Once when I was in college I got a prank phone call in the dorm from a guy asking if I had ordered a pizza with a douche bag. Now, I knew what a douche bag was (it was the 80s and we had all grown up with douche bags lurking in our bathroom cabinets) but it was such a ridiculous question –sort of like asking if I had ordered a pizza with an Ace bandage on it --that all I could say was, “I know you’re trying to be obnoxious but I don’t understand it. Hey,” I said to the room at large, “why is it funny to ask if I ordered a pizza with a douche bag?” By now the guy had hung up.
I know calling someone a douche bag has been an infrequently used insult for some time but more recently the high school-aged kids have co-opted it and use it as a common insult meaning “jerk” or “asshole”. Sometimes they shorten it to “D-bag” or “douche”. I’m quite sure they have NO idea what a douche bag is. In fact when I asked my kids none of the three had any idea.
On one of the sitcoms recently the kid called someone a D-bag. The father said, “Do you even know what that means?” the kid answered, “Yes!” to which the father said, “Well I wish you’d tell me.”
Has there ever been an insult flung around so frequently when no one has any idea what it means? Calling someone a “douche” quite literally just means “shower” in French. Are French kids saying “Tu es un shower Americaine!”
It’s not the worst thing to call someone but for those of us who actually know what it is, it isn’t so much offensive as odd and arcane, like calling someone a chamber pot. So if your kids are throwing this term around and you don’t care for it—try the direct approach like my best friend LFR in Michigan. Here, in an excerpt from a letter I got from her, is some fine parenting at work:
B. called F. a douche bag today. I asked him do you know what that means? He said, “Animal poop?” I told him it was an apparatus used in the 50s to clean women’s vaginas. He almost got sick. Then I told him we now know women’s vaginas clean themselves naturally with the bacteria produced by our bodies so women no longer use douche bags. So…do you think you want to call people a douche bag anymore? He apologized to his sister and told me he learned it at school. Ahhh, the important facts we remember from the day at school…math equations, poems, science formulas….no, that would be douche bag.