Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mouths of Babes

A couple months ago, I got a call from an old college pal asking if I would meet with one of her sons, recently graduated from high school and about to enter UNM, who is interested in becoming a writer. This is a gal that I’ve maintained at least a semblance of contact with since the early 1990s. In fact, I like to think that in a round about way, I'm responsible for her son being on this planet.

It was sophomore year of college, first day of what I think was an American history class, and I was running late. Class had just begun, so I sat myself down in the first seat I saw, right next to—hello!— this really cute dude who looked almost exactly like how Tom Cruise was looking in those days, as in: not-yet-revealed-to-the-world-as-bat-shit-crazy-adorable.

He was also wearing a tee shirt with the word FIAT on it, which gave me the perfect opening during break.

Moi: “So, you drive a Fiat?”

Him: Adorable smile: “I wouldn’t really call it ‘drive.’”

Moi: Blink.

Him: “Do you know what Fiat stands for?”

Moi: Blink, blink.

Him: Again with the adorable smile: “Fix It Again, Todd.”

Right then and there I decided I had no choice but to absolutely go after Todd with as much laser-focused effort as I could muster in between a life filled with class, work, keggers, and shopping. Which effort, alas, turned out to earn me a great big ol’ F for “fail,” because instead of falling for me, Todd fell hard for one of my friends, a pretty blond named Patty.

So hard that several weeks after meeting her, he cornered me during lunch, begging me to ask Patty if she were interested in him. What could I do? I did the right thing and said, I don’t have to ask, she digs ya, too. Go for it.

And so they started dating and when he cornered me again a few months later and said he was head over heels in love with her, what should he do, should he ask her to marry him? Again, what could I do? I did he right thing and said, yes, she adores you, is madly, passionately in love with you, we’ve been stalking your house for weeks and I need to get some sleep already, so go for it. And you know what? He did and they’re still head over heels in love with each other. Which turned out to be just fine with me. They were made for each other, and I was made to, well, date other people.

Anyway, fast forward a couple years to summer after graduation and I get a note from Todd and Patty saying Todd joined the army and they’re headed to Italy for the duration. Four years later, they’re back in town, Patty’s pregnant, and soon they produce what has to be the cutest baby boy I’ve ever seen in my life. So cute, in fact, that I lost all control of my senses and actually offered to give up two of my prime dating nights a month to babysit for this child just so I could nibble on his chubby cheeks and knees. Thankfully, I only had to do this once (Todd is possessed of a very large, much more diaper-changing-adept, family.)

Thereafter, things happen in both our lives, they have another baby, blah, blah, blah, I get married and divorced, blah, blah, blah, and eventually our contact is limited to once-a-year Christmas cards.

Until a few years back when we hooked up through Facebook. Fast forward to the “Can you talk with Tyler and advise him on becoming a writer?” query of a few months ago, and I find myself face-to-face with a handsome, 6’5”, 200-pound version of the baby whose cheeks I used to pinch, only one who now drives a motorcycle and calls me “ma’am.” We sit down with our lunch and our sodas and I begin to discuss the pros and cons of writing as a career, with an emphasis on the con side of the list. After all, I don’t want to shine this kid on.

When I get to the part where I say, “Are you sure there isn’t anything else you’d rather be doing?” he stops me. Although he has his mother’s coloring and facial features, the look in his eyes is 100 percent his father’s. “No, seriously,” he says. “I’ve thought about this and thought about this and this is something I really want to do. I need your help so I know I’m going about it the right way.”

What could I do? I did the right thing and told him to go for it.


Buzz Kill said...

Wait a minute...wasn't the first part of this story the plot line from Some Kind of Wonderful?

It was a sad realization for me that I am now the old guy at the end of his career that peoples's kids ask for career advice. But it's also an awesome power - the kind of power I haven't wielded since convincing my 5 year old that there are, in fact, closet monsters.

We medicine men (medicine persons - sorry) have to start passing the baton of experience to the rug rats. But nobody said we couldn't have some fun doing it.

Anonymous said...

"So hard that several weeks after meeting her, he cornered me during lunch, begging me to ask Patty if she were interested in him."

I'm confuzzled. Did this take place during College or Junior High?

moi said...

Buzz: Why, yes, I do believe at the time I had Mary Stuart Masterson's haircut, Lea Thompson's outfits, and, eventually, a boyfriend who looked an awful lot like Eric Stoltz. Whoa . . .

Troll: College. Remember, men are at least three years behind women developmentally.

Karl said...

Good evening Moi,

That's the trick isn't it? Assessing a young person's level of dedication and aptitude toward a chosen field. Many try and can't cut it. The harder the profession, the fewer that make it. Regardless of his background or your background with his family. It's up to him.

Jenny said...

Wow. If I had a child in college right now I would tell them,


*sigh* College degrees have become as common as High School diplomas. When I left high school, only 20% of my class entered college. Nowdays? it's 70%.

