Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fatty Fatty Two By Four

One thing that I find very hard to stomach, is trash talking.

But its what fourteen year old boys do. I know this. Apparently, it's an inherent part of the male experience; a rite of passage if you will. As a male, you have to learn how to trash talk, or you become the victim. You have to trash talk in order to demonstrate that you are not easily cowed. That you can laugh at yourself. That you are not some pansy ass who gets hurt or offended by mere words.

This seems to hold true for adult males as well.

Have you seen the movie Gran Torino? There's a scene in the movie where Walt is trying to teach the quiet, passive Thao, how to trash talk. (WARNING: foul language, may not be SFW.)

Most of the time, it's friendly, believe it or not. But sometimes, there is an agressive edge to it just beneath the surface. Sometimes, the smiles hide true malice. But with boys, it's momentary. Someone calls someone a pussy. Someone calls someone else a faggot. They tell each other to fuck off...and it's done. Five mintues later, they're asking to spend the night together.

It always amazes me when this happens. Because if there's one thing I remember from my youth...girls know how to hold a grudge. Oh yes. A girl will make you PAY. And pay. And pay.

So anyway...most of the time, I turn a deaf ear to the trash talk. I endure it and don't interfere. Much.

But yesterday, as the boys were huddled together under the meagre shade of a portable awning waiting for a game to start, my son crossed a line. And I was mortified.

Let me preface this by saying that my eldest son is a genetic aberration in a family full of stolid, round faced, heavy limbed Eastern European peasant stock. He is tall and slender. His limbs are impossibly long, his frame devoid of any excess fat. He has never had an issue with his weight, and probably never will. He is a naturally thin person, which is as much a result of his personal habits as his genetic make-up.

He escews butter, gravy, mayonnaise. He never eats when he's not hungry. He will often wrinkle his nose when offered some sweet inducement. When he does snack, he chooses popcorn, pretzels, a boiled egg, a slice of cheese, a leftover chicken leg, a slice of deli meat.

He is truly blessed.

There is a young man on his team who looks like he sprung forth from the Antagonist family tree. He is stocky and well padded. Solid and strong, but not nimble or quick. He is acutely aware of this and tries to compensate by being the best catcher and batter he can possibly be. Those of you who don't have boys and aren't into baseball might not realize it, but a good catcher; one who won't let anything by him, is absolutely essential to a team's success. And he is good. Really good.

He and my son are particularly well acquainted, being catcher and pitcher. So he and Pubescent One were bantering back and forth, trash talking, poking fun, messin' around.

"You throw like a girl." he said to my son.

Pubescent One grinned. He doesn't throw like a girl and he knows it. So does everybody else. Thus, the insult was accepted with good grace. He countered with...

"Oh yeah? Well you're fat."

I gasped in horror.

The young man grinned as widely at Pubescent One's insult as Pubescent One had at his. He had no choice. But I knew he was smarting from that.

"Pubescent One Antagonist! That is OVER the line!" I said.

"We're just kidding around Mom." His tone was bewildered.

"I don't want to hear that again." I warned.

"Yes Ma'am." he said contritely.

I didn't say anything more, because I didn't want to embarass the other child further by making a big deal. But later at home...

I asked him how he would feel if someone called me fat. Or his Dad. Or his brother. Or his grandfather, who is a very, very big man, but one of the most gentle, loving, generous people you would ever meet.

"Bad." he admitted.

"Why?" I prodded.

"Because I know it would make you feel bad."

"Uh huh."

"But I was just kidding Mom! I didn't mean it. I like Catcher."

"It doesn't matter if you meant it or not. It hurt him. He had no choice but to sit there and act like it didn't, but it did. That child has never been anything but nice to you has he?"

"No Ma'am. But it's just what we do, you know that."

"I do know that. And most of the time, I don't say anything, even though I don't like it. But there is a fine line between good natured trash talking, and personal insults that cut deeply. You crossed that line today buddy. You have no idea how hard it is to be fat. You have no idea how bad it makes you feel about yourself. You have no idea how much it hurts when somebody calls you names. But I watched Aunt Antagonist struggle with it her whole life, and now I'm watching your brother struggle with it. And even Dad and I have to deal with it from time to time. Remember that time you were in fifth grade and some little pissante was teasing you about your fat Mom? How did that make you feel?"

"Sad. Because you're not fat and you're a good Mom."

"Well, Catcher is a good ball player and a good friend, and he doesn't deserve to be made to feel bad about himself. And you know what else? You can't unsay that. You can apologize, but it won't erase those words. He will always remember that you called him fat. And it will always hurt his feelings, because now he has realized that what you see first when you look at him is not a friend, or an excellent catcher, but a fat kid."

