just introduced you to, not until some rapport and familiarity had been established and you had a better idea of how casual one another were. Any first encounter has a different set of expectations in my opinion.

If this sailor girl and I had wound up dating for long enough, we'd have gotten to the cursing threshold, just like we would to the necessary farting threshold, the I'm-not-shaving-today threshold, and lots of other things like that. And those things would have been OK in their time. But I wouldn't show up to a first date unshaven, wouldn't fart, and wouldn't curse. Okay I guess I'd never fart on a date period regardless of relationship duration (especially not at brunch!), but you get what I'm saying. I woulnd't do it because I would know what a bad signal it would send.

Also, the people suggesting you say something about it maybe aren't picturing that in actual practice. It would be awkward to say something scoldy or passive-aggressive to someone during first-impression time. With that said, my mother apparently smoked on her first date with my dad and he looked her right in the eyes and said, "I'm not impressed." Whoa! That's a little harsh, dad. It worked though. She never smoked again. Still, ouch.
posted by Askr at 12:41 AM on January 21, 2008

Not a prude. Just incompatible with chicks who lack sufficient class/social skills to connect with people at their level.

This should not a male/female thing either. M/M, M/F, F/F gets the same judgement from me.
posted by panamax at 1:02 AM on January 21, 2008

I would say that anyone who sees swearing as that commonplace hangs out with a pretty low breed of company.

... demonstrates a lack of finesse with the language, and a lack of class ...

you're kidding, right? I mean, seriously, you're kidding?

I'm a professional in my 30s and swearing is a pretty normal part of my vocabulary as it is for many of my friends. I don't swear in front of friend's kids, or when I meet new people in the course of my work, but given that it's normal in my social circle I don't go out of my way to restrain myself when on a date. Neither, I've got to say, have any of the women I've been on dates with recently.

If the OP doesn't like that, well then fair enough. Choice of language is yet another indicator of social scene, and if sherlockt finds himself on a date with someone whose social scene he doesn't like then that's (of course) fair enough.

But you're judging my worth based on my choice of language? There's an obvious response, but I wouldn't want to offend your delicate sensibilities...
posted by russm at 1:55 AM on January 21, 2008 [4 favorites]

I feel like cursing around another person without really knowing them demonstrates a certain lack of social graces that is a red flag

If you're exhibiting the kind of unusual politeness that many people affect around a new acquaintance, and this is being met with unrestrained swearing, that would indicate to me that the person you're with is somewhat self-involved and inconsiderate. Not really traits most of us would look for in a romantic partner. I suspect that the apparent insensitivity is actually what's bothering you, rather than the swearing itself.
posted by teleskiving at 4:17 AM on January 21, 2008

Swearing, especially around strangers demonstrates a lack of finesse with the language, and a lack of class so to speak. I dont think you are a prude, and I curse, I never do it around strangers unless I am extremely mad at them.

Good riddance, and good work.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:32 PM on January 20

I can't fucking believe the disconnect between what you said and the way you said it. It's like watching a guy whose hair is on fire tell you that everything's under control.

Anyway, sherlockt: if you don't like cursing, you don't like cursing. No different than any other preference. I do suspect, however, that you'd be missing out on some awfully interesting, bright, uninhibited women that way.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:24 AM on January 21, 2008

I don't think it makes you a prude. That said, I would quite likely swear heartily and often on a first date (don't remember whether I actually did - I've been in a relationship for eight years, so first dates are a dim recollection at this point). Then again, I also talked politics, family dysfunction, previous relationship dysfunction, and personal depression history on my last first date. Which clearly worked out okay for both of us. But we were both into being ourselves from the first date rather than trying for unusually formal behavior and only finding out weeks or months later what the other person was really like when in a comfortable, informal setting. Sort of an early screening process - if you can't deal with me swearing and telling you about my clinic escort volunteering on a first date, then chances are that neither of us is going to be each other's ideal date.

I don't swear at work at all. I can turn it off when needed. I just don't consider hanging out with friends to be a circumstance where it's needed, and if we're on a date, I'm hoping you're going to be someone who will become a very good friend as well as my eventual partner.

But that's just me. I think your social preferences are equally fine, and you're just not meeting people who share them.
posted by Stacey at 5:32 AM on January 21, 2008

Fuck yeah you are.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:36 AM on January 21, 2008

1 - I think you are a prude.

