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Published on May 27th, 2014 | by Richard Black


Shoes to the Head, Treating Crabs with Lysol and Other Thoughts on Men Under 40

A few days ago I took Darcy to a local playground and it was lovely. We played on the jungle gym, gamboled on the soccer green and had a delightful turn on the merry-go-round without a severe injury; a successful outing in my book any day of the week.

There were however, a large group of boys in the park.  Most of them were four or five years older than my daughter which was unfortunate and by “unfortunate” I mean to say that they were in the park at all.

A pack of grade school boys is a recipe for trouble. Any grouping of men under the age of 40 or so drops the IQ of anyone in the surrounding area by a good fifty points, more if alcohol is involved. There’s a reason why most videos on YouTube featuring stupid human tricks involve men and that is because the only thing dumber than a group of them is a larger group of men.

Trust me I know.  When I was a teen I had a friend who tried to cure a case of crabs his girlfriend “caught by sitting on a tractor seat” by shaving his balls and dousing is privates with Lysol every four hours.  Listening to him scream through a public bathroom door as he applied his home remedy to his scrotum wasn’t enough to deter others in our group from giving her a ride once they’d broken up and these guys were MENSA candidates compared to some of the idiots I’ve known.

But back to the playground and my daughter’s idyllic youth.

Being the marginally aware parent I’ve evolved into I noted that Darcy was over in section of the park and busily orchestrating what sounded like a threesome between…well three twigs that represented the main characters from the movie “Frozen”.  I had just heard Anna profess her love for Elsa and Kristoff when the a pack of boys, about eight or nine of them, decided that it would be a good idea to take off one shoe a piece and hurl them at each other.

In all fairness they didn’t have anything else to play with but I also feel compelled to note, in the spirit of fairness, that they didn’t have the forethought to bring a ball or a screwdriver or circular saw or something else to occupy their time at the park.

Darcy gave them a wide berth once the shoes and tears began to fly and I had a moment to reflect on the various idiocies I’d engaged in at that age.

I grew up in the 1980’s in a small town in Indiana, a time and state that is not known for good judgement or tolerance unless the term is used as a measure for how one holds his alcohol.

The setting was pretty similar to most of the facilities I’ve seen at schools these days with a few exceptions. There were jungle gyms and seesaws and swings and basketball courts, most of which were anchored in a few square acres of concrete to ensure that any fall would involve a compound fracture or, at least, a life sipping hotdogs through a straw in a wheelchair.

Supervision was lacking and unmotivated. There’s really only so much you can expect out of a person who’s paid $1.50 an hour to watch a horde of brats. The teacher/student ratio was probably something like 120 to 1 over a few square miles of playground and the faculty didn’t do much more than smoke cigarettes and shepherd the regular organ donor to the nurses office every fifteen minutes or so.

If memory serves the real stupidity didn’t begin until my buddies and I were in third grade for the fourth time. We’d just discovered the power of language, specifically the word “fag”. We’d also discovered the joy of kicking someone in the testicles.  Most of us spent the bulk of our time at recess kicking each other in the balls while we laughed, and occasionally cried, hysterically and screamed “fag” at the top of our lungs at anyone who fell into the fetal position after taking a well placed shot to the nuts.

In fourth grade I recall spending four weeks of recess on the swings to spit  phlegm at my buddies, also on the swings, just because it was fun. There wasn’t a point system involved as far as I can remember but a hit was scored when someone screamed and flopped out of the swing like an epileptic. My buddy Quinton had bronchitis because his parents smoked a few dozen packs a day and it’s the only time I’ve ever envied someone with a serious lung condition.

By fifth grade we’d evolved to a delightful little game called “Smear the Queer”. For those of you unfamiliar with the game a horde of boys toss a football up in the air and the poor bastard who picks it up is chased down like a hare and pummeled until he gives up the ball, consciousness or occasionally a limb.

Keep in mind that all of these games were an interlude, a background, to the usual bits of idiocy that take place whenever a group of boys get together during recess; the fights over who was “safe” or “it” during a game of tag or jailbreak or the regular sorts of injuries that just happen when a bunch of kids run around in close proximity to each other like juiced up balls rocketing around a pinball machine.

I almost lost my two front teeth, the grownup kind, after colliding face first with a boy chasing the same football. I was fortunate enough to keep the teeth but was asked to wear a mouth guard for the next two months per the advice of my dentist until my teeth weren’t in danger of falling out of my head. Naturally I didn’t wear the damn thing. I did however re-purpose the mouth guard as a cheap replacement for a retainer I lost a few years later.

I was roused from my recollections by the screams of a child who had just caught a men’s size ten cleat to the head. I began to make my way over to him to be certain he was all right when he picked up the shoe, giggled, and whipped it at another boy who promptly caught the shoe with his cheek.

It was then that I’d never been so pleased that I had been blessed with a girl and then so fervently hoped that she would be a lesbian.

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