Friday, May 28, 2010

What I'm About to Tell You Means I'm a Bad Person

What I'm about to tell you means I am a bad person.

I don't like children.  Not as a general rule, anyway.  I do tend to like the mentally retarded, so it's not a question of intelligence or maturity.  And dogs.  I like dogs.  Some dogs.  Well, my dog.  My guess it's more a question of aesthetics--the average adult human looks better to me than the average child does and has the added advantage of not having a voice that splinters every nerve in my body.

Even as a child, I did not much care for my peers, preferring the company of adults, where I could find it--my mother and my father were famously distant people.  I preferred adult talk on adult topics of interest.  Even when the adults weren't too bright.  I was fascinated by the adult world.  I couldn't wait until I could write in real (cursive) writing.  I wanted to read adult books--jumping the gun a few years--doing my eighth-grade oral book report on Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird.  One of my earliest remembered dreams involved me in a miniature city, in a suit, tie, and gray fedora, driving a motorized toy car on a narrow street of nothing but small people like me in their toy cars, driving to our imaginary jobs.

As a child, I resented the concept that somehow children are purer, closer to honesty, innocent.  Not the little twats I grew up with.  No way.  These were the kids in first grade who pinched me for not wearing green on St Patrick's Day--my mother, insisting that we were not Catholics, had failed even to warn me that there even was such a thing.  My best friend in third grade--a guy I had even told he was "handsome" to--stole my shoes and threw them in a creek we crossed on our way back from school.  And the kids in elementary school made merciless fun of a girl named Valerie, who had some type of condition that caused her to smell like a diaper full of two-day-old piss.  In my little Christian heart I wanted to be Valerie's friend, but, frankly, I couldn't take the odor either.

I remember distinctly having to be taught how to tell the truth.  Lying, fabrication, and dissimulation came as naturally to me as sunshine.  I once told a little girl in the playground that the Olympic swimmer and star of the M-G-M Tarzan films, Johnny Weissmuller, was my big brother, despite a 49-year age difference I was too dumb to realize.  She believed me.  Maybe.  This was a girl who always called me "Mustard," thinking she was saying "Buster."  Like I told you, me and the mentally retarded:  likethis.

One of my favorite parts of Ron Currie Jr's 2007 novel God Is Dead is his description of the USA, post-God.  The book, really dark but funny, imagines a world where God has come to earth again in the form of a woman in Darfur and for his trouble gets raped and murdered by the side of the road.  Desperate to have something to worship, the Americans begin to worship their children.  The situation has gotten so bad that the government has had to train therapists to deprogram the parents:
"Mrs. DerSimonian," I say.  "Come on, now.  Tell me how wonderful your son is."
She won't meet my gaze.  Like spooked squirrels her eyes dart to her boy, Levon.  He sits in the cage by the window, warmed by the afternoon sun, content with a coloring book and a box of Crayolas.
"Levon is fine," I tell her, my voice gentle but firm.  "Granted, he's making a mess of that rabbit, giving it pastel green fur and coloring all outside the lines.  But he's fine.  Now tell me, what's so special about him?"
Her eyes come back in my direction but focus on the wall behind me.  "You're just going to shoot me down," she says.  "Tell me how wrong I am."
"That's the process," I say.  "It's for your benefit, Mrs. DerSimonian.  For everyone's benefit, especially Levon's.  You know that."
She draws a deep, shuddering breath, closes her eyes, and puts a hand to her mouth.  "I don't know if I can, today," she says through her fingers.  "We had a scare earlier, and I'm still quite upset."
"Tell me about it," I say.
She opens her eyes again.  Her gaze falls on the sign hanging on the wall behind me, which bears, in embroidered calligraphic letters, the motto of the Child Adulation Prevention Agency:  Children Are Like Any Other Group of People--A Couple of Winners, a Whole Lot of Losers." (57-58)
That part cracks me up.  Every time.  Genius.  Or that's what I think.  My weird sense of humor.

But, then, I'm a bad person.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great book to give at a baby shower!

    Nice timing. We have been talking about signing Malachy--who's 3--up for swimming lessons! I could just take him to 'Silver Lake', the largest mudhole-for-profit in Raleigh. When Fran hit, a sidewall burst and the lake drained, exposing all the leftover stumps and flushing out the accumulated flotsam, jetsam, and urine.

    When Malachy was little and it wasn't 100 degrees outside, I too would run inside the convenience store. I wasn't afraid for him (I always stopped the car and locked the door); instead I always checked if the coast was clear to avoid any dirty looks supplied by bitchy old ladies. It helps that my rear windows are tinted, and that his seat was rear-facing. Now that he's forward facing, he's more conspicuous.

    When I was 4, my dad didn't get along with the neighbors in the apt complex. Well, one day I came home with a cast on my leg (I broke it while riding in a shopping cart yelling, "Faster Daddy, faster!" in the parking lot). Next thing my parents know, social services showed up. While I have no memories of the SS people, my mom, who grew up in the NC Appalachians, received a lecture about serving me Kool-Aid.



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