25 July 2010

Summer reruns: How do I explain a bidet to a four-year-old?

Lat but not least, no set of reruns would be complete without including what I believe to be my number one traffic generator of all time. It's from 29 March 2009 and here it is again.


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.

8 comments:

  1. Amen brother! And this is coming from the mother of a 4 year old with constant questions. My husband and I don't sugar coat much of anything for her.

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  2. Thank you, well done. I never understood why there are some who would rather use silly words or phrases for body parts. If you are not embarrassed to say 'fingers' you shouldn't be to say anus simply being a part of the body.

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  3. Thanks for the laugh! There's an important message here too. Bravo.

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  4. Had to laugh... Bidets are routinely installed in bathrooms all over South America -- not just in the main bath, but every bathroom in the house -- in the case of my house, all three of the upstairs bathrooms. Why? Because they are not just for after sex; in fact I hadn't thought of that use! In fact, I only ever had the use of one before I moved to the US, long before the sex thing happened. I miss it, almost every day, in particular at "that time of the month" (sorry...) when I wish I could just refresh without having to take a shower. In fact, we are having an addition built (onto a circa 1780 stone house) and I am having a bidet installed. Great to rinse your feet too...
    So lady, get your mind of of the gutter!

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  5. Thanks for the comments. I still shake my head when I read this one. Life's so much easier when you just tell the truth.

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  6. My favourite post of all time :) This is the one that made me want to own my own house specifically so I could install a bidet :)

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  7. I think of the poor woman who asked that question every time I straddle one.

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  8. You gotta tell your kids the truth--or they'll think it's a drinking fountain.

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