He was silent a moment, processing what I had said.

"I think I'll apologize anyway."

"That would be a nice gesture."

"Okay. Mom? I'm sorry I embarassed you."

"You didn't embarass me, dude, you embarassed yourself."

Later, I heard fervent murmurs coming from his room. I'm hoping those were the sounds of a heartfelt apology. But I don't know. I don't know if he can really understand how hurtful his words were and why it was different from calling someone a douchebag or a queer (though I don't like that one either) or a retard (ditto).

Life is easy for him. He is intelligent and self confident. He makes friends easily, girls fall all over him. He is tall, slender and naturally athletic. He is highly adaptable and fits into new situations with ease.

I worry about that.

Because people have to suffer some kind of heartache or hardship to develop empathy and compassion. He's really and truly a nice kid and I do know that he really didn't mean to hurt that other kid's feelings. He simply has no frame of reference for how deeply such words can wound.

Sigh. You'd think I would just be content and enjoy the fact that one of my children has it easy in life, wouldn't you? But no. I can't.

Because I don't want my son to be an asshole. And I'm sort of afraid he's heading down the asshole highway in a big old asshole mobile.

What's a Mom to do?


  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger Notes and letters to myself.... said…

    All kids say "assholic" things -- that doesn't mean they are all going to grow up to become mean assholes. You are a great mom -- he'll learn.

  • At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Amy @ Suburban Kvetch said…

    God you are such a good mom. And you have such a good kid. You'll both survive adolescence, I swear. I don't usually compare posts, but I basically heard a mom trash-talking herself today while I was shopping and I wrote about it.

  • At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Tracy (t-gardens) said…

    What's a Mom to do? Exactly what you did BA. My ex used to call me names all the time, most I couldn't even type here... so my son doesn't stand a chance with name-calling. I call him out *every* single time. Through us, hopefully they can learn to be compassionate.

    You're doin' a great job :o)

  • At 9:46 PM, Anonymous Laurie said…

    He's not headed down the asshole highway. His response to your correction demonstrated that in a BIG way. I am very impressed with his heart in the midst of correction. (I speak with experience - I have a 15 year old son! :) )

  • At 10:59 PM, Blogger jess said…

    I agree with Laurie. His response is what counts. If he was headed down that highway he wouldn't have cared that he hurt the other guy's feelings.

    Having it easy but being called on your treatment of others by someone more experienced is the less painful way to learn compassion, but it requires a lot more conscious effort. It's hard but he'll be the best kind of person for it. You've been giving him the tools he needs his whole life and he's obviously up to using them. Good job, BA.

  • At 1:49 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    BA, he will learn empathy from two great parents. And no matter who we are, how we look, or how many friends we have, at some point we all experience tragedy. He'll be able to handle what comes his way with grace and empathy because of what he has learned from you. And then he'll be able to teach it to others.

  • At 2:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a great man (men) you are raising. I've always believed that we parents aren't raising children, but are raising small, young people to be adults.
    I was never a slim child. I was outright fat when I was 10 & 11 and had terrible acne. I medicated myself with food.
    No one said much about my weight to my face but I still remember the first day of 6th grade when a boy looked at me and said "damn, girl, you have zits all over your face!" I wish I'd been brave enough to come back with "No shit, Sherlock!" Sherlock probably didn't connect that comment with the fact that I didn't glance twice at him 2 years later after I'd dropped 30 pounds & my skin had cleared.
    My 9 year old daughter is slim, like my late-husband. My 11 year old is built like me. She's 2 inches shorter than I & there is only 5lbs. difference in our weight, but the big difference is she is solid muscle ;)
    The same boy who suggested to her 2 years ago that she should drop some weight has changed his tune considerably. Her opinion of him will not change.
    Ame in TN

  • At 6:55 AM, Blogger Unknown said…

    Logic compels me to remark that it might be overstating the case to say that he "has things easy in life" only because he is naturally slender. Although I've struggled with weight and self-esteem for my whole life, even I have to admit that pretty much all of my actual real-life problems have little to do with my weight.

    And on an unrelated note, your son sounds like a terrific young man in the making. You should be proud, girl!

    And on an even more unrelated note, good luck on the reality show thing.

  • At 5:44 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Although I think it's too soon to tell, I worry about my kids being assholes, too. Although I'd rather them be assholes than be bullied and I'm even more scared of that. I'm hoping for a happy medium but that might be too good to be true.


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