Out of the Mouths of Babes…

Stepson J is a high school senior who scored boffo on his SATs and can attend pretty much any college he desires and they all want him, so nary a day passes without several letters from colleges and college catalogues showing up in the mail.  So far he’s shown surprisingly little interest in any of them, so once in a while The Curmudgeon picks up one of the catalogues and hands it to him and suggests “Take a look at this one.”  The Curmudgeon recalls his own life during this period and remembers that he never pursued any of the colleges whose materials showed up in the mail, but he found that reading them gave him some useful perspective and a frame of reference as he zeroed in on his own choices.  (The Curmudgeon suspects this process didn’t serve him very well: he made an awful choice of what college to attend.)

One day a few weeks ago Mrs. Curmudgeon was out of town and it was The Curmudgeon and J alone for dinner, so The Curmudgeon picked up one of the catalogues, from a college that shall remain nameless, and tried to initiate a conversation about it with his mostly non-conversational stepson. (Is there such a thing as a conversational 18-year-old boy?)

J hated the title of the catalogue, which was “This is [name of college].”  This was unusual: J is about as non-judgmental person as you’ll ever encounter yet he didn’t even like the title of the catalogue.

So over dinner – almost always ribs when mom’s not home – The Curmudgeon opened to one page and read aloud a profile of an obnoxious overachiever being presented as a “typical” student of the college.

My name is Blake and I am a theater and international relations double major, German minor, brother of Sigma Pi fraternity, Young Republicans member, team player, model UN participant, former intramural basketball champion, waiter, the life of the party, jazzfest emcee, member of the international relations club, sports aficionado, self-taught guitar player.

It was enough to make you want to vomit, and The Curmudgeon, who is highly judgmental, rather unkindly declared “This guy is a dick.” J, non-judgmental, offered a half-smile but nothing more.

But this was fun, so when The Curmudgeon started turning pages and came upon another profile of a true striver, he resumed reading aloud.

My name is Bryanna and I am a psychology major, African American and Africana studies double minor, 2018 active mind emerging fellow, UCDC performer, researcher, heal lab research assistant, writing fellow, animal lover, lab manager, AAAS web assistant, America Reads tutor, Cloake House program coordinator, Psy Chi president, health disparities teaching assistant, Sankofa Umoja Nia member,kayaker, biker, swimmer, activist.”

The Curmudgeon, utterly repulsed – and a little exhausted – declared “And this woman is a dick-ette.”

Again, just the slightest acknowledgment from non-judgmental J.

So The Curmudgeon resumed turning pages until he came to another and again started reading aloud.

My name is Colin and I am a biology and neuroscience double major, Spanish and psychology double minor, on a pre-medical track, member of the men’s swimming team, tour guide, tutor, PASS (peer assisted study session) instructor for organic chemistry, member of Dr. Beth Bailey’s cardiac research lab, volunteer for little bears swim lessons, captain of the swimming relay team, participant in airband, relay for life and the ragball international charity soccer tournament, intramural badminton team member (very proud 0-6).

This one really rubbed The Curmudgeon the wrong way, so he looked across the table at J and said “And this one is a tool.”

Still barely an acknowledgement from J, but the boy is always notoriously hard to read, so The Curmudgeon decided to plow on, finding another obnoxious profile a few pages later.

My name is Kisha and I am a politics and women’s studies double major, senior admission fellow, study abroad participant, head tour guide, ____ College Republicans president, Haines-Bernard pre-legal society president, UC mock trial captain, Crigler Institute participant, summer fellow, five-time mock trial top attorney, pre-legal department intern, future lawyer, adventurer, sustainability fellow, escape velocity dancer, researcher.

Again The Curmudgeon was repulsed, but this time he turned to J and said he was out of names to call these people and asked “What shall we call her?”

And the boy, without cracking even the slightest of smiles, declared “A candidate to get stuffed in a locker.”

And only when The Curmudgeon laughed heartily did J offer a smile in return, after which the two of them resumed eating their ribs.




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  • Peaches Shimmerdeep  On October 15, 2018 at 10:47 am


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