Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Don't You Go Play Outside

One thing I’ve learned from 18 years of teaching high school is that teenagers are notoriously squeamish about sex.

Well, let me restate that. They’re notoriously squeamish about the idea of their parents having sex.

Think about it. As much as we parents don’t want to have to deal with the idea of our kids “doing it” (and having as much fun as we did at that age), they don’t want to deal with the idea of us doing it. But for different reasons.

We want to protect them from unplanned pregnancies and diseases that a quick shot of penicillin won’t cure anymore (remember those days?). They just think it’s gross. Old people having sex? Eew.

First of all, they can’t believe that we “old people” actually find each other attractive. About 10 years ago one of my 8th graders said, “Mr G, we understand that 20-year-olds find other 20-year-olds attractive. But do 50-year-olds really find other 50-year-olds attractive?”

Without missing a beat I replied, “Yes. And some of you have some very attractive mothers.”

They almost threw up.

Then a few years later, one of my 9th graders was in total denial about the idea that his parents ever had sex.

I rolled my eyes and said, “Matt, you weren’t hatched.”

“OK well it was just that one time.”

“Matt, you have two siblings.”

He was getting a little distraught, but said, “OK, just those three times.”

Then I went for the jugular. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Matt, did your parents ever say to you, ‘Why don’t you go play outside?’”

There was a look of horror as the blood drained from his face, and he screamed, “NOOOOOO!”

I guess he was asked to go play outside a lot.

As I recounted that very story to a group of recent 9th graders, one girl got very quiet and said in a quavering voice, “My parents still tell me to go play outside. Oh eew. That’s just disgusting. They shouldn’t be doing that at their age. They should like each other for other reasons.”

How quaint. How cute even. They should like each other for other reasons. Almost sounds like something we’d tell them.

So then I asked her, how old is too old to be having sex.

Her answer? 40.

I laughed, and she said, “No, Mr G. Don’t tell me anything about you that I really don’t want to know.” As if I’d actually give her the details of my personal life. But then the little light went on over her head.

“Wait a minute. How old are you?”


“And Sofie’s seven. That means…EEEEW!”

And if you think they think the idea of their parents having sex is disgusting enough. Just even hint that their grandparents might still be playing a little “sofa hockey.”

“Oh that’s disgusting, Mr G!”

“Why? Why shouldn’t your grandparents continue to enjoy life?” I’d ask.

“It’s just gross. I mean, all those wrinkles and everything.”

I look at them, I sigh, and then I ask, “Have you ever heard of a product called Viagra?”

“Yeah…” they all go tentatively.

“In general, who is it marketed to?”

“Guys who can’t…”

“No, no,” I say, cutting them off. “What age group generally has that problem?”

They haltingly say, not really wanting to admit it, “Old guys…eew.”

So to you teenagers out there who think that people like your parents (or grandparents) having sex is disgusting, think about when you get to be that old, which I hope that you all do. And admit to yourselves why there’s that lock on your parents’ bedroom door.

And all you parents of teenagers, mess with their heads a little bit. Just for fun, say, “Why don’t you go play outside.”

And watch them run, screaming, from the house.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whiter Than Sour Cream?

Weird Al Yankovic was in town last month, and we had to go see him. All four of us. Even our seven-year-old daughter is a big Weird Al fan, and she thought it was absolutely “awesome” when he came and sang on our table. Not at it, but on it.

One of Weird Al’s songs is called White and Nerdy, which is a parody of Ridin by Chamillionaire, and it talks about how he is just too…well…white and nerdy. He goes so far as to describe himself as being “whiter than sour cream.” And I understood the joke. No, not the obvious one on him.

The one on me.

I complained back in March of last year about the friends and colleagues who said that I was one of the whitest black people they knew. I took this as a well-intentioned, but misguided, compliment, saying that I didn’t fit their stereotype of what black people should be like.

But one long-time white friend made me see the light when she said that it never occurred to her that I’d take it as a compliment when she called me the whitest person she knew. Not the whitest black person she knew, but the whitest person she knew. She was making fun of me.

There are certain stereotypes among white people about white people that they use when they’re making fun of themselves. And yes, for those of you who didn’t know it, they do make fun of themselves. And apparently this friend, and many other people I know, thought I did a lot of things that fit those stereotypes. Just check out stuffwhitepeoplelike.com.

I was whiter than sour cream.

I got the joke when I saw Weird Al. My friends and colleagues weren’t trying to compliment me by saying how white I was, quite the contrary, they were giving me some good-natured ribbing that I didn’t get.

What do you think? Check out Weird Al’s video for White and Nerdy.

Of course, some people will say that just being a Weird Al fan in the first place qualifies me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's Not Fair

I just got word that a friend of mine is going to lose her battle with Leukemia.

My first reaction to this news was unprintable. It was a variation of one of George Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on the air. My second reaction was the classic lament of “It’s not fair!

But as I drove along in the van, digesting the news, I got to wondering about what exactly “fair” is. Are there different definitions of “fair?” Of course there are. We all know that what’s fair to you might not seem fair to me. But is there an objective definition of “fair” that we’d all have to grudgingly accept, no matter how little we like it?

If we define “fair” as things always going the way we want them, never having bad things happen to people we love, and only ever having bad things happen to evil people, then life is pretty unfair most of the time. But suppose we look at “fair” differently? I’m a math person. Suppose we look at it as being a relatively even random distribution?

According to the figures I was able to get from Wikipedia, which may be wrong, in the year 2000, 256,000 people around the world developed some form of Leukemia. With a world population of 6 billion, that works out to 1 in every 24,000 people or 0.004%.

If this is the case, then if 0.004% of people are diagnosed with Leukemia, wouldn’t a “fair” distribution be 0.004% of nice people, 0.004% of evil people, 0.004% of children, 0.004% of people I know, etc? Isn’t the very definition of “fair” the fact that it doesn’t seem to just land on one group of people, but that it inflicts its pain pretty evenly throughout the entire population with no partiality?

Looked at that way, while it may not be the way I'd like things to be, it may be perfectly "fair" that people I know and are really nice people get this as well as people who I believe the world could well do without.

That is, of course, if that’s how you define fair; and I may just be rationalizing.

A friend of mine is going to lose her battle with Leukemia. It may be statistically fair, but I don’t like it one zbgure-shpxvat bit.