29 March 2009

Reader question: How do I explain a bidet to a four-year-old?


Help! My husband, my son and I were over at my cousin's new house last weekend and while we were walking around the master bath and oohing and aahing over the size and decor it was hard not to notice that she had one of those things (I blush when I say the word) next to the toilet. I can't help it, every time I see one they just scream out to me "We have lots of s*x and don't shower afterwards." Anyhow, my four-year-old asked why they had two toilets in the bathroom. I was embarrassed and didn't know what to say, so I told him that there were two so that no one had to wait while the other one finished. He said "nasty" and didn't push it any further. But seriously, what do you tell the kids?
Mother of God woman! Part of me wants to be calm and reassuring but an even bigger part of me want to throttle you. I'm really floored by this. I mean really. What the hell kind of a question is that? Based on your description and your shame-based reaction to it, I'm going to assume what you're talking about is a bidet. There, I said it. Bidet. Repeat after me. Bi-day. See? Nothing happened. It's just a word.

Similarly, a bidet is an object and as such it can't good or bad, it just is. Whatever discomfort you feel about bidets is coming from your own sick mind. Bidets don't scream anything. They can't because they're objects. Sex is another word that's just a word. You might have a better grip on what to tell your son if you could bring yourself to spell out the word sex in an e-mail to a stranger. Similarly, penis, vagina and anus are just words. As words they can't be anything but neutral. As body parts they can't be anything other than morally neutral either. What ever meaning or significance they have, their rightness or wrongness, comes from you. They are also the body parts that get washed in a bidet. See? Simple words describing simple, every day acts. No big deal. No cause for alarm. No sweeping statements about my character for the simple act of describing something.

Your skittishness about spelling out the word sex or even writing the word bidet speak of much larger issues you have about your body, other people's bodies and the biological functions those bodies perform. For the sake of your son, please talk to somebody about this stuff. You owe it to him and more importantly, you owe it to yourself. How can you expect to be an effective parent if you can't call things what they are?

So to answer your question, "what do you tell the kids?" The answer is the truth. Tell them the truth about this and about everything else. Rather than making up a lie and getting the response you got (which by the way is the seed of your neuroses taking root in a new generation --good job!), you could have told him something as simple as "some people wash themselves in a bidet." That way, you could have called a thing what it is and you could have told him the truth at the same time. If it led to more questions, then you could have answered them. Truthfully. Pretty simple stuff, really.

And while we're on the subject of the truth, people do use bidets to clean themselves. Really. That's all they're for. Having one doesn't say anything, because it can't. It's a thing if you remember, and things don't talk. So do me a favor if you haven't already stopped reading. The next time you're in the presence of a bidet, climb on board. The Pause that Refreshes will take on a whole new layer of meaning, believe me.

27 comments:

  1. Good answer Paul. The reader is burdened not only by clearly some repressed sexual issues but also with some factual misinformation. I live in Argentina. There are bidets in all our bathrooms. The bidet is not only used for cleaning up after some wild steaming dirty SEX. It is used for cleaning up in general. Women probably use it more than men but it is not for the exclusive use of a woman or after SEX. Our littlest one thinks it is a car wash for the waist down.

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  2. That question disturbed me on a really basic level and I was a bit self-conscious about publishing this post. Thanks. I'm a big fan of the bidet and I wish their use were more accepted in the US. All too often though, people in the US have the knee jerk reaction of a 10-year-old to them and I don't understand it. Thanks for checking in from Argentina, When I was reading about bidet use yesterday I came across the claim that it's hard to sell a home in Argentina that doesn't have a bidet in it. I suppose their use is so ingrained in the culture there that it's like trying to sell a house in the US without a dishwasher. Is that true?

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  3. Oh my god... THNX Paul you made me laugh so hard that I now must use my bidet!

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  4. I'm jealous Mel; I don't have one.

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  5. Hahahahah!!!!! OMG, this is hysterical!!!! The question is funny enough, but your reply just cracked me up!!!! 8-)

    What the hell is so naughty about a bidet?? It's just a piece of ceramic on the floor, for crying out loud!!

    We have a bidet in the master bath. To be honest, I've never used it. But it makes a great water fountain for the dogs, and it's quite the conversation piece at parties -- we gather around it and see how high we can make the water shoot up :-) Well, OK, not at ALL parties -- just at the first one or two after we moved in when everybody was curious about what a bidet does. None of our friends have one, and to be honest, the only reason we have one is because it came with the house (which was built by an Italian couple).

