The Voluntary Visit to the Dentist


“As nice as you are, I’ve come to realize that you are not my friend,” I told a dental hygienist named Ms. Mary after she provided me a deep cleaning procedure that involved the sights and sounds of my worst nightmares.

Ms. Mary is a very nice, professional woman. Some might even go so far to say that she’s a sweet woman who engages her clients in pleasant conversation. Ms. Mary also has such an unusual, almost melodic laugh that we can’t help but smile and laugh with her. In a place many of us consider one of the scariest places in the world, Ms. Mary’s bedside manner (or in this case chairside) sets us completely at ease. At some point, however, and we both know that this moment is inevitable, Ms. Mary will be putting that chairside manner aside to get to business. Her business is not kind, sweet, and endearing. Her business involves something called a Sickle probe, a Scaler, and the most feared of all dental tools the drill. She doesn’t cackle when she picks that drill up, and no one cues up harrowing music to inform us that the setting is changing. She just quietly turns around to gather her tools, perhaps while we’re answering her last question, and she returns to us in a manner that allows the worst elements of our imagination to take over. 

Some of Ms. Mary’s tools make the most awful sounds, and some of the other ones help her chip away at the plaque and other buildup her patients have so recklessly acquired over the years. They’re all painful. At some point in her process, we inform Ms. Mary that we obviously don’t have enough painkiller, and at another point in the process we realize there never will be enough. Ms. Mary appears to do her best to accommodate us, but we know, somewhere deep in our heart, that Ms. Mary is an awful person who enjoys this far too much. 

When I tried to assure Ms. Mary that I was just joking when I said ’you are not my friend,’ she said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I love my job.” That convinced me that she knew I was just joking, but it also led me to wonder if she might be something of a psychopath. She loves doing this to me? She loves doing this to kind, well-meaning people like me so much that she’s been doing it for over ten years? Ms. Mary appeared to be such a pleasant, well-centered, and happy person that I’m sure I’ll feel different about her next week, so I have to write this now.

I know this is Ms. Mary’s job, and I know someone has to do this job, and I know that neglectful clients like me need someone to do this to me, but I can’t help but suspect that if Ms. Mary enjoys doing such awful things to otherwise pleasant men and women like me, who never do anything to harm anyone, she might have some psychopathic tendencies. If as Diffen.com says, “[Psychopaths] can pretend to be charming and loving, so those around them can’t always detect their lack of empathy,” I think Ms. Mary might have some tendencies that remind us of psychopaths. Before we dismiss this idea, I think we should look up the job history of some of our country’s worst psychopathic serial killers to see if we can find some corollaries. My bet is we find one who says:

“I was a dental hygienist for a couple years, and I found it absolutely thrilling, but I realized I needed to inflict more pain after a while. There was a reason that I was attracted to the profession in the first place though.”

No one portrayed the sadistic tendencies of a dentist better than Laurence Olivier in the movie Marathon Man. There was one relatively horrific scene in this otherwise boring movie in which Olivier threatens to pull a healthy tooth from his patient without painkillers, unless the patient gives him the information he needs. The reason I consider the horror in this scene relative is that when I’m nowhere near a dentist’s chair, I don’t understand why anyone would consider having a healthy tooth pulled without painkillers so frightening that they would give up state secrets. When Ms. Mary and the dentist liberated me from their office, after a couple hours of a level of torture most of us know, however, I remember that movie scene with a shudder.

The entire scene of lying supine, mouth open, awaiting whatever they have planned, is such a vulnerable one. I know I would’ve talked if Laurence Olivier prodded some sensitive nerves, telling me, “You need to take better care of your teeth.” If he hit those sensitive nerves with the high-pitched sounds of his drill, and I had no painkillers, I suspect I might give up every state secret I knew.

Some talk about the high-pitched sounds of a drill with abject horror. This conversation is so common and the need to address the fear is so prevalent that most dentist office’s now provide their clients headphones to drown the sounds out. Clients and prospective clients also talk about how much they hate the pain involved, so they take all of the painkillers the dentist has to offer, plus the nitrous oxide. Some potential clients seek dentists who have all of painkillers the state will allow. 

Prior to this particular dentist office visit, I informed these people that I turned down all but the basic painkiller, because I just want to hurry up and end whatever procedures they proscribe for the horrors going on in my mouth. I preferred to endure the pain to expedite the process. I did not want to wait for the nitrous to take hold. I just wanted them to start, so they could end sooner. Something changed for me this time. I don’t know if I psyched myself into a frenzy or what, but when they started drilling, I raised a hand and asked for more painkiller and more time for the nitrous to take hold. I took all the painkillers they had at their disposal this time and the headphones.

***

I’ve heard about the Stockholm syndrome in which the captive begins to develop unusual feelings of trust and affection for their captors. Some of the captives, used in various case examples, developed an emotional attachment to the captors who tortured them, and they did so because they became reliant on their captors for survival. At some point in the torture, they slipped from being a hostile captive to a cooperative one, and finally to one who unwittingly began to side with their captors’ cause. Everyone develops coping mechanisms for stressful moments, and while we understand that sitting in a dentists’ chair is not in the same league with all of the various forms of torture, it does give those of us who know nothing of real torture some insight into what we might do if our captors knew the right nerves to hit to get us to talk. 

My coping mechanism for dealing with this low-level stress was writing the article you’re reading right now. I wrote most of this article, in my mind of course, while Ms. Mary chipped away at my plaque, and I completed it when the dentist did what he did. When Ms. Mary tapped a sensitive nerve, I laughed. I did not laugh because I’m impervious to pain. I laughed because I thought of a great line that I hoped to add right here … but I lost it after my drug-induced state wore off. I remembered thinking that it was such a great line that I should hurry up and do something before I forgot it, and I knew that it would get lost in the ether, or to the ether, and I probably should hurry up and write it down. I didn’t write it down, or even say it to Ms. Mary to make it more memorable, because as much as I live for great sentences, I didn’t want to prolong the process for even a minute more.    

I experienced a small window into how I might fare under torture when Ms. Mary drilled into a nerve that was not sufficiently dulled with painkillers. She responded in the manner I hoped she would, but I couldn’t help but think of what I might do if my captors not only didn’t stop when they hit that nerve, but they continued to explore the extent of my pain to get me to do whatever they wanted. We’d all love to think we would be that heroic captive who never talked, but receiving a drill to a tender, exposed nerve reminds us why we revere those who endured what we cannot even imagine. I thought about how much I might hate the people doing this to me while they were it, and I thought about how glorious it would be for me when they decided to stop. 

