Sometime last year, the Hubby gave a presentation on careers to a room full of high school students. At the end of the workshop, he was presented with a thank you card that had been signed by all of the students. A few of the students were even kind enough to add a few feedback comments for him to consider. Now, we were all teenagers once. We know what they can be like. Heck, I know what I was like. Full of opinions? Oh yes. Thought I knew everything about absolutely everything? Definitely. Sarcastic with a twist of eye rolling? You betcha. So when Gregor called me up afterwards to tell me that the teenage participants had given him some constructive feedback, I felt a sudden pang of nervousness deep down in my gut. It could all be really good…..or really, really, really bad.
“So was it good feedback? Did they like your presentation?” I asked him over the phone, looking up to the ceiling and quietly praying that their words were kind.
“Well, I’m not sure,” he said, sounding rather confused. ” I think so, but I don’t know.”
“Why? What did they say?” I asked him. How could he not know whether their comments were good or not? What in the world did the students write?
“They said I’ve got swag.”
“Wait….what? What the hell is swag?” I was baffled.
“Well, I’m not sure. I thought you might know.”
Now, let me clarify that I’ve been at home with small children for over five years. My only contact with the outside world tends to be weekly trips to Costco, frequent visits to the area playgrounds that are also filled with small children, and the odd date night that rarely ends after 10pm. I’m hardly ‘down with kids’. I’m not saying I’m a total dork (is that word still used?), but let’s just say the slang words in my repertoire date back to at least 1999.
“The only swag I know of is the swag that they hand out at the Oscars ceremony. You know….each celebrity gets a big swag bag filled with diamonds and all sorts of fancy stuff. Did you get a bag of something?” I was grasping at straws, but it was all I could think of.
“Nope, that’s definitely not it.”
“Are you sure?” I asked him. “No freebies or gift bags?”
“None that I can see.” He sounded bemused. That made two of us.
“Oh. Well, how about I look up swag on that Urban Dictionary website?”
“Good idea.” One way or another, we were going to figure out what the heck ‘swag’ was and why exactly my husband had it.
I searched for the definition of ‘swag’ on the website and read through the entire explanation. And then I read through it again. And then again. After the third read through of the definition, I was more confused than when I started. I thought these slang websites are supposed to be helpful? What’s the point of explaining slang words by using more slang words? My head was starting to ache.
“Did you find it?” Gregor asked, sounding hopeful.
“Well…..yes,” I replied.
“I still don’t understand what it means.” I put down the iPad and started to look through our medicine cabinet for some Ibuprofen. Modern culture is exhausting.
“But is there a definition of swag? Does it explain what it means?”
“Yeah, there’s a definition of swag, but you probably need a teenager to tell you what it means.”
“Well, does it sound like a good thing? You know, to have swag?”
I wasn’t sure, so I just decided to read the entire definition aloud to him over the phone.
“It sounds like it might be a good thing,” he said after a moment.
“Yeah, I think so. It doesn’t sound that bad. So can I call you Swag Man or Swaggy from now on?” I asked him. I knew what his answer would be, but it was worth a try anyway.
“No,” he said sternly.
“Oh.”Party pooper. Where was his sense of fun?
So we went about our business, just assuming that it’s a good thing to have ‘swag’ and agreeing not to confuse ourselves on Urban Dictionary any further. Someday we’d just ask a teenager what the heck ‘swag’ is and then we’d be that little bit wiser.
Last Saturday, that day finally came. The swag mystery was finally solved. But then this happened……
We were having dinner at the home of our lovely (and much hipper) friends, Chad and Kristin, and their niece, Mack, was over for a visit. Mack is fourteen, incredibly stylish and very cutting-edge. She was sure to know what ‘swag’ is and whether it’s a good thing if someone tells you that you have it. So while we were all sitting around and munching on our dessert, I decided to ask Mack about ‘swag’.
“Oh, yeah, it can be a good thing,” she explained. She looked a little confused as to why we were asking her, so we told her about Gregor’s presentation and what the students wrote in his card.
“It’s good,” she confirmed, nodding her head. We still didn’t really know what it meant, but we were happy with ‘it’s good’. It might be that she was just sparing our feelings by being nice and it actually means something horrible, but whatever…we weren’t going to push it.
Normal people probably would have stopped the slang questioning then, but Kristin and I aren’t normal. We wanted to know more. We had a teenager with a head full of modern slang before us and we were ready to be educated.
“So what other slang words are in right now? What else should we know?” I asked her. Gregor glared at me with one of those “What are you doing?!!” looks and I mouthed “What?!!” right back at him. He rolled his eyes and looked over at Chad, who was also rolling his eyes.
“Yeah,” Kristin chirped in, “What else is cool right now?” Mack grinned and rolled her eyes. I’m pretty sure the kids don’t say ‘cool’ anymore, but I didn’t want to hurt Kristin’s feelings.
