are taken over by the mind-numbing pods
One might hope the elders of the village
would lead by example,
teach by showing patience and compassion
By FRANZ DOUSKEY
When I was a kid of eight or nine years old, one word that would guarantee a fight was Douchebag. Don't ask me why? None of us actually knew what the word meant. It was just one of those "words!"
We'd be playing football and, as usual, an argument would break out. Did Sammy Mattei step out of bounds before he caught the ball thrown by Richy Davis? Sometimes the arguments didn't last. Other times the simplest disagreement would escalate into insults and name-calling. Here's the pattern. "Sammy, you're a jerk. How do you know if you stepped out of bounds because you were looking at the ball?" Who's a jerk, four eyes?" "You, tractor ass." "That's not what your mother says."
It was at that point that the argument took on a life and a form all its own. It was no longer about football, but some forgotten other thing. Talking about some guy's mother was just the source of ignition. Finally calling a guy a douchebag was the fuse. There was no way out of a fight if you were called a douchebag. If you walked away, you opened yourself to a plethora of constant and creative adolescent epithets for the rest of the school year.
There was a story, told to us by Frankie De Meo, that a douchebag was this pink rubber bladder with a long, thin rubber tube that women used to hose themselves. Yuk! Frankie was two years older than us and in charge of our sex education, so it had to be true. Therefore, in our young, festering minds, a douchebag was a pretty disgusting thing.
Of course, the world has changed in significant ways since then. On television couples can sleep in the same bed instead of sleeping in twin beds ala Lucy and Desi. When I was eight or nine, words like "hell" and "damn" were forbidden swear words, and if anyone of us was caught using them, among other more inventive invectives, we had to stand in a corner in the bathroom with a bar of soap in our mouths, then we were hauled off to the priests of confess our mortal transgressions that had somehow unrepentantly doomed us to eternal, fiery HELL!
Now, on tv, it's not uncommon to hear "damn," "ass," "balls," "boobs," and "douchebag," even with Imus off the air. How I miss him. On the cover of May 7, 2007 Details magazine, one of the featured articles was called: "You're A Douchebag."
The English language is under constant revolution. Bad is good. Gay no longer means to be deliriously happy. Archaic terms, such as "illegitimate child", or "born out of wedlock" have gone the way of black and white tv and black and white morality.
Occasionally, I hear someone call someone else a douchebag. Usually it means how could that person do something so stupid. People laugh over it. Just like when people call each other schmucks, or pantloads, or jerkoffs. We no longer live in a literal world where words have one, single, tightly bound definition.
Unfortunately, there are people still living in the Lucy and Desi rerun world where everything is still black and white. They have invested their lives in the status quo and they cannot let go. This is true for many, not only from another generation, but from the current generation as well, including lawyers, politicians, parents, boards of education, school administrators, real estate agents, members of planning and zoning commissions and senescent judges. These are people who live in fear of inevitable change. I wish I could say they are dying out, but it's really more like the Night of the Living Dead, where more and more people are taken over by the mind-numbing pods.
Our culture still disciplines people, especially young people, to teach them a lesson. Instead, one might hope the elders of the village would lead by example, teach by showing patience and compassion. But do they? The douchebags!
Franz Douskey, a poet and writer, is President Emeritus of of IMPAC University, Punta Gorda, FL. He teaches creative writing at Gateway Community College in New Haven. Douskey has been published in more than 150 journals and magazines including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Yankee. A featured guest at New Haven's Festival of Arts & Ideas, Douskey's books include "Rowing Across The Dark" and "Indecent Exposure." He is a founding board member of the IMPAC-Connecticut State University Young Writers Trust and has served as a judge every year of the competition. Douskey is also the author of the forthcoming biography,"The Unknown Sinatra."