When the dentist finally decided I had enough, I appreciated his mercy so much that I felt grateful. It’s over, I survived, and I appreciated his contributions to my survival. The Stockholm syndrome suggests that the captive might appreciate their captors mercy for stopping. Those who study this effect say it doesn’t always happen to captives, but it’s obviously happened so often that we’ve developed a term for it. For those who want to understand how this anomaly might happen, try going ten years between dentist visits. When the scraping, grinding, and drilling finding stops, it feels like they’re being merciful, kind, and sympathetic, and the euphoria you feel might lead you to inexplicable feelings of affection that you don’t have for people who have never drilled anything into your face for a couple hours.

***

The thing about going to the dentist is that it’s voluntary. If we want to keep our teeth, and keep them in such good shape so that they might last for most of our lives, we must visit the dentist biannually. Yet, it’s still voluntary. When we don’t visit the dentist’s office, no one will think less of us, because no one will ever know. They might see the destruction of our teeth, over time, but no one suspects that it has anything to do with the fact that we haven’t visited a dentist’s office in a while. They just cringe when we smile, and they think less of us, but they don’t associate it with how often we visit the dentist.

My dad had a miracle cure, milk. He thought the calcium in milk helped preserved his teeth so well that he didn’t have to brush, and he didn’t visit a dentist’s office for most of his life. He thought milk, and the calcium therein, were the miracle cures to maintaining oral health to the point of having his natural teeth into his old age. A high school friend of mine never brushed his teeth, and he never visited the dentist’s office. His miracle cure was Listerine. Both men found the error of their line of thinking in “the most painful experience I’ve ever had” when they eventually found their teeth so painful that a visit to the dentist proved to be the lesser of two evils. 

If they hadn’t volunteered this information, we would’ve never known, because no one lauds a responsible person for responsibly visiting a dentist biannually, and no one talks about a person who doesn’t. “There goes Bud, he hasn’t visited a dentist’s office in ten years.” I’ve never heard anyone say this, or anything else, about a person and the regularity of their dentist visits. There’s no peer pressure, parental pressure, or any form of pressure, other than internal, to routinely address what could be a problem if we don’t.

“It’s voluntary? You mean I don’t have to subject myself to pain if I don’t want to do so? I have to be self-motivated to subject myself to the pain involved? Even those who regularly visit the dentist responsibly experience some pain in every visit? Who, in their right mind, would do this on a biannual basis?”

“The longer you wait the more painful it will be.”

“So, the only motivation to endure regular visits, and the resultant pain involved, is to stave off the prospect of more pain?”

Most of the rewards for enduring everything Ms. Mary has at her disposal on a biannual basis, to maintain a healthy mouth, are not short-term. If we maintain that regular schedule, it’s possible that we might never experience a toothache. Yet, if we never have a toothache, how much do we appreciate it? If there are so few tangible, short-term rewards, what are the long term ones? Well, if we’re lucky enough to live to our 70’s, 80’s, and beyond, we might be able to luxuriate in the idea that we’re one of the few who still have most, if not all, of our natural teeth, but we’ll have to wait decades to lord that over our peers. How will they respond to that? What will be our lifelong reward for having the various dentists and their Ms Marys drill into our face for a couple of hours two times a year for decades? If we’re lucky enough to live that long, we might one day receive nothing more than an unceremonious shrug from that guy who is now forced to wear dentures.

It Wouldn’t be Easy Being Lime Green, but I Would’ve Enjoyed the Ride


I wish I had the guts to paint my apartment lime green back when I was single and living in apartments. I know that sounds odd, but some people wish they had the guts to commit suicide. “I really wish I could commit suicide, but we Stanleys have never had the guts to follow through.” I never really wanted to live in a lime green world, but I wanted to do something to cause a reaction. I loved reactions back then. The paint didn’t have to be lime green, but it had to be a color so shocking that my peers would talk about it when they returned to the office on Monday.   

“What happened?” they might ask, looking around my apartment with wide eyes.

“What do you mean, I chose this color. I told the apartment complex’s office that I would be painting, but,” and here I might speak in a hushed, conspiratorial tone, as if this was our little secret now. “I didn’t tell them what color.”

What would my guests think of me? Would I have trouble in the dating world? Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? Would I still be single, if my future wife saw my lime green world?

“I’m sorry,” she would say as I knelt before her. “You seem like a nice guy, and all that, but I just can’t get past the whole lime green apartment thang. And before you say it, I know you can just change the color, but it worries me that you chose that color in the first place.”

Would decades-old friends begin questioning what they thought they knew about me? “We’ve been friends for a long time now, but this…” they would say, looking around. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“So, the friendship is over?”

“No, I’m not saying that, but if you’re going to party here, and you want me to invite my friends, you’re going to have to repaint.”

My apartment could’ve been my own little, personal psychological testing lab, a petri dish that I could use to compile a delicious list of reactions now that I could report to you now.

“There goes Stanley, seems like a nice guy and all, but I hear he has a lime green apartment.”

Some psychologists state that lime green might be a mood booster, as it recalls nature and budding love, and it might not have narrowed my world as much as I think.

They also suggest that lime green helps us relax, and it’s useful for people with depression. Most of their conclusions are guesses, of course, as color affects us in wildly divergent ways, and if there is any effect it is largely subconscious. My best guess is that if color has any effect, it’s negligible. Perhaps the only effect would occur within the four-walled world of the office where people talk. A single man with lime green walls would become the topic of the many conversations otherwise bored people have trying to establish their bona fides through comparative analysis. “I know he seems nice, but did you know that he painted all of his walls lime green? I’m thinking he probably spends too much time alone, thinking strange thoughts. Kind of creepy, right?” That’s probably the reason none of us have the guts to paint our walls in such colors.

“Hey, you’re Stanley Roper right?” someone might say, stopping me in the hall. “Is it true you have a lime green apartment?”

“Yeah, the complex told me they were going to paint,” I’d lie, “but I had no idea they were going to go with lime green.”

“Why don’t you move?”

“I still have eight months on my lease.”

Over time, the peer pressure would probably grow so intense that my resolve would wilt. I’m impulsive, but I’m not immune to wanting people to like me. I’m sure some dagger, like “he probably spends too much time alone, and thinks too much” would lead me to believe that following my irrational but impassioned impulses were a mistake.  

