Monday, March 26, 2012

"Stop Wearing My Underwear!"

(NOT my boys) Aquaman and Captain America, 'Strike a Pose'
Micheal's immortal words.
With three adolescent and teenage boys in the house––you're sure to hear a number of 'things that make you go hmmm.'

I live in a home, dominated by pre-teen and teenage life forms. As of the writing of this post, I have a feisty 15-year-old daughter, an almost 14-year-old son an twins boys nearly 12. My home is rampant with heightened levels of food intake, testosterone (the boys), hormones (all four) and rolling eyes (mostly my daughter). The level of sarcasm and contempt in our home is at near toxic levels.

What's more, I grew up an only child so I have very little frame-of-reference for the multi-child mayhem that ensues on a daily basis. 

"Animal Print Pants Out of control!"
Sure, I've had my share of wrestling matches ("peacocking"), sports competitions (Hoops and Volleyball were my biggies, though I was no stranger to the bench press, either). So, though I was raised by a struggling, single Mom, I feel I had a well-rounded upbringing. At least, that is, until I had my three sons.

Yet, no matter what your childhood was like, there is little in life that can prepare you for the onslaught of ear smoldering comments that effortlessly spew from the lips of your precious prodigy. I'm not talking about the occasional "Leave me alone!" cried out when one child annoys another past the point of tolerance. Oh no, dear reader, this post is about the raging insanity my three boys blurt out to one another over the course of any given day.

Over the last few months alone, my children have uttered the following statements to one another:

    "Quit showing me your wiener!"
    "Stop eating my food!"
    "Don't kick me in the nuts!"
    "Stop doing the LMFAO "Wiggle-wiggle-wiggle-wiggle" dance!"
    "Will you please stop following me!"
    "Stop sitting on m y head!"
    "Don't get out of the car at my school–it's weird!"
    "Dad, he's flicking boogers at me again!"

and of course,

    "Stop wearing my underwear!"

Boys will be boys, sure. They have been caught wrestling naked after showers or changing from time spent at the pool. This is stuff I kind of expect. But, erotic break dancing? Really?

"Damn he fly!"
My real concern is that they find this behavior acceptable as adolescents. I always need to be mindful of odd or even deviant behavior developing in them. What they do as adults will be conscious decisions for them later in life. I can't have three boys parading around in their birthday suits while blasting LMFAO–neither their sister nor I will survive.

I've got to say, the "I'm sexy and I know it" culture is a runaway train of hormones and attitude out of control. Of course this conversation isn't old; Elvis was banned from many TV shows and music venues because of his gyrating pelvis, and everyone from Mick Jagger to Steven Tyler to Prince to Madonna have had all kinds of backlash due to their sexually charged entertainment.

It doesn't mean Dad has to like it.

Now I used to get really upset at how my children talk to one another. Less so now. These days, I am convinced this is how they maintain the hierarchy of their pack. Like a wolf pack, they have pecking order and Alpha(s) must subdue the others in order to establish dominance.


However, none of this helps me to understand why any of this encourages a young man to wear his sibling's unmentionables. Your brother's T-Shirt or socks? Sure. Hey, as a self-styled kid at heart, I can totally relate to the "wild & crazy guy" schtick. But when it comes to wrapping your package in someone else's loincloth, well, as Hall & Oats once said; "I can't go for that".

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mortified In The Darkness.

A long time ago, in a movie theater thousands of miles away… a nine-year old boy's heart was broken.

Early June, 1977, Boston, Massachusetts. It was the best of times—mainly because I didn't know any better. There was a mad buzz about this new Star Wars flick. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I bugged my Mom for weeks to take me to see it. She had heard of it and had VERY little interest–but with my persistence (Can we go, huh? Can we? Can we go? Can we go, huh? Can we?), I was able to sway her to the dark side and coerce her to plunk down the $2 ticket price to take me to the flick that everyone was talking about.

Star Wars changed my life! It was big, loud, inventive full of imagination and wonder and showed off some of the best Sci-Fi anyone had ever seen anywhere! EVER! I was a fan for life, hooked from the moment the lights dimmed. 
Oh Snap! They make movies like this?
The Death Star blew me away (ha ha! get it?) and I remember seeing that opening Star Destroyer sequence as it roared by overhead for what, at that time, seemed like weeks! Does this fantastic thing ever stop? It's huge! The audience was gasping and transfixed. Lasers bursting, loud explosions, the sound effects. I was on sensory overload – and I was loving every minute of it!

Then, the most unbelievable realization hit me – one that will haunt me to the end of my days. Some people attending the movie actually had NO IDEA what they were watching when they saw that movie. It completely dumb-founded some movie-goers.

Like, my Mom.

Somewhere between taking off from Mos Eisely and being caught in the Death Star's space-monster-ridden trash compactor, my Mom and her boyfriend both went to sleep. Through Star Wars? Really? How is THAT even possible?

