The bare necessities

2008-10-30 00:00

I walked into a friend’s house the other day and was met by a sight that not only rendered me speechless, but also made me realise how much things have changed since I was a snotty-nosed member of the nappy brigade.

Sprawled on the couch between a tutu-clad teddy bear and a purple dinosaur, with legs aloft advertising it wares for all to admire, was a doll — but not just any doll, an unmistakably male doll. And I know this not because he was wearing blue booties, if you get my drift — in fact, flasher boy didn’t have a stitch on.

Before I create the wrong im-pression, let me hasten to add that the object of my confoundment belonged to my friend’s little girl and it wasn’t a kinky inflatable toy from the adult shop.

Given that the close inspection of children’s toys has never been a priority of mine, a doll sporting trouser furniture was an eyeful as well as an eye-opener, more so because when I was a child all dolls were female.

We played with Rosy and Mandy, never Joey or Andy.

Admittedly I did have Rupert Bear, but he was different — even when he was bare, he didn’t bear anything other than fur.

Laughing at my look of astonishment, my friend explained that times have changed and children nowadays need to be a lot savvier for their own good and protection. Apparently bestowing one’s unmentionables with quirky little nicknames is also discouraged and all body parts should be called by their proper names. The theory is that dolls with authentic-looking appendages aid in this process and, believe me, this little chap was nothing if not authentic.

“You don’t give your mouth or your eyes a funny name, so why anything else?” said my friend.

Had I not still been dumbstruck, I could have told her we called our eyes “peepers” and our mouth a “cake hole”, but I suppose she has a point.

In my family, though, things were different. We couldn’t just bandy names around willy-nilly as several rather staid relatives went by the unfortunate titles of Fanny and Mickey (not forgetting the inevitable Uncle Willy, without whom no family is complete) and naming body parts after them would have soured relations.

Therefore, and presumably for want of a better description, my dad always referred to one’s personal bits as credentials, regardless of their persuasion.

As children it was impressed upon us that one did not show one’s credentials to anyone else, kicking boys in their credentials wasn’t very nice and referring to them in company was not appropriate — especially if the company happened to be the aforementioned relatives.

It was only when a primary school teacher described our new headmaster as having an impeccable set of credentials and not a single person other than me howled with laughter, that the realisation began to dawn that it might mean something else.

It also explained why working on them would ensure a decent job later in life. This had been particularly confusing given the explicit instruction not to fiddle with them.

Obviously when I grew up I understood the real meaning of the word but it still held other connotations for me, which confirms the danger of giving nicknames to things that shouldn’t have them.

So, if a doll with trouser accessories is considered educational and calling things by their proper name is encouraged — who am I to argue?

At least tomorrow’s young adults will not be caught with their pants down, so to speak. Unlike me, when at my very first job interview the personnel manager put on his spectacles and, peering across his desk, asked to see my credentials.

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