I do love, and I mean love spotting a bright orange truck roll down the highway. That feller’s got a pair on him, I think. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I so wish I could be that guy. I think about how liberating it would be to drive down a primary thoroughfare in a bright orange truck with black highlights. Six months to a year in, however, I know that glory rubs off. I did it in grade school. I wore a shocking pair of bright, baby blue tennis shoes, and I loved the instant reactions it caused. I was a fella who shocked his world in a pair of bright blue tennis shoes, but I went from being a guy with those shoes on to the guy who wore a shockingly bright blue pair of tennis shoes, and I didn’t enjoy that characterization over the long haul. I tried other things. I tried a shocking, new hairdo. I received all the reactions I wanted and then some. I found that there were days when I wanted to shock my world and others when I didn’t, but once you start shocking the world it doesn’t matter what you want tomorrow. You don’t have the light switch control you think you do. Their impressions become the impression they have of you. 

***

Most of the websites that discuss the psychological elements of color devote most of their space to the positive, pleasing reactions to them. Their reads on the effects of color remind me of descriptions of personality types under the zodiac: mostly positive with a few nuggets of negative information thrown in to make it interesting without offending anyone. Awful people are out there too, and I think we would all give astrologists and psychologists a lot more credence if they allowed for that. “All astrological signs are uniquely wonderful in their own unique ways, except for the Taurus. We’re not going to say all Taurus are awful, as we’re sure a few of them do some nice things for people, some of the times, but an overwhelming majority of them enjoy watching other people get hurt, and they are prone to lie, cheat and steal if they think that will give them an advantage in life. Most Taurus are pieces of dung.” If a reputable and respected astrological publication put out such a reading, its audience would probably bombard them with letters calling for a retraction. “My aunt Mary Louise is a Taurus, and she is the nicest, sweetest human being on the planet. How dare you suggest that she’s a piece of dung.”

“First of all, sir,” I would reply, “that’s our reading, and our reading is gospel. Your aunt is probably a piece of dung, and either you’re not willing to admit it, or you don’t know it yet. She’s probably old and done with life now, but when she dies, you’ll probably hear all the piece of dung things she did in her prime. You should also know that there’s no evidence behind anything we write. We just make dung up as we go along, and your suggestion that we change our reading suggests that you know that. We’re just writing dung for dung consumers who believe in this dung. It has no bearing on personalities. If you believe us when we write that you, as an Aries, are a trailblazer with boundless energy then you’re dumber than you look. Furthermore, if our Taurus reading actually offended you, sir, you’re probably not ready for primetime. Thank you for your letter.”

If we’re going to analyze a group of people in anyway, I would suspect that we would arrive at some negatives. Thus, if we are going to create a relatively specious way of analyzing human nature through astrology, their favorite color, or their favorite football team, we should have to create some negatives just to counter-balance all of the positives. Doing so might lend greater credibility to the reading, and establish some level of science to it. It might seem an impossible chore, but I think we would all appreciate the effort.

Some websites do provide some negative attributes, but they’re usually in the bullet points beneath the primary paragraph, and they usually attribute negatives to extremes. There’s nothing wrong with the color orange, for example, but be careful to avoid intense colors of orange, as they can lead to aggression.

“What is going on? Every time I invite someone into my home, they try strangle me. Last week, the meter reader started pointing his meter-reading gun at me, making gun sounds, like a little kid. I thought he was joking, but he had this menacing expression on his face while he did it. I forced him into my mauve kitchen, and got him a glass of water. He finally calmed and said, “I don’t know what came over me.””  

“Wow, I thought the color orange reflected emotion and warmth.”

“Well, I didn’t go with a soft, friendly tone. I went with an intense color.”

“What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you know that intense colors of orange can lead to acts of aggression?”

If I had the guts to paint my apartment an intense orange or a lime green, thus creating my own little petri dish of an apartment, I might see how profound the affect color can be. I might not see acts of aggression, but how would such colors affect the otherwise mundane conversations I’m having with them in the foyer? Would their emotions alter in any way based on their surroundings? I’ve witnessed the effect music can have, as I switched from one extreme to another with the volume level at the exact same level. There were at least two occasions where the switch was so extreme, it was almost comical.

What would be the long-term effect of a bright, loud orange? Would my friends avoid me if they learned about my lime green world? What would my co-workers say if they found out that I decorated my home with nothing but periwinkle home furnishings? Would they eat the food I served them if it came from a maroon kitchen, and the kitchenware on which it was served was a uniform canary yellow?

“You’re not talking to Stanley anymore, because he served you veal cutlets on a canary yellow plate?”

“You don’t understand, the silverware was canary yellow too,” they would reply. “You didn’t see his feldgrau cabinets, or his cerulean coffee table. Who paints a coffee table cerulean? You weren’t there. You don’t know unsettling it all was. You weren’t there.”

I know it sounds odd, and a weird way to waste money, but I would’ve loved to do all this and hire an independent body to interview my apartment guest before and after their brief stay in my apartment. I would love to have intricate and intimate details of how their perceptions of me changed. The final, and perhaps most interesting, interview might be the one of me.

“Did you achieve everything you wanted to by painting your apartment lime green and purchasing an intensely orange truck?”

“I did,” I would say. “Some people won’t talk to me and others can’t stop talking about me. Now that it’s all over, though, I must admit I regret it, because now I have to live in a lime green house and drive an intense orange car to work. I wanted to be that guy, but I now realize I didn’t want to become that guy, not long term, if that makes sense.”

I might be alone when I write this, but I think some of us find “the weird” intoxicating. We would love to enter a room wearing a clown nose just to get some sort of reaction. Every other element of our entrance in that room would be normal and deadpan, except for the clown nose, and we would provide no explanation for it. What would people do? What would they say? How would that affect our relationships with them going forward? Am I so uncomfortable in a normal world that I need to do, say, or be something different to shake up their world to prove their normal world is not so stable anymore? Or, do I relish my ability to take that clown nose off and prove to the world that I am actually relatively normal and thus worthy of entrance into their world? If we were sentenced to a life of weird, we would do everything we could to convince the world that we were normal. We know normal, and it bores us so much that we wish we had the guts to test the boundaries of what’s acceptable, so someone, somewhere might call us weird, until they find out how normal we are. That’s a reaction, and it’s interesting, hilarious, and all that, but we don’t want to test those boundaries, because we want to have friends, girlfriends, a wife, and a normal life. After we achieve that, we appreciate it for what it us, but we still would’ve loved just a little taste of what we could’ve achieved with some lime green walls, if we had the guts to follow through with it.  