(snoring, shudders awake) "– oh, what?"
"Wake up!"
"Oh, ok…"

"You, quit napping during the movie!"
The concept of someone falling asleep during what was one of the greatest action movies ever made, was impossible for me to comprehend. I was bewildered, astonished! Even to this day. Look, I understand a lot of people didn't (and–gasp! — still don't) enjoy these movies on a level that I do, but to fall asleep? Really?

I have heard accounts of how people back in the early days of silent cinema would go to the movies (then exclusively silent films, sometimes with music–they didn't become "talkies" for decades), and would literally run screaming from theaters because a locomotive was filmed coming down the tracks at the viewers and they thought it was a real train bearing down on them. Or like the infamous War of The Worlds radio broadcast from 1938 where people had actually thought we were living through an alien invasion from Mars.
"People everywhere loved Star Wars–even PEOPLE!"
It has also been said that people in 1977, were largely unprepared for the hi-tech visual and sensory onslaught that became the Star Wars franchise. It’s been further theorized that audiences didn't have a background of special effects exposure, scientific understanding and experiential maturity to fully grasp what Lucas and company presented to them back in '77. 

Some dismissed it as 'foolishness' (a common critique Star Wars enjoys even today) or simply disregarded as an incomprehensible collection of wild, out-of-this-world ideas. When this happens, our brains can feel overloaded and will simply shut down. Or, my Mom simply might not have cared about what she was watching and thought that dark theater was a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep from raising a hyper nine-year old over-stimulated by imagery from campy space movies.

Losing their 'train' of thought...
Whatever overcame them had the exact opposite effect on me. I am a fan boy—a hopeless addict of this stuff for life. What’s more, I have raised a household full of hopelessly addicted sci-fi, gaming and comic book nuts. Yes, even my teenage daughter knows more about the ridiculous details of the Battle of Endor (Ewoks took down the Empire? Really, George?) than most adults.

Maybe my Midi-chlorians are all in an uproar over the thought of my Mom sleeping through Star Wars but I think if you’re a person that dozes off at a Star Wars movie, well my heart is saddened by the loss of the bright-eyed child in you that has long since died.

In the now less-than-prophetic words of Jedi-master Yoda; “Tragic news this is… and unfortunate.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

You're not alone.

MJ had it right
Whether you're on the road, in the supermarket or in the gym–it is quite possible you are NOT the only person on Earth.

So my daughter (15) and I were at Costco last weekend. Standing in line at checkout and a Costco employee comes out of seemingly nowhere and drops a big red plastic hang sign on the handle bars of the cart that reads "CLOSED". Moments later a woman gets in line behind me and takes her items out of her cart, reaches OVER my cart to put hers stuff on the conveyor belt behind mine–using a plastic divider–and completely disregards the sign hanging on my cart.
Going it alone – Big Willie Style

Moments later, no fewer than three others line up behind her. After the cashier looks up from scanning my stuff, she tells everyone that the lane is closed. Every-single-person behind me is mortified. Rolling eyes, sighing, mumbling under their breath. My daughter and I then look at each other and share the "are you kidding me?" stare. How did all these people miss a 22" Closed sign in big red letters on my cart. Did they think I was buying it? How on Earth did you arrive at THAT delusional conclusion?

This scenario simply reinforces my belief that our world is NOT a bad place. We're all just unfocused. Like many of the people in Costco, if something doesn't scream out at us, we just simply don't pay attention or even worse, we just don't care.

I know why, too.

We all just have too many distractions; like spouses and significant others, careers, children, bills, the economy, war (or the threat thereof), music, iPods, iPhones, iPads, movies, television, books, the environment, our health, our weight, insurance, the housing market, The Real Housewives of Berwin, the Walking Dead, Sports Center, Angry Birds, the Khardasians, Global warming (yes its real), Charlie Sheen and the Greek bailout just to name the first two dozen examples that come to mind.

It's too much to retain so we simply zone out, tune out, shut up and stay only semi-aware of some of the things that we deem important. We become social recluses, retreating to our own comfy worlds than deal with the real one which is often scary and not very nice. We pretend we're trolls who hang out in dark places, comforted by the self-pitying idea that we're alone.

We're not.
Uh oh

Look around, there are friends, relatives, allies and spiritual boosters everywhere. More importantly, acknowledge that there are others out there. Look, people suck, I know. So much so it might make us want to tune out the world around us. Don't do it! It is imperative we remain aware of the world around us. Did you know–that texting while driving is dozens of times more deadly than even driving drunk? It's because when you drive drunk, your eyes are actually still on the road, so even though your reaction timing is shot, you still have a much better chance than someone NOT EVEN LOOKING AT THE ROAD! Even someone who falls asleep at the wheel has better response timing because they can–and here's the kicker–wake up!

So here's the solution, its simple, really. Pay better attention. Be alert to the world around you. It's not just good safety advice, its good common sense. Lets put the phone down while driving, look both ways when you cross a street, read the directions before you destroy dinner. Yes, even read the fine print. When we're snapped out of our own world, we might just realize we are not alone in it, and that's not an altogether bad thought.

Heck, you might even notice the big red Closed sign on the cart in front of you in Costco.
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