Basic decency 101


Thursday. 6:05 am. I’m about to leave the house for my morning workout. Since I’m still feeling a bit wiped out from joining Philippe’s class on their end-of-year trip earlier in the week, I decide to walk 5k instead of running, and set out.

At about 6:25, in the distance I see three teens waiting for the bus, a girl and two boys who look to be about 16 years old. The closer I get, the more I can make out their conversation, and what I hear hits me like a slap in the face. I soon lose track of my workout. Am I dreaming? Did I mishear what they just said? My brain was rapidly trying to process what I’d heard, and I slowed my pace to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood what they were talking about.

The conversation

Girl, to Boy #1, sitting to her left: Anyway, everyone knows you slept with her.

(The face-slap sentence.)

Boy #1: What are you saying that for?

(This is when I slowed down.)

Girl: Come on. It’s written all over your face, everyone can tell by the way you’re acting. Everyone’s talking about it. Everyone knows.

Boy #1: *Complete silence*

Boy #2, sitting next to Boy #1: Well anyway, even I could sleep with her. Everyone could.

I kept walking, disgusted, a little shocked, and disappointed that I hadn’t had the courage to speak up and tell them what I thought of their conversation.

Basic decency 101

I don’t even know where to start, there are so many things running through my mind.

So I’ll start at the beginning. The face-slap moment. That word. That I won’t say again. It took everything I had just to write it. To me, this term is only used for, well, actually sleeping.

Not only was the expression used in such a vulgar context, but hearing a teenager using it so casually, like she’d say ‘ketchup’, ‘Saturday’ or ‘house’, with total nonchalance, made my hair stand on end.

And then, the conversation where they degraded and humiliated a girl, and upset the first boy, was completely out of line.

There was no respect, no sense of decency, no empathy in the words of the girl and the second boy.

Not to generalize, but…

Okay, okay, okay. You’re going to tell me that not all kids and teens are like this, that they don’t all talk this way, and I agree. But if these three teens could have a conversation like this in public, without being the least uneasy or having any sense of it being wrong (I mean, I walked RIGHT past them), something tells me that they aren’t the only ones to act this way and use terms that should be banned from our vocabulary, or at least banned from public discourse and banned when they have the power to hurt someone.

Education and basic decency starts at home

Yes, we have to learn to let our kids stand on their own two feet, but just because our kids are getting older doesn’t mean we should put our heads in the sand and ignore their behaviour. We all have a role to play at home, and in my opinion, it’s a very important one.

I was still in a fog when I got back home. And keep in mind, wasn’t even 7:00 am yet!

I sat Pierre and the kids down on the sofa, and in a serious tone, told them what I’d just heard. I also took a moment to ask my kids if they’d heard the term before, and of course they knew what it meant.

I carried on with my morning lecture by explaining that if I ever heard such a term from either of them, they had better literally be talking about sleeping. Otherwise, if they used this term in any other context, I’d waste no time in washing their mouths out with soap! If I ever heard of either of them denigrating a girl or boy after having heard stories or gossip about sex, they would regret it!

The last word

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be discussing sex, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs, suicide, alcohol and other important topics. On the contrary: it’s essential to talk about these things and to have open communications with our kids. A lighthearted approach can sometimes even be appropriate, depending on the situation. But it has to be talked about in a respectful manner, and not in a degrading way. There are certainly enough words in our language to express ourselves appropriately!

I’m repeating myself, I know, but education, self-respect and respect for others starts at home. We can’t change other people’s behaviour, but we can certainly help guide our children in their behaviour. And that’s already a good start.

Basic decency101. It won’t change the world, but…

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