Guy no Logical Gibberish


My dad didn’t pronounce words correctly. It embarrassed me so much, when I was younger, that I matured into something of a wordsmith. A wordsmith, in my personal definition of the term, is not necessarily more intelligent than anyone else is. We do not have a better hold on pronunciations than anyone else does, and we don’t have a gift for spelling or proper word usage. A wordsmith is someone who focuses (see obsesses) on such matters. A wordsmith is also so embarrassed by past, present and future mistakes that we make that don’t think we’ll ever live down. Such matters didn’t embarrass my dad at all. He didn’t care about any of it. 

Even though I put more effort into pronouncing words correctly, spelling them correctly, and using them in a proper manner, I still make errors all the time. I mispronounced a famous person’s name one day, and it was so embarrassing to me that I don’t think I’ll ever live it down. It started out as a joke, and it somehow morphed into confusion in my mind, until I said it aloud to two people I sought to impress. I’m sure if I asked those people hear me do it what they thought, they probably wouldn’t even remember it, but it haunts me. I used a word that that we don’t recognize as a word in my formative years, and I used a tense of an adjective that is not considered one of the tenses for that word. I also used the word (“had”) too often, as in “if he had lived to see the day”. I hear professional speakers use incorrect terms and words all the time, and I hear them mispronounce words as often, and I don’t mock them. I’m mortified for them in a manner that constitutes the difference between empathy and sympathy. 

People I knew and loved mocked my lexicon so often, in my youth, that I made it my life’s mission to eradicate errors. (I’ll let you know if I ever accomplish that feat.) I could handle most of the mean-spirited mockery directed at my other, numerous errors, because they meant nothing to me. The mockery directed at my lexicon concerned me, because I knew my dad’s casual disregard for the conventional rules of language, and it embarrassed me as a teenager.

They say that if we spend enough time in another part of the country, we might carry accents, and/or peculiar pronunciations for words that are otherwise indigenous to that area of the country. My dad said the word wash for most of his life, until he traveled to Tennessee. He spent one week there, and for the remaining decades of his life he said, “warsh.” Correcting that proved an insurmountable hurdle for him, as did “eckspecially”. He made up contractions, such as ‘kout’ for lookout and (‘Q’) or “kyou” for thank you. He also made various plural-sounding names singular and vice versa. McDonald’s was McDonald and Burger King was Burger Kinks. Don’t ask me how he arrived at that second (‘K’). He also said intentendo, instead of Nintendo. We could fault his hearing for some of it, but after numerous corrections, the man stubbornly maintained his fault-ridden lexicon. He subconsciously picked up on errors in usage, but he never picked up on my numerous corrections. 

Speaking of word choices, how did we arrive at the word anus to describe an organ? We have to imagine that those in charge of the language used in medical periodicals and biology textbooks continue to use the word for the expressed purpose of being unfunny. Tradition probably guides current choices, tradition and the need for consistency, but there had to be a first. When the subject of origin of a word arrives, as we will discuss later, it can be difficult to impossible to source a word. The best question we can come up with is why do we continue to use this unusual and somewhat cute name for such a repugnant organ?   

How extensive was their search for the ideal, unfunny sounding word? How many voices did they hear, pro and con various other terms before they eliminated all others and ended up with anus? “The search is over, we’ve found the ideal word to describe the organ that sounds professional and doesn’t lead to uncomfortable smirks and giggles. Going forward, we shall all refer to the organ as the anus in doctors’ offices, biology text books, and other professional settings.” No one can blame the collective we, for etymologists say the term predates English. The word anus derives from the Latin word anus, meaning “ring”. The Latin derivative annulus means “Little ring”.

In the search for the ideal term, the first thing they had to do was rule out the other, less professional alternatives. Imagine if your doctor said, “You’re fifty years old now, it’s time to see what’s going on inside your smelly freckle.” If my doctor used such a term, in such a sensitive situation, I wouldn’t care if they were trying to add some levity to an otherwise uncomfortable situation. I would seek another physician.

The term they decided on sounds so unusual and cute that all humans, no matter their age, gender, or background, giggle when they hear it. If we could remove all of the connotations the word has with otherwise repugnant biological functions, we might picture a cute, little bug if we heard the word for the first time. If the word had no connotations to our little ring, imagine if comic book writers used the word to name one of their bad guys. “Join Spider-Man, in next week’s issue, as he takes on the Anus!” There’s something so unusual and cute about the word that I don’t think it would strike fear in the reader, until we learned what her powers were.    

We giggle, because it makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t explain. One explanation might involve the idea that they chose such an unusual, cute term to describe such a repugnant orifice. What better punchline is there than, “… and I ended getting it stuck in my anus.”?

There was never a board of lords assembled to determine what term we should use to refer to the inferior opening of the alimentary canal a term. As stated, the word has roots in Latin, and Old French, but the Indo-European language family that dates back to 4500 BC to 2500 BC influenced those languages. As with other words and terms, we can arrive at the first recorded use of a word, and Wikipedia states that the first recorded use of the word anus dates back to 1650-1660, but there was probably never an official orifice decree that suggested all professionals should start using the word anus in professional settings. Anytime we try to source a word, we encounter its complicated roots through a maze of variations of language based on migrations, and subsequent regional dialects that affect different shifts in pronunciation, morphology, and vocabulary. We then encounter various efforts at reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European roots of the word to arrive at the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to source the origin of some words and terms. The one thing we can agree upon is that the modes of communication were so archaic in 1650-1660 on back that most words achieved staying power places via word of mouth, and that it just sort of caught on after that. Even with all that, the question remains why did one prehistoric person, with some biological knowledge, pass this agreed upon, unusual, and cute-sounding term anus to another, and how did it pass the smell test?  

The continued use of this term probably has more to do with hundreds to thousands of years of tradition, and a certain level of consistency attached to it, as I wrote, but the professionals who continue to use the term whenever they produce a new textbook or periodical of any sort have a choice every time they pass it on. The question they might ask is what’s the best viable alternative? The answer is there probably aren’t any now, the term is too ingrained, but we have to wonder how many alternatives the linguists and lexicographers of yesteryear passed on, before they agreed the word anus should be the preferred choice for those in professional and scientific circles. If they hoped that their final decision might end all of the snickers, giggles, and uncomfortable smiles when the subject comes up, then I think we can all agree that they failed.

