I started my illustrious career as a grande dame of pottymouthery young. Part of this is simply because I had been marinating in the fine mist of foul-speak that permeates the lower Great Lakes area. It’s just how a lot of people talked. I remember walking around with my friend Paige in the 6th grade talking about some kid named Don Goza and making up a singsong poem that went like this: “He goza here, he goza there, he goza down your underwear!” I knew not what the goza down below equator-town meant in actual real sexy time terms, but that is beside the point. We cleaned it up in front of adults, but when we were rolling on our own, we were saying it pretty blue.
This is one thing I wonder about when I read books that are written for teens, supposedly in a teen voice, and there ain’t no swears in it. Now, I understand not every teen was as profane is this little lady, but I think it’s fair to say that there might be some of that flying around sometimes, and maybe more than sometimes. It’s part of trying on adult-pants, to try on adult words. And I think that when any dirt language is used in fiction, it usually gets used by the boys. Ima tell you right now, my girlfriends and I tore most boys we knew to shreds with our talk, or at the very least we gave them a run for their money. We were self-possessed girls in the grand scheme of things, in control of the ways we talked about our sexualities and unashamed about things like our bodies or our desires, regardless of whether we were partaking in any goza-ing down anyone’s underwear or not (it varied in my friend group, but actually, it was mostly not).
This is one of the many reasons that I liked Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero so very much. Gabi is a girl who speaks her mind, eff-bombs sprinkled liberally where needed, confidently expressing herself and her passions to her friends and to herself. She talks about her body, and boys, and her life in a way that I found totally believable. It was incredibly validating to my 16-year-old self to read such a strong, poised voice. Throw in some well-done realism in the various plot threads (family dysfunction, close friendships, romantic but unromanticized relationships) and I was all in. So much to love about this book. Gabi is bad A, people. I would have def been friends with her in high school.