if you can’t beat ’em
by Miss What's-Your-Name-Again?
I’m sorry I made you cry today. It isn’t the first time I’ve made a kid cry, and certainly won’t be the last… and, no matter how many times it happens, it is this odd mix of devastation and horror and stifled laughter and more horror at the fact that, for whatever reason, I feel compelled to laugh at your crying. But what was I supposed to do? Everyone was playing your dumb fucking game of football just fine, and then there you are, standing right in the middle of the field, yelling your little kid-brains out over who fucking knows what. So I called you over in the manner I felt most appropriate, which means I channeled my inner high school football coach and yelled at you to YOU! GET OFF THE FIELD! (since I finished Friday Night Lights I feel I have a very good grip on how to communicate effectively with young men.)
You stomped over to me with a kind of excess pageantry that already had me a little concerned. Before I could get a word out, you then proceeded to do the most bizarre, tantrumy, (and wildly entertaining) sort of pagan dance of anger in defense of your actions, physically accenting the important words, like, I am just (punch) trying to play the game (kick) BUT NO ONE (karate chop) IS (punch) PLAYING (kick) BY (karate chop) THE (karate chop) RULES (kick)! And I know you wanted me to go over there and micromanage your game for you, and I had some good reasons for refusing to do so other than the fact that the grass was wet and I didn’t want to walk across it just to get yelled at by some more angry kids. But hoo boy were you mad, and, as we are all well enough aware, often what follows a mad tantrum is mad-crying. And then you were just a giant fucking mess, all sweat and dirt and snot and tears and… well, you were there, you get it.
So here’s where I feel compelled to tell you just how little fairness exists in grownup land, how the only reason you don’t see more grownups angry-dancing all over the place is that, when you grow up, you decide that it’s probably better to shove those feelings of anger and frustration deep down inside you so that they may instead manifest in stress-related medical issues. I would warn you to guard your little justice-seeking heart; I want to weep for your little snotty face, for my own snotty face. I want to properly convey to you how agonizing it is to think about every drop of water you use (because we are in the middle of a fucking horrible drought that no one seems to have heard about) and then try and sidestep the water pouring out of the hose the neighbor has left lying on the sidewalk as she stops watering her grass to answer a text. How it feels to lean over your sink one morning to inspect how shitty you are looking today only to have your shitty sink collapse beneath you, and then end up paying for it to be replaced because of a loophole in your lease agreement. Or the unique aggravation it is to drive your car behind people going 20 mph in the left lane in the middle of rush hour, who cut you off, or refuse to let you in, who never, ever, fucking use their goddamn turn signal, is the turn signal not a thing that we use anymore, why the FUCK DOES NO ONE EVER USE A TURN SIGNAL IN THIS GODFORSAKEN CITY? But I realize that Miss What’s-Your-Name-Again has become somewhat of a downer these days. So, instead, I’m going to tell you that, in the midst of all the unfairness and the uncoolness, in the dark, shabbier days when it seems like you might never end up on the awesome end of things, there are small ways of making it more okay than… it might be otherwise. And one way I make it more okay is: I don’t use my turn signal anymore now, either.
It takes a lot of focus not to, after so many years of fastidiously indicating my automotive movements (even when I’m pulling out of a parking spot, which my mother still reminds me isn’t all that necessary,) but it truly does makes me feel better to weave in and out of traffic with nary a turn signal in sight. I will catch some old lady’s stank eye as I drive past her and I give her the stank eye right back, silently saying, welcome to the jungle, bitch. It just feels like a tiny little piece of power that I am taking back, a way of reminding myself that there are still a few things in my crummy life I can control. And that’s what I meant to pass on to you when I leaned over, put my hand on your shoulder, and said, Listen, if no one is playing by the rules, why should you? Typically, you looked at me like I was a moron and ran back out to shout at your friends some more… which you couldn’t, because, also typically, I took too much time talking to you and recess was over. Which has pretty much become my patented method of problem solving, if you hadn’t already figured it out.
School should be fair. Playtime should be fair. You should enjoy these days of insular righteousness, where justice is always just a tattle-tale away. But life is not and, every once in a while, you ought to practice a little survival of the fittest. When sometimes, the only way to make things right when no one’s playing by the rules is to turn off your turn signal, put on your best stank eye, and enter the jungle. …Or at least, that’s what you should do tomorrow, since you have no more recess.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go wash my car in an attempt to render it unrecognizable because, on the drive home, I cut someone off and then accidentally flipped him the bird because, I don’t know, I got confused. It may be fair, but it’s not a perfect science.