“Don’t text me during the game,” I text. “I’m taping it. I don’t want to know if it’s a good game or a bad game. I won’t even check my phone during the game, so save your, “You’re going to love this,” “Don’t bother watching,” or “Get out of your house, there’s a small Cessna heading toward your house.” I don’t know why it bothers me so much when someone texts me about a game I’m taping, but I think it has something to do with a compact I have with the game I’m watching. It seems pointless, to me, to watch an otherwise exciting 7-yard out route, on third and six, when I know the outcome. Thus, when someone texts me some hint about the outcome of the game, it frustrates me so much that I want to coat my naked body and run through the city streets, just to teach humanity a lesson. I know that I couldn’t live with that memory though, so I just avoid my phone during games.

Big Things vs. Little Things. We dream of big things, but we cannot accomplish big things without tending to all the little things that make big things possible. Before writing the Great American Novel, for example, the author has to write. That first page can be tough, but it’s not near as tough as page two. Page one is often the flurry of inspiration that led us to sit down and write. That inspiration probably struck at a relatively boring moment in our life. Page one often ends up gibberish, however, that doesn’t make it past Chekov’s Razor. Page one often ends up being deleted or tossed into the waste paper basket. Page three is often where the book begins, according to Anton Chekov. Page one is important, but it’s not as important as page three, or any of the pages that constitute continuing.  

An important note I heard recently that contradicts that paragraph is, we don’t have to accomplish great things to be great. By taking care of the little things in life, we can still be great. We can be a great father, mother, businessman, and student. I knew a man who accomplished great things in life, but he turned out to be something of a failure as a father. I call it the Larry Bird Complex. There’s an old saying that “those who can’t do it teach” but the flipside proves to be true too. Those who can do it, often cannot teach others how to do it. Larry Bird was a man many consider one of the greatest to play the game, but he wasn’t a very good coach. The man I knew with a Larry Bird Complex had a personal resume so loaded with prestigious accolades that we might have to break the story of his life down to chapters. When they buried him, however, those of us who sat in the second row realized that he couldn’t take his accolades with him. We also realized those who sat in the first row were his legacy, and they were confused adults who lived a life of chaos. Was that his fault? It’s debatable, but he obviously didn’t do enough in his life to relieve them of their pain, and they were/are how the rest of us measured him. A man of great accomplishment enjoys telling people about his great accomplishments, but if he fails to tend to his own yard, that will be his legacy.

So, You Want to go Into Business. “My employees think I’m Daddy Warbucks,” an owner/operator of a local franchise said with a laugh. “They don’t understand how thin profit margins are.”

“Most people don’t,” I said. “I don’t for the most part. I’ve never owned my own business. Most of us think that anyone who does is in the money, especially if that business is a franchise. Most of us have no idea of the expenses involved in running a business.”

Most of us know-nothings loosely define profit as the difference between the wholesale and retail prices. We don’t consider the idea that an owner/operator uses that profit to pay employees’ wages, rent, utilities, various forms of marketing, the franchise fee, insurance, repairs, remodeling, various forms of security, and all of the other numerous costs associated with owning a business. Once the small business owner factors these numerous costs in, they still have to pay all of the federal, state, and local taxes and any fees associated with registering and owning a business. Some of us even begrudge the business owners for writing off expenses when it comes time to pay taxes. Yet, if we deprive them of the ability to do that, then they would have little to no profit at all. After paying off all of these expenses, the middle class owner/operators also have to pay off the loan the bank gave them to open the business.

Another element of the equation that should’ve been obvious but wasn’t until I attended a “Welcome to [the franchise]” meeting for potential owners of a nationwide franchise, is that the individual franchisee has to purchase everything from the vowels on the sandwich board, to the floor, to the franchise chairs and napkins from the corporation. If the owner/operator’s franchise runs out of napkins, for instance, the owner/operator cannot simply run to the supermarket to purchase napkins, they have to fill their napkin holders with napkins that have the corporate logo on them. Failure to do so could result in franchise infringements penalties. To ensure individual franchises are adhering to the level of uniformity the franchise, and their customers, expect throughout the chain, the corporation hires what some call secret shoppers. The primary goal of these insects is to prove the value of their employment, so they grade the owner/operator’s franchise on everything from the significant to the seemingly irrelevant. They find things to write in their report, because they fear if they gave the franchise an (‘A+’), “no infringements found” the corporation might not hire them again. The infringements they find could lead to more penalties and other unforeseen costs for the franchisee.

The corporation will also send out trainers who train the owner/operator and the incoming staff on how to do things “the corporate way”, and the franchisee then “helps” pay their salaries.

The corporate advisers, who provided us this “Welcome to [the franchise]” presentation, did not provide an itemized list of the total costs of purchasing and running a franchise. I had to do my own research to find some of them. One look at this list and every potential franchisee should wonder how anyone makes any money in this business. When I emailed some leading questions regarding my findings, to the advisers, they said, “[This corporation] will help you with any costs and expenses,” they wrote using the specific name of the company. “[This corporation] wants to help you open a location in your city, and they will do whatever they have to to help you make it happen.” This was a blanket statement the corporate advisers made throughout their presentation, and it was the theme of most of their answers throughout the “Welcome to [the franchise] presentation”, but they often avoided providing specifics. 

“Profits in food service are so thin that I would seriously advise you consider another business,” a former owner of a mom and pop restaurant advised me. “We obviously didn’t have to pay all the franchise costs you list, and we barely made it month to month. You probably won’t make money for years, and even then you’ll probably want to consider opening two or three different locations if you want to make any real money and each of those franchises will each take their own time to turn a decent profit.”

A franchise owner/operator then wants to pay the person most responsible for opening the location. Themselves. They want money for their time and headaches. “Expect to work at least 60 hours a week,” the mom and pop owner told me. “At least 60 hours. You’re the one responsible for all the hiring and firing, and after a number of incidents, you’ll probably develop a greater tolerance than you predict for misbehavior and poor performance. You will put up with whatever you have to from your employees, to avoid going through the headaches involved in firing an employee, hiring a new one, and training them. Other than all of the headaches and time involved, you’ll eventually view it as an unnecessary expense. Then, you’ll have to fill in for those who call in sick, and when you finally pay yourself for all the hard work you’ve done, before taxes, you should expect to make less, per hour, than you’re making now. Most business owners, like your friend think it’s cute and funny when their employees consider them Daddy Warbucks in the beginning, but when they hear it four or five times, they might accidentally launch into a rant about how wrong they are.”

