Is raunch culture invading our everyday language?
For those fortunate enough to plead ignorance to the meaning of the disrespectful MILF term, let me just say I am just plain envious. I’ve not been spared that good fortune since I have a relative who’s a raging sexual compulsive, and his idea of bonding with me is to share his latest sexual exploits with me. Since that’s a non-stop endeavor of his, I hear way too much, stop him though I try. He blames me for creating “distance” when I remind him there’s lots of other topics to talk about besides swinger vacation clubs, best strip clubs ever, and his by-now-ubiquitous “fave porn star of the day” category.
(Note to the disbelievers that sex addiction is real: when an otherwise-intelligent man’s entire conversational and experiential repertoire can only revolve around sexual pursuit, there’s definitely a problem. Ahem.)
Said relative was recently visiting me for the afternoon and we went out to lunch. Perusing the menu items in the French restaurant, I was chagrined by the amount of calories I’d be consuming, since I was trying to lose a stubborn 10 pounds that had mysteriously accumulated on me recently. I tried to make light of it by mentioning my quandary, but my relative interrupted me with:
“Oh don’t be ridiculous! You’re hot! In fact, you are one of my all-time favorite MILFs”
“Huh?” I responded.
“Oh, don’t be coy! You are one hot MILF!” he continued, tearing into a buttery croissant.
Puzzled, I shrugged, thinking how either he’d developed a serious lisp since last I saw him, or perhaps he was lightheaded with hunger also. I picked up a croissant.
“Nah, come on, Lili, you’re kidding me, right? Tell me you don’t know what MILF stands for? Seriously.”
“No, I do not,” I assured him. “Should I?” His charade was starting to irk me. I had low blood sugar and wasn’t at all interested in learning a new word just now.
“Oh my God, Lili, what rock have you been living under? It stands for: Mothers I’d Like To Fuck, and that’s one of the most popular categories of porn, everyone knows that!,” he scoffed, finishing his croissant and eyeing mine.
I sat there dumbstruck.
Stunned gave way to a state of shock. I wondered whether I should enlighten him that even though we’re not living in some backwater homestead, that incest is still generally frowned upon. Or, should I tell him his brain was turning to mush from all the porn he watches non-stop? I started to tear apart my croissant.
Was it just me, or was I being bullied, along with everyone else, into having to accept porn’s invasion into everyday life with its coarseness as the new norm? The new conventional? Contemporary. Vulgar. But always cool.
Unperturbed by my disassociated staring down at the fleur-de-lis tablecloth, he felt obliged to help refine his definition for me: “Well, it’s like…you are hot! It’s just that the MILF term doesn’t refer to the hot young chicks. Which, given your age, isn’t really your category anymore. You know? Like, now you have your own category. That’s kind of sex-positive, don’t you think?“
Unfixing my stare, I started to look around for sharp instruments on the table. I knew I should’ve saved my visit with him for after my glucose levels had risen sufficiently to afford me better levity. He never fails to push the envelope of my patience.
“See,” he began again, very carefully selecting his words, “You aren’t a hot chick. That’s just the really young girls. You are now more like one of the soup chickens. You know? Like, they’re not as tender as the chicks are, but in my opinion, they’re actually a whole lot tastier.”
Pleased with himself, he wiped the corners of his mouth with his napkin and threw it down triumphantly on the table.
As the room began to spin, I prayed silently: Dear God, please, immediately remove any serrated eating implements from off this table or prepare to accompany me in prison for the next 20 years.
I left him at the corner three short blocks from home and stumbled, narcotized, through the rest of my afternoon. I couldn’t yet identify the traumatizing effects of the newly-installed, heartless meme going around and around in my head, hectoring me relentlessly:
“Lili….you are a soup chicken…you are a soup chicken… you are a soup chicken…you are a soup chicken…”
You know how you’ve never heard of a word before in your life and then when you do, you just know it’ll crop up again within a few days? Sure enough, two days later, while sitting on a bus, I was leafing through a glossy magazine someone had left behind on the seat. It was one of those high-end “Life in the Big City” types of magazines, complete with endless pages of the Manhattan glitterati posing with cosmos at their important charity balls, all laser-whitened, perfect teeth offsetting Hampton-tanned, Juvederm-plumped skin, ballyhooing the good life.
I thumbed through pages of photos showcasing spectacular penthouse apartments for sale with wraparound gardens and Hudson River sunset views in the 20 million dollar category plus baronial-looking ads from agencies seeking to place butlers, governesses and groundskeepers for employment on your estate. Wow. So, this is how the other half lives. Fascinating! Sure beats the heck out of looking out the rain-streaked dirty window of the bus I was in.
Just as I turned the page, I spot a noticeably large ad for a gym showing a photo of a young woman with a tiny bit of a belly, gleefully jumping up in the air in her workout clothes. Next to her are huge, colorful graphics that scream:
“New Moms! It’s Almost Summer! It’s Beach-time! Is Your Body MILF-Ready?”
No, it can’t be. Must be a misspelling. I pull the magazine up closer to my face in the event that my reading glasses have failed me.
There it was, again: Is Your Body MILF-Ready?
A maybe six year-old child was sitting on the bus next to me, leaning in, half in my lap, eagerly looking at all the pretty pictures in my glossy magazine. As I peered down at the ad, I imagined a horrifying scenario: this precocious-looking child next to me, no doubt having already mastered reading the entire Harry Potter series, scrunching up his face at me and asking me,
“Um, what is M-I-L-F?” It wasn’t outside the realm of possibilities; the giant, brightly colored block letters on the page could easily lasso his attention.
Rut-row. Time to switch to a different seat. Quick, before my reverie about this child could become a reality.
I look down at the ad again. Does this gym here actually mean to conflate that nasty porn-derived term with motherhood? Does this mean that within two days time, I have to go from not knowing what this word means, to knowing what it means, to now having to allow opprobrium to chalk up another win? Oh, just damn, Skippy!
Are women ever allowed a break from not looking their dang hottest, not even a few weeks after just having a baby? Good God, MILF with a tiny infant? What have we become?
And I am not alone with these porn-into-mainstream experiences. Recently, my friend Terre went to her Netflix account and checked out the tab labeled, Our Recommendations for You.
First on the list of films they thought Terre would like, was a film called MILF. She never clicked on their second choice.
Instead, she called to tell me and with both of us taken aback, we just sat in silence on the phone together. After all, what is there to say when you’re trying to digest something you find distasteful and dare I say it and brand myself as the uncoolest of uncool ever: crude?
I’m well aware that that descriptor word generally greases the track for big success in any pop culture product nowadays, but I’ll say it anyway: crude fails as an art form for me.
A popular genre film titled, MILF? What?!
It’s not like Terre wandered into a XXX video store, after all. Yeah, she and I get it about humor in films. And we wonder about that kind of humor, the kind that has to keep upping the ante on grossness because last year’s gross doesn’t even earn a chuckle this year.
But, mostly, what we resist is the insistence that everyone just accept that it’s cool to lift and use terms from the increasingly popular lexicon of pornography.
Advertising that seems to say: “It’s so catchy! It’s cute, even! Make these terms part of your daily vocabulary and you, too, can be cool and not notice any class, decorum, or regard for yourself or others slipping away from you whatsoever.”
Painless, this reach for being cool.
In just one week, three references to MILF had invaded my world, and I was filled with increasing heaviness. I’ve only felt this bleak despair while handing tissues to tearful wives of sex/porn addicts as they share their heartbreaks with me during counseling sessions.
Optimism was fast evaporating, and the gloss of the high life I had momentarily escaped into had sunk to the bottom of a big, black dross pit. Uh-oh.
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