    I might have to borrow parts of this post for our blog. Is that OK with you??

    Kelly

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  6. Borrow to your heart's content Kelly. Using a bidet as a dog fountain is hilarious.

    My first exposure to a bidet came about ten years ago. Some friends and I sailed from Grenada to St. Lucia and back on a 45-foot sailboat. We had rationed about a half a gallon of water per person per day and that ruled out taking showers. It took nine days to get make the sail and it was a life-changing experience. I swear, it was like living and issue of National Geographic. However, after nine days of being unshowered and coated in dried sea salt I don't think I'd ever felt so dirty in my life.

    When we got back to Grenada we checked into a really nice hotel for your remaining two days. I walked into my hotel room and found the most amazing bathroom I'd ever seen. There was a bidet next to the toilet and almost by instinct I dropped my bag, stripped naked and climbed aboard. I stayed parked on top of that thing for what felt like two hours. Ahhhhh, nothing makes you appreciate being clean quite like removing nine days worth of open water sailing funk from you junk, you know?

    I've been a convert ever since.

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  7. Paul, I can't help but wonder what comes to her mind when she sees a urinal? ...susan

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  8. Hah! That's really funny Susan. I kept wondering what she'd do in the presence of an Asian squat toilet.

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  9. I tried to get a picture of Squirt drinking, but she wouldn't cooperate. She really does drink the water right from the spout :-)

    I just posted a bidet article on our blog. Thanks for the inspiration -- and the laughs!!!

    Kelly

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  10. I wish bidets were in mainstream use in the USA. In Japan almost every house and most public bathrooms have a TOTO Washelet which is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best things to ever come out of that country. It's an attachment to a regular toilet that functions as as if it were a futuristic bidet - water temperature settings, stream or spray, proper aim for ladies and men and some even come with a trickling-water sound for those with stage fright. When living there, I once told a Japanese friend how much I loved the washelet and she looked at me strangely and said "Well, what do you use in the United States to clean yourself?" I answered with "Nothing! Only toilet paper!" The look of horror and disgust on her face was something I'll never forget. I think she even shuddered. We're even more barbaric than they'd initially supposed! Luckily, I found washelets in the US and I'm going to get them for our new house. They changed my life!

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  11. I thought the Japanese reserved judgements of barbarism for China. Hah! Actually, I'm right there with you, washlets and bidets are a great idea. Toto's increasing its market presence in the US so maybe there's hope for a new era of squeaky clean hinder parts.

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  12. Ah...you're right. I should have worded that "Now, they think we're on par with the Chinese!"

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  13. Thank you so much for that. I'm still sore from hitting the floor after laughing so hard.

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  14. Thanks! I'm still laughing at Susan's comment, wondering what goes through her mind when she sees a urinal.

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  15. Simply amazing Paul. And you have all inspired me to hunt down a bidet and disappear for a couple hours!
    -Randi

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  16. Hah! Thanks for the comment Randi. Enjoy your mini vacation when you find that bidet.

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  17. We manufacture the Miracle Toilet Faucet here in Lake Tahoe (www.miraclefaucet.com) and it has been challenging to get people to even try a bidet. It's suprising because once you try it you really can't live wothout it

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  18. Skweak2: send me a press release on your Miracle Toilet Faucet please.

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  19. LOL! What a funny article. Surprisingly, I haven't run into any of these in France yet.

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  20. Thanks! Wait a minute, you haven't come across a bidet and your in France? How is that even possible?!

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  21. This is the funniest blog I've read in ages! Keep thinking about the mom who couldn't even spell out --say to the 4 year old-- s*x. Wow! She must not have a TV 'cuz she'd be busy splainin' a lot of stuff like why you have to call a Dr. after 4 hours of the effects of Cialis and what it's for.. or why KY Jelly makes that women dream of steamship horns. Hmmm.

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  22. This question really hit a nerve in me, can you tell?

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  23. Paul, I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard! Thanks so much for this post. It's amazing to me why she would associate the bidet with someone not washing after sex instead of admiring how someone had the opportunity to wash after a bowel movement! OMG! Most people don't have time to shower several times a day so I would think that a bidet would be seen as such an advantage. Poor woman. Poor kid. Oh well.

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  24. seriously? a bidet doesnt scream that. i lived in argentina for two years and fell in love with them. when i got home i installed one in my house. my wife doesnt use it after sex. i use it to clean my butt after i take care of business. the bidets MAIN use is to clean up after you do your business. get real

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  25. I too am a huge fan Sean. This question still gets my blood pressure up.

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