2 - Is it just the swearing that puts you off, or other behavior from your date that you perceive as overly informal or relaxed? Some people never swear, some swear all the time, some have a formal and informal mode where the latter is peppered in profanity. For me a first date would probably fall into the more formal category, and it seems to for you as well. Maybe your dates are just not on the same page? Have you tried going to a nice restaurant, dressing up, or otherwise acting more "formal" on a first date if that sort of date is what you would like?

(And to people who say swearing represents a limited vocabulary, fuck you. I've gotten perfect verbal scores on every standardized test I've taken and done professional writing, as have my foul-mouthed friends. Language is about context, not absolutes.)
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 6:02 AM on January 21, 2008

Wow, a lot more guys than I would have thought are put off by cursing because it's not ladylike (at least that is what I am getting from it, I don't mean to imply anyone is sexist, it is just an attitude I thought had gone the way of rotary phones). I guess I come from a different social milieu? I can't imagine complaining about my fucking boss or anything on a first date, but I probably wouldn't bat an eye at calling something "bullshit" or a more creative use of "fucking."

I probably would not do it if I got a vibe that the dude I was out with was not into the whole cussin' thing though. It's not that huge a deal, but I wouldn't assume that it would bother anyone.

In conclusion, to me you seem like kind of a prude. But things like "social graces" and "good taste" are going to vary a lot between different societies and subcultures. They're shifting social mores, not absolutes. Like that story Askr told about his parents -- it might have been awkward at the time, but there's no way anything about that exchange would even be remotely culturally acceptable now.

Oh, and the other part of my conclusion is I agree with all the people who say that if casual swearing is a turn-off, then exercise your right to be turned off. I don't think adjusting your world view to date someone is a good idea.
posted by SoftRain at 6:05 AM on January 21, 2008

You aren't a prude. I talk like a sailor around my friends. Around strangers? Around someone I wanted to go out with? I tone it down -- a lot.
posted by chunking express at 6:27 AM on January 21, 2008

I enthusiastically swear like a sailor when I'm out with my friends. But I don't say fuck in front of my mother, when children are around, in business meetings, or the first time I meet someone.

I think that your dates not noticing that you're not swearing (and probably wincing at bit at them) is odd. On the other hand, if you meet someone you otherwise like, this needn't be a dealbreaker.
posted by desuetude at 6:28 AM on January 21, 2008

If it bothers you, then don't seek second dates with these women.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:09 AM on January 21, 2008

And to people who say swearing represents a limited vocabulary, fuck you. I've gotten perfect verbal scores on every standardized test I've taken and done professional writing, as have my foul-mouthed friends. Language is about context, not absolutes.

Exactly, it's about context- someone who doesn't know you would have no idea how smart you are if you curse every other word.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:11 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think this preference says less about you than the fact that you couldn't mention it to her or joke about it with her does. There is a way of exploring differences or finding out why people do things that comes in really handy on dates when there's nothing else to do-- it's called talking! Girls dig it.

Instead of you fairly examining her by your standards, you're asking us to examine you by ours. Clearly you're not that interested in her.
posted by hermitosis at 7:15 AM on January 21, 2008

If you're on a first date with a woman and she's swearing like a trooper for no reason, you are not dating a lady but a garbage can. I swear like a trooper myself, as do many people I know, but we can control it in certain contexts (family, dates, in the supermarket, whatever). If someone demonstrates a total lack of control over their mouth, it's a definite red flag. Of course, I find it a little sexy when my girlfriend swears for good reason :-)
posted by wackybrit at 7:56 AM on January 21, 2008

Don't make full judgment about people on the first date. It could be that you make them nervous. Feel free to bring it up on date 2 or 3 if that is your only concern about them.

I can tell you that when I am hyper / nervous / excited, I tend to swear like a sailor. And sometimes I get turned on when I hear guys swearing
posted by KB.Boston_implant.By way of NY at 8:25 AM on January 21, 2008

The whole 'if she swears, she's not a lady' thing is giving me the heebie jeebies on this thread. That said, with the original poster's clarification that she was swearing in a very angry, aggressive manner, I do feel like it was rude behavior. I'd think it was just as rude if a man swore in the same way in the same circumstances.

