Every once in a while I read a piece that sticks with me and seems to come up in conversation regularly for months afterwards. This post about why “douchebag” is a powerful word is one of those pieces. It is a vulgar word and not one I use in my daily life, but I do think there’s a time and place for it.
As adults (and especially as women) that word conjures up a certain picture of men we have met, dated, have worked with or were friends with. These guys are not the men we hope our sons will become, but we know that d-bags had moms and were once kids themselves.
Sometimes when you’re watching kids play at the park, you can see the child who has d-bag potential. Your kids come home and tell you about interactions with classmates and while you would never introduce that word to your child, you have a pretty strong feeling that’s the kind of kid they’re dealing with. And then there are the moments you see d-bag tendencies in your own kids and it breaks your heart a little.
I don’t know if d-bags are born that way or if it’s entirely a product of how they were raised and socialized, but I’m doing my best not to raise one. But if you want to create your own future douchebag, here’s where I think I’d start.
Allow him to treat you like garbage. The two-year-old who screams at you to open his fruit snacks becomes the 8-year-old who screams at you to give him your phone, who becomes the 12-year-old who screams at you for embarrassing him by parking in the “wrong” spot at school pick-up, who becomes the 16-year-old who screams at you for not paying his traffic ticket. Don’t imagine this kid is going to treat the waitstaff with kindness or his wife with tenderness or his children with compassion if he thinks it’s perfectly okay to treat his mother like something he stepped in. You are THE FIRST woman in his life and if believes you were created to serve him and stay out of his way, you better believe he is going to have some douchey tendencies for the rest of his life. If that’s what you want, be sure to keep babying that kind of behavior and apologizing for being a human when your humanity comes into conflict with his desires.
Make excuses for his behavior. If your little man cuts in front of everyone in line for the slide, just go ahead and tell the other moms how totally fine it is because, you know, he’s tired, or he REALLY wants to slide, or he’ll scream if he doesn’t get to go right now. Let him grow up believing he is the exception to every rule. Consequences don’t count for him because you’ll always swoop in at the last minute and handle things. (And he’ll never be grateful for that because you allow him to treat you like garbage.) If your third grader doesn’t have his report done, you should probably call in and tell the teacher why it was an unreasonable request. Or better yet, just do the report yourself. If you want to raise a serious douchebag, he needs to really know that whatever he does is fine and the world will just have to adjust.
Let him behave as though other people are beneath him. Did you hear him mocking that kid who has some social skills issues? Does he rank his female classmates in order of “hotness” in a text to his friends? Is he rude to his grandparents if they give him a gift that wasn’t his style? These are all classic d-bag traits. In a douchebag’s world, he is the judge and everybody else is just waiting for him to express an opinion on where they belong and what is their worth. Go ahead and make some excuses for this behavior and then act like it’s no big deal when he behaves like the person farthest beneath him is you.
Only dress him in obviously new, name brand clothing with a trendy haircut. What’s a d-bag without his nice wardrobe, enviable hair and overpowering cologne/body spray? You can’t quite reach full douchebag status in hand-me-downs. If this is the goal for your son, be sure you cater to his every fashion whim, no matter how expensive or age-inappropriate it is. Be sure you fully believe him if he says he’ll never fit in unless he has the latest trends and make sure he thinks his worth is dependent on how he looks. This will allow him to judge the rest of the world based on how THEY look without feeling like a hypocrite.
Keep him occupied with his first world problems. He needs to believe the fact that he doesn’t have an iPhone in the third grade IS the worst thing that’s ever happened to anybody. If your car is not up to his standards, be sure and feel super guilty about that instead of helping him have a perspective of gratitude. He should never be made to think about the level of privilege in his life, unless it’s in the context of feeling superior to others. He should imagine poor people are poor because they want to be, people with health problems probably did something to cause it, and issues like social justice, racism and sexism are made up by people trying to annoy him. Make sure he stays insulated from any major problems in the world or in your community.
Our sons may become d-bags, but let’s have it be in spite of how they were raised and not because of how they were raised. Let’s be sure they learn to respect us (as their mothers, as women, as authority figures), take responsibility for their behavior, treat others with empathy and kindness, learn humility and reject vanity, and are informed about the world around them enough to have a perspective of gratitude. And if you see my boys being d-bags, feel free to let me know. This is one mother who is doing her best not to raise one.