It was the first time I actually got to see my son play the video game he’d raved about playing at his buddy’s house for months. We were visiting my brother and like every 30-something year old male suffering from terminal arrested development, my brother had a gaming system or two ‑an X-box 360 and Playstation. The kids were in hog heaven since I don’t have one of these boxes of evil at my house. Uncle Matt was a kindred spirit. He could burp, fart, stocked massive quantities of fruit roll-up, and had a huge video game collection. My 8- and 12-year old sons, Ryan and Ethan, sunk into the black leather sofa and set out to make the world a safer place for mankind by machine-gunning down each other in a game called Halo.
For those of you that don’t know what Halo is, let me enlighten you. It’s not your typical shoot-em-up video game. What makes Halo so different is that it is an on-line multi-player game. People from all over the world can play and interact. But Halo isn’t exactly the United Nations of video games. This isn’t where the elite meet for some cultural exchange. Playing Halo, people of all ages, educational backgrounds. and warped beliefs, are able to interact with –in this case, my kids.
As I was wrapping my head around this rather scary notion, my eldest, a rather sweet-natured musician, machine-gunned down his younger brother, my intuitive-artist. The two of them screamed like testosterone drunk silver-back apes. As my little one’s character laid flat waiting to revive, my victorious older son, stood over the now dead soldier body of his brother and made his own soldier do some sort of victorious happy dance. Only this wasn’t the kind of prideful display you see on a football field. The winning soldier appeared to be humping his dead victim in humiliating glory. That struck me as odd.
“What are you doing to him?” I asked.
“Tea-bagging him,” he said without hesitation.
My brother almost lost his lunch in a fit of hysterics that set in with the suddenness of a herpes flare-up. He asked if I knew what the expression meant. No one in the room did. Not even my sons, who used it. So, my brother enlightened us all. Tea-bagging is the act of dipping one’s testicles into the open mouth of another person, kind of like dipping a tea bag in and out of a cup of water. I shot a look of horror towards my sons as they groaned in perfect synchronized disgust “Ewwwwww!”
“Did you know what that meant?” I asked Ethan
“Heck NO!” he said.
“Well, who taught you the expression?” I asked, realizing my son’s real world education is largely beyond my control.
Here is where the plot thickens. Apparently, this gem of enlightenment came from his buddy Ben, who is the hyperactive, somewhat dorky, and completely innocent son of one of my most conservative mom-friends ‑the very same friend who was horrified when Ethan mooned her pure children in their pool. The perfection of my son’s tush escaped the church lady and his act of kiddie porn necessitated several conversations as well as new pool rules to prevent such scandalous horrors in the future. So, imagine my chagrin when I learned, the source of Ethan’s latest vocabulary word. This called for an email.
Dear Cynthia…I am sure you are as shocked at the info Ben has picked up on-line as we were. There is limitless supply of inappropriate info in these online games. Apparently prejudiced terms are also used frequently. This is why we don’t allow them in our home. I know that you run a somewhat conservative household, and I felt that you would want to know what Ben has picked up on Halo. After the mooning incident, I know you were offended and now I can totally relate.
I sent the email and then did my own happy parent dance gloating over yet another lesser-Mom. True my son might be a flasher, but at least I didn’t leave his sex ed to teenagers playing Halo. My son was no tea-bagger! Polly Puritanical’s response was surprisingly appreciative and got to the heart of the matter rather succinctly.
Dear Ellen…Thank you for keeping the lines of communication open. We have discussed this with Ben and will inform the parents of his friends who play Halo as well. We no longer allow him to play Halo without supervision. But, the one question that remains is…what is the difference between tea-bagging and a simple blow job?”
I had to laugh at the response and the whole experience. It’s true we need to monitor our kids’ activities on the Internet with care. We never know what they might learn or not learn. Heck, without proper adult guidance, they could grow up not knowing the critical difference between tea-bagging and a blow job (see: www.urbandictionary.com –to settle the great tea-bag/BJ debate)