Overall, though, I'd be more concerned that this was a person who wouldn't deal with minor inconveniences in their life without flipping out and getting angry--not a good sign in a potential date.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter whether you're a prude or not. It bothers you. You're probably better off finding someone who shares your values. It's probably a sign of things to come.

Of course, I'm assuming you don't swear on the first date.
posted by acoutu at 8:47 AM on January 21, 2008

Maybe the issue is that these people are on a date and talking about things that they are angry or upset about. Which is not really great first date strategy.

Did you move to the region you live in now? I found that when I moved to New York people cursed much more than my southern parents who were transplants to western suburbia. Think of it as a cultural difference, and maybe date more middle-northerners (think Minnesota, Michigan, etc.)
posted by sondrialiac at 8:49 AM on January 21, 2008

Sherlockt, I think it's fine for you to screen for swearing. Hell, I do it. I've refused someone a second date because they repeatedly substituted "A-hole" for "asshole." I've purposely tossed some pretty extreme cusswords into the conversation to see what kind of reaction I get. It's actually really important to me that I find somebody who is comfortable with colorful, blunt language.

You've got to choose somebody who works for you, no matter what your arbitrary criteria are. However -- you don't need to justify it to yourself by putting the other person down. "A lack of certain social graces"? There are so many ugly assumptions in there that I don't even know where to start. Just keep in mind: not everybody was raised the way you are. Not everybody values the things you do. Take a look at the awesome "Ask Culture vs. Guess Culture" comment for a tangential but very illuminating example of how different people's working assumptions can be.

As you walk away from the date, you can just say to yourself: "Her swearing really turned me off. I guess she's not right for me," -- and leave it at that.
posted by ourobouros at 9:20 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that it's also a possibility that these women are pretty quickly picking up on the fact that your sphincter is clenched in an unusually tight way and this somehow activates the "cursing center" in their brains.
So they could, consciously or not, be trying to get you to chillax by modeling "casual" behavior or you could be emanating prudishness in a way that pisses them off and makes them want to shock you
or, depending on the "blindness factor" of these dates, these women could be annoyed by your obvious mismatchedness and cursing like truckdriving sailors might be a not so subtle way to let you know they're not really digging your vibe and they don't really care whether or not you think they're embittered trashmouthed guttersnipes because it's clear to them that you ain't a keeper.

I'm just sayin' is all...
posted by mer2113 at 9:37 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's weird to me that people who defend cursing on the first date as "being real" would also label you a "prude". That implies you need to change your behavior, but the other person doesn't. I don't think you need to change, any more than the people swearing need to change. You like people who modulate their language under certain circumstances, and that's fine. Personally, I am completely impressed by people who manage to say scathing things without swearing, because it's a rare trait. So while I might not be put off by swearing because everyone seems to do it nowadays, it's far more interesting to be around people who don't do it all the time and speak in much more creative ways.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:28 AM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am a bit surprised at all the people talking about "oh yeah , I curse all the time, just not around my parents".

You do realize that your parents probably cuss like sailors when you are not around? They also have sex, but we'll save that discussion for another day.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2008

Ynoxas, yes, I'm aware.

But I spent 18 years living in a house where the rule was we didn't swear at or even around your parents. The 12 years that I've been an adult haven't quite eradicated that feeling. I've gradually increased the amount of swearing I do around my mother, and she's not really offended, but the instinct not to is pretty well drilled in.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:00 PM on January 21, 2008

swearing on a first date -- not a dealbreaker unless accompanied by angry ranting.

chastising me for swearing on the first date -- definite dealbreaker.
posted by footnote at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2008

You do realize that your parents probably cuss like sailors when you are not around?

They don't, actually. And while no-one would mistake me for an old-fashioned girl or a priss, I don't feel compromised by taking the high road to show a little respect. Not just my parents, even, for instance, I don't swear in front of the CEO of my company, either.

This standard doesn't just go for people who raised me or sign my paychecks, either. When the waiter asks me if I'm enjoying my meal, I wouldn't explain that the duck breast is fucking awesome. When I need to get through a crowd of slow-moving sidewalk strollers, I just say excuse me. These people may be audibly swearing themselves, but I think that asking them to get the fuck out the way is unnecessary. Even though I would really like them to get the fuck out of the way.

