If You're Going to Call People Douche Bags, Know What They Are

by Janie Emaus
Originally Published: 

I’ve seen a lot of douche bags in my life. Literally. Having grown up in the ’50s, everyone’s mother had one hanging over the shower nozzle in her bathroom. If I close my eyes, I can still see that red plastic bag, dangling against the shower wall, announcing its importance in “the modern woman’s daily hygiene regimen.”

In fact, if I did not see one hanging in a friend’s shower, I would worry about the state of her mother’s vagina. And as a preteen, I had enough thoughts about my own developing lady parts without worrying about the privates of some mother from down the block.

As the years passed, douching became less popular, and as evolution would have it, in the 1960s the word itself took on an entirely different meaning and became a slang expression for an arrogant/obnoxious person.

Now, rather than hanging in the shower, the word hangs around the playground and comes out of the mouths of innocent kids who have no idea of its origin or even what the slang expression means in today’s language.

For instance, last night my grandson called my daughter a douche bag. Right there in front of the entire family as we were watching TV.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, I asked if he knew what he had just called his mother.

“Why yes, you heard me, a douche bag,” he said in that I know it all tween tone.

“But what does that mean?” I asked.

“You know,” he answered.

“Yes, I know, but do you?”

I told my daughter she had better set him straight. After all, she is his mother.

“Well, it means someone who is acting worse than a jerk. And it’s not a very nice name to call someone.”

Then, not one to mince words, she continued. “It really means putting a hose into your vagina and squirting water up there to clean it out.”

Hearing this, my grandson covered his ears while screaming OHMYGOD loud enough for the neighborhood to hear.

After a few minutes of laughter, I explained how the bag functioned. Now it was my daughter’s turn to look baffled. She was under the assumption that the expression had simply evolved from douche to douche bag. And that no such bag had actually hung in bathrooms all across America.

Once both my daughter and grandson had closed their mouths and returned to reality, I realized it was my job to educate my descendants about another word that has shifted meaning throughout the years.

For instance, where are all the young Dicks? Let me clarify this for you. Dicks are still in existence. It’s a “beautiful day in the neighborhood” when one doesn’t encounter a rude, inconsiderate or abrasive person at some point between that first cup of coffee and the last glass of wine.

The word is both a noun: He’s such a dick, and a verb: Don’t dick around with me. But as a proper name, you won’t find anyone under the age of 50 introducing themselves as Dick. No one wants to name their child after a penis these days, not even the most creative celebrities.

Yet, an entire generation of kids grew up learning to read by following the antics of Dick and Jane. And I have to say, I felt rather proud hanging around with Dick all the time. But that’s a story for another time.

I told my grandson not to use these words in public. If he doesn’t like someone, he should just walk away from them and find someone else to play with.

We can’t rid “douche bags” and “dicks” from the English language, but we can teach our children not to go around acting like ones.

Related post: 9 Rules Of Swearing For My Children

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