Some of us celebrate when we see “big business” fail in our neighborhood to the point of closing down. We see their big name as a blight on our community. Some of those franchises are corporate owned, but a number of them are not. We might see it as sticking it to the man when we contribute to their failure, but that failure might be a man or woman who is seeking an alternative way to feed a family of four.    

Why do flies, moths, and other insects want into our home so badly, and they want out just as badly and just as quickly? If it were nothing more than a mistake, why do they bump against the glass trying to get out? Are they just dumb? No, they’re not dumb, some argue. Okay, then why do they immediately fly to the nearest glass trying to get out shortly after getting in?

Light guides most insects at night, and the only light at night that guides them is the moon. Their internal guidance systems lead them to fly according to the light of moon, and our artificial light messes with their internal guidance system. Do they then recognize their faux pas soon after making it? If the moon explains the nighttime insects wanting in our home, how do we explain daylight flies trying to get in? Do they smell our food? When do they recognize their faux pas? Some of them might be attracted by the smell of our trash, but they rarely visit the trashcan. They usually bump to get in and turn around and bump to get out. Do they recognize their error to get in, or are they just dumb beings driven by instinct?

Why do birds only fly so high? We’ve all witnessed a predator fly higher than other birds. Why do they fly so high? Answer, they want achieve a vantage point where they can see their prey. Why don’t other birds fly just as high? Answer, they’re more affected by low levels of oxygen, as they’re not as equipped, as their predators to extract necessary oxygen from the air. The temperature is also cooler at greater heights, and most birds cannot generate enough heat with their muscles to counteract that. These latter two paragraphs describe the mysteries and functions of the every day lives of some of its smallest contributors to our daily life.  

My Favorite Teacher of all time performed a miracle. He led me to believe the subject of Economics might be interesting. He made the subject so interesting that when I left high school, I became an Economics major. In college, I discovered how boring Economics could be in different hands. On the flipside, I considered Shakespeare so boring in high school that I found it difficult to hide my disdain for the material. In college, I found a passionate teacher who made Shakespeare sound like a genius. My takeaway, every subject is one good teacher away from being interesting.

Naughty Appeal vs. Been There, Done That


I get just about every dirty, naughty joke I hear now. I’m passed the point where I needed to claw my way through that mental maze and swing from vine to vine to understand the naughty jokes adults tell. I get it and I don’t. I get almost every dirty joke I hear now, but I don’t understand their almost universal and evergreen appeal. 

Naughty humor might still have the same appeal to me if my demand continued to outweighed the supply, but I’ve reached the “been there, done that” threshold. Young people are nowhere near this threshold, of course, and if their parents forbid it, it still has the naughty. I see that, but for the mature adult, naughtiness is no longer in short supply. It involves little more than moving a mouse and clicking. 

The “I get it” reward is strong among the young. Especially the “You don’t get it? I do!” reward. This reward probably dates back to young cave dwellers trying to find something naughty in cave paintings. We can see the reward of “Getting it” on their faces. The “I get it” smile is broad and wide, and they try to hide it from the adults around them. The reward for getting naughty humor is especially precious when their peers “Don’t get it”. How long does this sometimes subtle, sometimes overt reward last? Is it universal and evergreen?

We all have biological functions, and the need to explore other bodily functions on a perpetual basis, and some of them are quite funny when framed strategically, but how many body function jokes do we have to hear before they no longer stimulate the naughty neurons? I concede that I’ve probably watched so many movies that my naughty stimulators are all dried up, but I’ve “been there, done that” for so long that it takes a pretty ingenious presentation for me to laugh at naughty humor now.    

Yet, anytime I introduce comedic material to a friend of mine, he asks, “Is it safe humor?” I originally thought he was referring to the politically correct dividing line. He wasn’t, and he clarified his position. He’s forty something, and he still wants/needs his innuendo and the worst swear words we can imagine for the comedic material to achieve some sort of mental stimulation. He won’t watch material he deems “too safe”. He alludes to the idea that “safe” material is condescending. He prefers the risqué, and the provocative, and he defines those adjectives in swear words and innuendo.

“Why is that still so important to you?” I asked him. “I honestly don’t get it.” To clarify my position in this discussion, he and I passed middle age some years ago, and he and I have watched all the same shows and movies. Whereas my well is dry, his is still seeking greater fertilization in this arena. He has no idea why, but he still wants him a whole lot of naughty.

I cherished the naughty, back when it was a limited commodity for me. I, like all my relatively sheltered grade school era friends, worshipped at the altar of George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Cheech and Chong. Some of us could quote large chunks of dialog from the movie Porky’s verbatim. Porky’s was the ultimate taboo movie for those of us of a certain age, because it had naughty dialog, exposed female breasts, and had a risqué scene with a wolf-howling woman. We talked about the unedited scene in Grease where Danny gets racked, and we talked about the unedited swear words in the song Greased Lightning the next day. If you didn’t “get it”, you were consigned to an inescapable outsider status among the cool kids.

The cool kids could tell anyone interested how many swear words a movie contained, and how many exposed female breasts there were. The coolest kid had a mental spreadsheet count on (‘F’) words, (‘S’) words, and exposed female breasts in whatever movie you mentioned. You name the actress, and he could tell you the movie(s) that contained her revelations. I met another who could do that in high school. He compiled a VHS tape of moments when famous females exposed their breast. He was so obsessed with compiling the tape that he could tell you the moment of exposure down to the second of the movie. He knew them so well, because he would watch the movie once on HBO, and he would then memorize the time of the exposure down to the second. There were times when his memory would fail him, however, so he began writing them down, but he said that writing them down helped crystallize the moment in his memory so well that he rarely had to consult his log when the movie repeated, usually hours later on HBO. He would watch the movie again with his thumb on the record button, as that scene neared. He did this so often that we could rarely stump him on such scenes. “[That actress] exposes her breasts at the 32:22 mark of [that movie],” he said with specifics.

If you were one of the few unfortunates who only saw the made for television version of Stripes and Airplane, you knew the FOMO (fear of missing out) acronym at a very young age, before anyone coined it. “You missed the best parts,” our friends would tell us, or, “You have to see the unedited version, it has seven (‘F’) words, two (‘S’) words, and it actually has an ‘MF’ in it. Seriously, it occurs after the barista in the movie says, (“Fill in the blank”) and before the scene where they show the topless astronaut hanging her laundry.”