A caveat, however. sherlockt, where are these first dates occurring? If you're taking your dates to the corner bar, then you're sending pretty mixed signals regarding how relaxed the situation is.
posted by desuetude at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2008

I don't feel compromised by taking the high road to show a little respect. Not just my parents, even, for instance, I don't swear in front of the CEO of my company, either.

Is it a matter of respect, or a matter of formality? If the OP thinks he's being "disrespected" by the swearing, then I'd say he's being a bit pompous rather than prudish and needs to lighten up. But if he just doesn't like the informality of it, then it's a matter of personal taste, for which there is no accounting.
posted by footnote at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2008

If you're out on a date, you're in public, right? Swearing in public is rude. Other people out for a nice meal, or just standing in line for a movie, don't want to hear swearing. You (or your date) might not swear in the presence of your mother, or a friend's mother, but someone's mother is sitting at the next table. No, you're not a prude or uptight. Good for you! Find a woman with some sense.
posted by Joleta at 2:09 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

footnote, what I meant is that its no skin off my nose to take it upon myself to show some respect for other people in general. Didn't mean to insinuate that the other party was necessarily feeling disrespected.
posted by desuetude at 2:26 PM on January 21, 2008

I didn't mean to insinuate that you insinuated that! Your comment just made me reflect on people who think they deserve "respect," versus people who are made uncomfortable by perceived rudeness.
posted by footnote at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2008

For what it's worth, I'm with deCamadus upthread. Words have power, and they have purpose. A person who does not know how to use language appropriately is as boorish, ill-educated and rude as someone who SHOUTS all the time because THAT'S JUST ME, FUCKER.

Finding someone with grace - in language, and how they treat those around them - will be a harder search, but worth it.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:31 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

OK, so as a navy brat, I grew up around sailors - and I can swear like one, in the right circumstances. But whether it's a date, job, wedding, whatever... first time social meetings? That's not the time to start throwing out the f-bombs and generally being crass. It shows a lack of courtesy and manners on your part if you do so.

I know that "times are different" now, and all that, but consideration for others (regardless of the forms it takes) is still very important. Someone who doesn't think about curtailing their tongue for at least the first conversation would make me wonder.

Had a sales guy make a pitch to our team at work for some rather expensive gear, and it went OK until we were winding up the conversation and he used "fuck" three times in one sentence and proceeded to go downhill from there. It was rather odd - we all looked at each other with the non-verbal "wtf" look ourselves...

Anyway, I guess if expecting people to have common courtesy and generally decent social graces is being a prude, then we need more prudes IMHO.

(on preview I realize I sound like my grandfather. ack. my wife and I swear all the time, but still I would have a hard time speaking that way with someone I just met, without knowing how they take it. Maybe some of us just overanalyze these things? To each their blue-streak own, I guess.)
posted by EricGjerde at 12:19 AM on January 22, 2008

This blog post about Diana Keaton swearing on Good Morning America is interesting both for what actually happened as well as what the comments tend to say about class and race and gender and our expectations about language and politelness.
posted by jessamyn at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2008

I also think we've gone way beyond women swearing to "ramp it up with the boys", because we wouldn't just swear we must be doing it so we can be more like men! Of course. And by 'of course' I mean what chu talkin' 'bout Willis?

Unfortunately, some do. I can introduce you to them if you like. I doubt you'd come up with a different interpretation. They more or less resemble this girl.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2008

I don't think you're out of line to dislike profanity, but I think it's going to rule out a very large portion of the dating pool for you.

Let's put it this way. If I go to and say I'm looking for women above 6'0" with red hair who smoke, have two children, drink frequently, who checked the "Braniacs" checkbox in the "Turn-Ons" column, and who checked the "Fast food" checkbox on the "Diet" column ...

... well, I'm going to get a lot less results than going to and getting a listing of women near my ZIP code who have red hair. Or drink frequently. Or any one of the above, singly.

Narrowing your acceptance to profanity-free women means you really can't be picky about the other stuff you're looking for ... or else just the basic "numbers game" is going to work against you.
posted by WCityMike at 2:47 PM on January 22, 2008

WCityMike's comments about pickiness finally persuaded me to post something that had been rolling around in my head for a couple of days about this swearing issue: perhaps it's another example of a Taquito Moment? [WaPo; may require registration]
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2008

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