My living room is often full of boys; boys everywhere, lying on the floor and draped over the furniture as if they were laundry someone had tossed all over the room. Today it’s middle-schoolers, and while they are really good kids, they are middle-school boys. They are loud. They are gross.
The boys were playing Playstation, and I was working in my studio when I heard a new round of grossness start.
“Aw, douche bag! You got me! Douche bag, you got me again!
“Man you suck at this game, you’re a douche.”
“Yeah? Well you’re a douche bag. You suck.”
Huh. I waited a few minutes to see if this line of insults would peter out before addressing it, and when it didn’t, I went in to talk to the boys.
“Guys, I don’t want you saying that.”
“What? Douche bag? Douche is ok.”
“Yeah, that’s not really something you should be saying. I don’t want to hear it again, OK?”
“No, no Miss Katie! It’s OK! It’s not bad. I promise.” Our neighbor, Zach, is earnestly nodding his head to reassure me.
Jake, my seventeen year old, has been listening to this conversation, and I can tell from the amused look on his face that he knows exactly what the term means, and is wondering how I’m going to play this one.
“Guys. It’s not a nice thing to say. So don’t.”
“But it just means poop. It’s not bad. We say it all the time.”
“Zach, honey, douche does not mean poop.”
Zach’s brother Miles takes on the role of the voice of reason, and calmly explains, “Well, Miss Katie, it really does. It’s OK. Dos means two in Spanish, and number two means poop. Douche is another way to say dos. So it means number two. A douche bag is a bag of number two. It just means a bag of poop. It really is OK, Miss Katie.”
Jake is starting to make a noise like a balloon leaking. He’s trying not to laugh, but the laughter must have found a tiny little hole, and is squeaking its way out.
Middle school is such a fabulous well of misinformation. Middle-schoolers can take the tiniest bit of information, throw it into the stew of hormones boiling in their heads, and come out with a fully-formed concept with no basis in reality at all. And, because their friends are the same age, they are surrounded by others who are also so jacked up on raging hormones that they’ll impulsively go along with anything. It’s quite a cycle, and it’s fascinating to watch.
The douche bags are all looking at me, so happy and content that they have found a new and sophisticated way to call each other poop.
I’ve found the best thing to do at these times is provide the unvarnished truth. Zach and Miles’ Mom is one of my closest friends, and I know she’d agree.
“Douche is actually a French word, and it means to shower.”
I tell them about the outdated idea of feminine douching, and watch the looks of horror descend on their faces as I explain how a douche bag is a bag that holds liquid and has a nozzle that women put in their vaginas to squirt the liquid up into themselves for cleansing. This is so, so, so much less fun than poop in Spanish.
“So that’s what douching is, guys, and douche is just the French word they use. I don’t think you should be calling each other that.”
“But Miss Katie,” Zach seems a bit desperate to clarify, “In AMERICAN it means poop, right?”
“Um. No. In American it means putting a nozzle up your culie to wash it.” I look at Jake, and he’s holding his stomach, laughing silently, tears streaming down his face.
There is a moment of shocked silence as they absorb this, and then:
“Oh! Oh gross! GROSS!”
“That is disGUSTING!”
“That is soooo gross. And Zach, you said it the most!”
“No I didn’t! You did!”
“I didn’t say it at all.”
“Yes, you did, you liar!”
The boys are horrified that a word having to do with vaginas has been coming out of their mouths. Vaginas are disgusting! They are writhing, as if they were in pain, as they exclaim that they might be sick.
I leave the room as this dies down, and after a few minutes of silence I hear Miles say, “But Zach, you kind of are one.”