Recently, my 11-year-old son made me watch Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop" video. He felt that I had to see it to believe it. If you haven't seen the video, let's just say it's a lot of twerking and writhing and what we use to call "freaking" and "dry humping" (way back in the '80s). Plus a little girl-on-girl innuendo and a lot of Miley scantily clad and rubbing up against things like she's trying to itch a yeast infection without using her hands.
Frankly, I wasn't sure why I had to see the video. Was he trying to say, "She is hot" or "This is why I started locking my door" or "This beats America's Got Talent any night of the week"?
When it was over, he looked at me waiting for my response. "Well? Do you believe that?" he asked impatiently.
As is often the case with a tween, I've found it's best to stay quiet and say little until I know what the hell we're talking about and how I need to react, so that he'll talk to me for the rest of the afternoon. One wrong phrase or analysis of the situation and I could get the one word answers for the next five hours.
"No, I can't believe it." I said, with as little inflection as possible.
Crap, what can't I believe? That she kept that haircut? That she was once Hannah Montana? That she could be so smokin' hot?
"You know, that video makes her a total douchebag?" my son said, whispering the last word.
Whenever he says a bad word around me he whispers it. It's kind of like a wink. Like, I know I probably shouldn't say this, but you get it mom, you're all modern, but I still fear you too much to say it in full voice."(Which reminds me of the story about my 8-year-old daughter telling me I looked like a hooker... why do they know this stuff?)
Mind you, I was blindsided... frankly, I wasn't expecting that adjective. Hmmm, "douchebag," really?
Well, technically, she is, I mean, she has so many young fans and singing songs about drugs and having clothed sex on camera is not the best way to break out of the teen princess mold (see Anne Hathaway for the best way to do that). Plus, after the VMAs performance that made me feel like poor Robin Thicke was eye raped and may need counseling... and a lawyer, I'm thinking "douchebag" is not so far off the mark. But I don't think that's what my son meant ... And then, it dawned on me, he didn't mean douchebag at all, he meant ho'bag (rookie mistake)
Awwwwwwww, how precious is that? He meant to say ho'bag but he didn't really know the word and he got it all confused. It's exactly like when he was 3 and used to say "bops" instead of "grapes" and of course we never corrected him because it was so cute when he asked for "mo bops."
So now, do I correct him? I mean, how cute will it be when we're out and he calls scantily-clad girls douchebags? So cute.
Buuuut, clearly kids at school have said "ho'bag" and he's naively (though let's not forget, adorably) using "douchebag" instead... and let's face it, that can't be good for his socialization skills. How will he hang if he uses the wrong "bag"?
"Honey, I think you're using the wrong word. See, a douchebag is more like a dick," I explained in an ironically Mr. Rogers sounding tone. By the way, it is so much easier to explain that than algebra... and I'm pretty sure it'll be more useful to him in his adult life. "I think you meant to say ho'bag, which is someone that's trashy, overly sexy and dresses like a hooker. A word you probably shouldn't use to describe anyone."
Now, if you go back and read that last sentence, like I just did, you may be all, "Jenny, did you ever imagine you'd be having that conversation with one of your kids?!?"
"No, but half the stuff I say, literally shocks me when I go back over it in my head."
If you have little ones, you may actually want to chastise me right now, I would've chastised me a couple years ago (I didn't utter a bad word around the kids for like an entire decade), but I've learned a truth that you get to know when your child turns that corner into tweenhood: If you can't 21 Jump Street yourself into conversations you're screwed until they graduate college (bare minimum).
It's sink or swim, hang out or hang it up, get it or get lost. I'm not saying you shouldn't continue to parent or be the one with a keg in your basement, but if you don't pick your battles with as much care as you would cut a wire on a bomb, you become the uncool parent who doesn't get to know what's really going on. The one in the dark. The one who doesn't get to (unbeknownst to your children) call school to discuss issues you're privy to.
The truth is, at some point you go from being the most amazing, all-knowing brilliant person on Earth, to the most moronic loser evah -- overnight, like the flip of a switch -- no matter how awesomely you could skate backwards, or how many Billy Joel concerts you attended. So, if you can assimilate into the tween/teen culture enough that you're only mildly uncool and slightly mortifyingly embarrassing, you get the chance manipulate, ahem, continue to help shape their views, morals, and decisions from the inside. Frankly, it may be your only shot.
P.S. Betty White got the honor of teaching my kids the word "hooker" on Off Their Rockers, so you can take that one up with her. I send a ton of complaints her way, it's cathartic. The rest of your complaints can go to Miley Cyrus for ruining Teddy Bears and oversized foam fingers for all of us!
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