I didn’t remember how focused we were on that mental clicker of swear words in our youth, until my nephew began this accounting process in his younger years. You name the movie, and my nephew can recite for you how many (‘F’s) and (‘S’s) the movie contains. When Dr. Johnny Fever, on WKRP in Cincinnati, mocked a priest for attempting to censor his playlist, we thought that was so cool. “Uh, oh! There’s a naughty word!” Fever said, mocking the priest. When George Carlin was asked why he swears so much in his otherwise intelligent, observational humor, he said, “It’s excellent punctuation.” Comedians suggest they’ve tried it out on the road. They say they tried the same joke with and without any swear words, at different locations, and they determined that Carlin was correct. A punchline just doesn’t land the same without proper punctuation without a swear word. Carlin’s statement asks the rhetorical question is it his fault or ours for swear words in comedic presentations?

My Uncle Clark’s good friend Jim introduced us to this world without borders when we were pre-teens. Our parents had no idea we were watching naughty movies at Jim’s house, and that made it extra naughty. Naughty is an ever changing and relative term, of course, as what we deemed naughty in our era is relatively tame now, but some of the movies we watched at his house were the peak of naughty for us. Jim “didn’t see anything wrong with the kids hearing swear words,” he said. “They’re going to hear them anyway. They’re eventually going to see a woman’s breasts. They’ll see people smoke pot, and everything else these movies provide. I don’t see the harm.” He would swear  around us so often that we learned how to swear. We learned how to inflect, how to time swear words, and how to properly punctuate a joke with a strategically placed swear word from him. He taught us how to avoid sounding like a little kid learning how to cuss for the first time. He also taught us how to talk about carnal relations with women. He wasn’t afraid to provide explicit detail. This guy was so cool and so funny, and not just adult funny. This guy was genuinely (‘F’)ing hilarious to us. He treated us like adults, and we worshiped him for it. He wasn’t a stick in the mud, like my dad.

I am that stick in the mud now. I am that dad. I’ve stopped cussing, because one of my other friends said that the (‘F’) words was one of his kid’s first five words. I don’t know if he was proud or ashamed of it, but he thought it was “(‘F’)ing hilarious”. I wouldn’t enjoy that, and on one plane, it is about morality, but it also has something to do with class.

“You cussed a lot in your teens and 20’s,” my friends say. “In Europe, kids drink and swear like a sailor, and it doesn’t affect them in the least. In fact, I’d say most of them are more sophisticated and worldly than most puritanical American children.”

“I don’t care if I’m a hypocrite,” I say in response, “and I’m not particularly concerned with how other parents raise their children, as I’m no authority on the matter, but what you sway doesn’t sway me one iota.”

My “been there, done that” reactions are so strong that even when the kid goes to bed, I don’t enjoy the excessive need for punctuation, and I often see it as just that in others’ attempts to be humorous. It has nothing to do with morality for me, personally, once the kid goes to bed. It’s more a “been there, done that” reaction I have to it now. I no longer have a clicker. I hear (‘F’) words now, and they go in one ear and out the other. This cycle started soon after I was able to rent any movie I wanted. I was on my own, and I able to choose every naughty, dirty movie I could find. Back then, I avoided humor that was too safe, but the supply eventually reached my demand, until I saturated the market and I “been there done that”. I demanded naughty, risqué material, and it was in short supply for much of my life. Then it wasn’t, and it wasn’t for my forty-something friend either. If I put this supply vs. demand qualifier to our discussion, I’m sure he would concede that the supply met his demand a long time ago, yet he still needs material he deems relatively “unsafe”.

In this long-since passed era, the supply was so low that we met our demand by standing close enough to a drive-in theater to see, but not hear, the scene everyone was talking about. That era has passed for many of us, as we now have more than enough supply at the tips of our fingers, yet the demand for such demand obviously remains strong among my peers?

Can a joke be funny without pre-pubescent and pubescent need for punctuation? Yes, if it’s creative. Yet, even incredibly ingenious jokes need punctuation. To my mind, the most ingenious learn how to punctuate without such punctuation, and that’s not about morality. It’s about ingenuity and creativity. Music has the same “been there done that” quality for me. I’m not going to join the pack and slam the heavy metal era for its lack of soul, and for all of its hedonistic plays for fame, but it had its place in my life. Some of those bands produced some quality music, but that time has passed for me. When I’m feeling nostalgic, I might click on an old heavy metal song here and there, but I’ve “been there done that”. I can’t make it all the way through any of those songs now. The need for nostalgia is not that great for me, as that music provides little-to-no value to me anymore. The elements in swearing, innuendo, and nudity in humor provide little-to-no value to comedy anymore to me either.

At the Check Out with Child


“Oh shoot!” I said in a checkout aisle at a store. 

“What’s the matter?” my son asked.

“I just realized, I don’t have enough money to pay for these items,” I lied. I double-check my wallet, and I added a theatrical check of my pockets. Three customers stood between the Promised Land and us. I write Promised Land to characterize how much my son hates going to stores of any kind. Most people accept the fact of life that when we need goods, we need to enter a store. My son is not there yet. Entering stores is the great inconvenience of his life. When we mention that we must go to the store, he throws a fit that lasts until we enter the store. He indulges us, while in the store by behaving, but throughout our brief stay, he is looking for anything and everything that might cut short our stay and take him to his personal vision of the Promised Land, the store’s exit.

Back before debit cards, and back before we went and got all growed up, we had incidents like this one,“You still need twenty-seven cents,” a checker told me in the most dismissive manner imaginable. I remember that transaction every time I pass this convenience store. I remember standing there with insufficient funds thinking that I wasn’t ready for the rigors involved in completing adult transactions. I was in no position to question this sentry at the gate of maturity, but this transaction occurred before we all went digital. We could question analog, or manual, cash registers back then, because they required manual entries that could fall prey to human error. I told the cashier that I carefully added the total, and that I couldn’t see how I could be wrong. I showed the cashier my addition. “You forgot the sales tax kid,” the guy said. He was right. I heard about sales tax, but I didn’t know how to add it to a total yet. I was so humiliated and embarrassed that I walked away with my tail between my legs, vowing that this would never happen to me again. Remnants of that anxiety remain with me to this day. I over prepare in the aisles of the store. I check and double-check the price of my items, I project a total, and I allow abundant room for any errors in my calculations. Some of the times, I put much-wanted items back just in case I added the percentage of sales tax incorrectly. It’s still such a deep seeded anxiety that I would rather not have some items than risk the prospect of that embarrassment and humiliation I experienced as a young kid. As a result of that transaction, I became so hyper-vigilant that I made the mistake of believing that everyone knows about it on some level.  