The husbands sat there in their chairs, shaking their heads and muttering to each other about how dorky Kristin and I are and how we’ll never be ‘up with the times’. As if they are. We are totally hipper than they are.
Mack sat down on the couch between Kristin and I, ready to educate us on modern slang language and what it means. We sat there like eager little school children, ready to soak it all in and then walk away a trendier version of our current selves.
But then Mack started rattling off the slang words.
“Do you know what ratchet means?” she asked us. Kristin and I looked blankly at each other. Not a clue.
“Is that a tool?” I asked. That was my best guess. I’m pretty sure Gregor has a ratchet in the garage.
Mack sighed and shook her head. “No, it means gross. A nasty, annoying person.”
Strike one for me.
“What about to turn up….do you know what that means?” She asked us.
“Oooh! To turn up at a party!” Kristin yelled out. She looked so proud of herself.
“No.” Mack responded. “It means to, like, go wild.” Kristin looked crushed. She really thought she had that one. The husbands gave a snicker and we both glared at them. As if they knew what it meant!
Two slang strikes for us. We weren’t doing well. Mack started rattling slang words off. There was no point in asking us what they meant, because we obviously didn’t know.
“If you’re killing it, you’re constantly awesome. People say YAAAAAASSSSS a lot. And people are always saying ‘Am I right, Ladies?’ and ‘I can’t even.’ Girls say that a lot.” I was tempted to ask for a piece of paper and a pen to take some notes.
“Oh, and like. Girls say like…like, all the time.” Chad added, smirking at Mack. She glared back at him. Uncles are so annoying.
She ignored his comment and continued on. “And everyone says ‘Can I get an amen?!’ at the end of whatever they’re saying.”
Kristin and I started saying “Can I get an amen?!” over and over again and waving our hands in the air. We thought we were hilarious. Everyone else….not so much. As it turns out, it’s not cool to laugh at your own antics. We were striking out like crazy.
Mack continued on. “Do you know what Bae means?”
“Oh!” Kristin yelled out. “It means Baby!”
“Yeah,” Mack nodded. Kristin looked thrilled that she got one right.
“That’s from Pharrell!” Kristin yelled.
“No,” Mack told her.
“Yes!!!” Kristin insisted. She looked outraged. “It was in that song of his! You know, the ‘Come Get it Bae’ one!! It’s from Pharrell!” Kristin started singing a line from the song.
Mack giggled at her singing and said “No, it was around before that.”
“No it wasn’t! It’s from Pharrell!” Kristin insisted.
“No.” Mack said firmly. Poor Kristin looked a bit crushed. I gave her a sympathetic look.
Mack told us a few more slang words like Dat and Fam. It became really clear to me that teenagers these days really don’t like to fully pronounce or spell out words. I blame it on modern technology. It also became clear to me that I sound more and more like my father every day.
“And do you know what canoodling is?” she asked us.
“Ooh!! I know that one! It’s when you cuddle and kiss and stuff,” I replied. I had to be right about that one. The word ‘canoodle’ has been around forever!
“Well, sort of. It means a lot more now, though. A lot.”
“Oh….are you talking about the full deal?” Kristin asked.
“So if you’re canoodling, you’re going all the way?” I added. My oh my, how times have changed. It used to be such an innocent word.
And then we asked the question that you should never, ever ask a teenager.
“So, Mack, at what age should people stop canoodling?” I asked.
“Yeah, when are people too old to canoodle?” Kristin added.
“Ugh!!” Mack exclaimed. “Like…like…when you’re 30!” She looked completely disgusted. I’m pretty sure she was going to say 25, but she changed her answer at the last minute.
We shouldn’t be canoodling after the age of THIRTY?!!!!! A woman doesn’t reach her sexual prime until the age of thirty! How unfair is that? We reach our prime and then – BAM! – we’re done. Cut off from ‘canoodling’ forever. A man reaches his sexual prime at age eighteen. The world is so unfair.
Kristin and I informed our husbands that they should be grateful for the bonus years of ‘canoodling’ that they have received after the age of thirty. Pack up the passion, put away the fancy panties, kiss goodbye to romantic weekends away. In the eyes of teenagers everywhere, we should just be holding hands and watching re-runs of Law and Order together. In the words of Mack, people are way too saggy and baggy after the age of thirty to be ‘canoodling’. I officially feel ancient.
And then the room broke out into raucous laughter. Maybe all the wine had gone to our heads. Or maybe we were just laughing through the pain of realizing that we’re not ‘killing it’ at all anymore and teenagers everywhere think that we’re really, really old. Either way, it was hilarious.
When we reminded Mack that her forty-year old mother probably ‘canoodles’, she left the room. She was completely done with us. We thanked her for the crash course in slang language and for making us feel a bit more informed when it comes to modern culture.