I turned to my seven-year-old son at the checkout stand, “Do you have any money?” He had money in his pockets one time at a store, when we took him there to spend his birthday money. So, I thought this was such a ludicrous question that we might share a laugh. What I didn’t realize was that by insinuating that it was ludicrous that he should have any money, I was calling him ludicrous to his mind. He didn’t think it was ludicrous that he should have money. He had money, in fact, and he told me so.

“Yes,” he said. “I do have money.” Through some back and forth, we realized that he meant he had money in his piggy bank in his bedroom.

“No, I’m asking you if have any money on you right now,” I said, “I need you to help me pay for all this?”

“I don’t have any,”my son said. He was a little disappointed, but it dawned on me that he wasn’t disappointed in himself, or his role in this, because why should he be? Plus, he was rarely disappointed in himself, as he rarely cared about such situations. Thus, whenever he exhibits any disappointment in himself, it’s based on the idea that I might be disappointed in him.

If I ask him, “Did you score any goals in your last soccer match?” and he has to say no, he does so in a way that suggests to me that he never thought about it, until I asked. “Did you get 100% on your last spelling test?” He knows when he didn’t, of course, but he forgot about it soon after he received his test back. He doesn’t care about any of these things in the manner I do, just like he didn’t care that we didn’t have enough money to help pay for all the items we have in our shopping cart, but he doesn’t want to disappoint me by saying so. He’s no more ambivalent to such matters than any other normal seven-year-old boy, and just like every other normal boy his age, he knows that his happiness is based on the parameters that his authority figures set for him. He cares what I care about, in other words, and he knows that I’m trying to teach him to care. He also doesn’t want to disappoint me by revealing the truth of the matter that both of us know.

Do our kids worry about scoring goals in soccer matches? Do they even think about it? Do they care about winning? Parents on the sideline do, and we show it by building ourselves into a lather as the game progresses. We hoot, holler, and scream anytime they make a halfway decent move on their field. Kids enjoy hearing that, and they want more of it. Yet, nine times out of ten when an opposing player has the ball, our kids watch them dribble the ball along with the rest of us, until a parent or coach yells their name out, “There you go Freidrich. That’s yours.” We parents now say such things, because we’ve learned from our parents. We remember the pain and humiliation our parents induced when they screamed, “Wake the hell up and go get the ball!” in front of everyone. We use better, less inoffensive ways to encourage our children to wake the hell up now. When we now yell these inoffensive things, we awake them out of whatever momentary stupor they’re in, and they try to take the ball away from the other kid.

“Why didn’t you take the ball away from the kid before I said something?” we want to ask them.

“I don’t know,” they say. If they were more reflective and analytical, they might say, “The thought didn’t even cross my mind. I thought it was that feller’s ball at the time, and I thought he was doing just fine with it.” They might not be able to express themselves at the time, but we can see it on their face, as they watch the other kid dribbling. When they watch the opponent, along with the rest of the spectators, some of them even smile. We don’t know if they’re daydreaming in the moment, or if they’re appreciating the other kid’s ability, imagining what their parents might think of them if they were that skilled. When we instruct them to take the ball away, their expression flips, as if by a switch, from the daydreaming smile to one of determination, as they attempt to take the ball away from the opponent.

“You don’t just let the opponent dribble the ball in front of you,” we say with some exasperation after the game is over. We think they should understand that fundamental element of sports by now. “When the opponent has the ball, you need to steal it from him. That’s the key to most sports.”

If he was able to articulate the complex inconsistencies in the worldview I try to pass to him, he might say, “Well, doesn’t that fly in the face of everything you, and all my teachers, have taught me about sharing?”    

Other than “I don’t know” my son didn’t say any of these things, because he knows it would disappoint me that he hasn’t learned all of these complex concepts at age seven. He also isn’t able to articulate my inconsistencies on matters of large and small. Even though we enter our children into various sports, they’re brains are still so young that it’s tough for them to make quick connections. Even though we’ve logged hundreds of hours playing sports with them in the backyard, coaching them up with our philosophy on sports, they’re still so young that they have a tough time grasping difficult concepts. Their whole world is about having fun, laughing, and not caring about things. How many of us wish we spent our early, elementary years being more serious? They focus their mind on the simple, enjoyable aspects of life, and they know that the key to living that good life is to do everything they can to avoid disappointing the authority figures in their life.

After spending some time in theatrical deliberation, in the checkout line at the store, I looked at my son, “I think we might have to put some of these items back.” I affected this with grave disappointment that I hoped might transfer to him. He didn’t appear to be the least bit moved by it. He looked at the items, and he looked back at me.

“Well what are we doing standing around here then?” he said. “Let’s put these things back and get the heck out of here.”

His response suggested a certain level of ambivalence that threw me a little, but the full scope of his ambivalence didn’t dawn on me, until I said, “I’m just kidding. I have the money.” I don’t know how I expected him to respond, but I thought it might come somewhere close to relief. What I received instead was:

“Well what are we doing standing around here then? Let’s pay for these things and get the heck out of here.”

The prospect of the embarrassment and humiliation involved in putting things back obviously didn’t hit him yet. The embarrassment derives from not having enough money, not being able to add correctly, and being called out in front of a group of people. He hasn’t yet grasped the concept of money, and how others could view one with insufficient funds as not earning enough to buy something at a convenience store. He thinks we just go to the ATM to get the money necessary the complete a transaction. He doesn’t understand that we put money in there for later withdrawal. He’s seven years old, he doesn’t understand the complex emotions of embarrassment, shame, and humiliation on the level we do. 

If we spend enough time with our child, we will overestimate them as often as we underestimate them. We will also assign our complex emotions and values to them, and even though we teach them they’re young, unformed brains cannot grasp them yet. 

Even though I knew that my son had no experience with such situations, I incorrectly assumed that most people came equipped with that inherent sense of doing everything they could to avoid them. He, of course, didn’t know enough to know he should be embarrassed. We think we know them, but more often than not our experiences in life are not theirs, and they don’t understand how experiences, good and bad, shape the life we lead in various instances. If we spend enough time with them, however, we think they should naturally do what we want them to do, even without us telling them one way or another.