Bless you for telling him to go for it, because who knows? Maybe he'll be one of those that succeeds. But if not, I sure hope he knows how to say,

"Would you like to super size your order?"

czar said...

As of next Saturday, I'll have two in college. One is majoring in acting and French; the other, whom Moi has met, is planning on being a teacher (as of now).

Neither acting nor teaching can be outsourced. The older one would, I think, eventually like to live in France, which I would heartily encourage. I think he'd be very valuable over there as a native American speaker -- in theater or just about anything. And if nothing else, he can open his guitar on a street corner and sing in unaccented English.

But neither child took my advice for recession-proof work: mortician.

moi said...

Karl: He comes from good people and seems to have a level head. Regardless, I find it rather silly that we ask of children at this age to decide what they're going to be for the rest of their live. Then again, I suppose if we didn't, we'd never get them out of the house.

Boxer: Well, you know my thoughts on "higher" education. Yes, graduate from high school because so far as a society we've agreed that it's imperative, and at least one can learn to read, write, and do basic math there. I'm not so sure how valuable college is, though, unless someone is going into a profession like law, engineering, teaching, medicine.

Czar: Did I detect a modicum of libertarianism from said boy child or was I only projecting? If I were starting a new business today? It would definitely be a mortuary. Perhaps even a kind of designer death service.

Pam said...

I love this story. And doesn't it seem like Lea Thompson outfits were only yesterday? And looking like Tom Cruise during Risky Business era was very FINE indeed. After Top Gun, not so much.

It has been such a pleasure to see the kids that my girl grew up with turn into wonderful young adults with families of their own. Just warms my heart.

College degrees, well, harumph. I'm with you and Boxie. In my day (olden days), in my field, you could enter straight in and make good money with no real need of a degree. The degree was for teachers and lawyers. Now, it is a just an easy to filter out applicants. No degree? too bad. I think the education community may have much to do with this.

As far as mortician -- not sure I could do the embalming but I secretly want to be putting on funerals. Having had to take part in the planning of a few with some vultures who work in the funeral industry ... just one of those things where I think i could be good at it.

czar said...

@Moi: I don't know, but when I was his age, I was libertarian, too. I actually voted libertarian every chance I got, right through 1988, and maybe later. When we lived in Florida in 1997-2000, I was actually registered as a Republican. Things change.

moi said...

Pam: No, I have no desire to work with dead bodies, either. But, I do have a desire to craft funerals and death celebrations with a certain flair and epic sensibility. Want to float down the Danube in a long boat set aflame? We can do that. Want your ashes carted to the top of Kilamanjaro while a Bud Girl recites sections of Hemingway? We can do that, too.

Czar: No kidding? I thought people go MORE conservative as they got older, not less. What happened, man, WHAT?!?!

czar said...

@Moi: Stockholm Syndrome.

A publisher/author I used to work for (he's now dead) was a famous motivational speaker. His tagline was as follows: "You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things, the books you read and the people you meet."

Aunty Belle said...

Cute story--Moi is diaper-changing challenged? who knew?

Hope ya gave the kiddie-o the scoop on the terror of the white page. and editors.
Stockholm syndrome! Hilarious.

moi said...

Czar: Funny, a psychologist once told me our personalities are set at about the age of 9. Very little thereafter changes.

Aunty: Well, as an editor myself . . . :o) Although I did tell him there were good ones and bad ones and the bad ones are almost always frustrated writers. As for diaplers, I hear that some of them come with those sticky thingees on the sides that make things much easier.

Pam said...

Reading your comments about personalities being set by age 9 just gave me a little jolt of memory. There was a UK program called "Seven" based on just that theory -- using the line from a poem (?) that stated, "Give me the boy until age seven, then I will show you the man he will be." (obviously, misquoted) ... anyway, the program followed several kids and would check in with them every seven years to see how they were doing. Some were great, some were off the rails, etc. Husband was interested in it because he was the same age as the kids. I wonder if the program checked in with them at age 49? I need to find out.

Anyway, YES YES YES! Let's do the extravagent destination funeral business! We could SO do that .... if destination weddings can be done, why not destination funerals? I'm in. Sign me up.

moi said...

Pam: We'll call it, in fact, Destination Death. Or is that too dark? I actually watched parts of that series, Seven. I can't remember what age they went up to, but it was a fascinating documentary.

fishy said...

Mentor Moi?
Mentoring marriage.
Mentoring young writers.
Mentoring designer deaths?

Karl said...

Good afternoon Moi,

How about Departing Destinations. The motto could be: Never been anywhere? Never done anything? Here's your last chance, go for it!

czar said...


The original, I think, was called "7 Up" -- a BBC production.

I saw "28 Up" when it came out, and I think they did at least "35 Up."

As of the 21-year update, the only person, ironically, who refused to be interviewed was a guy who was working as a BBC assistant producer.

czar said...


I never knew a psychologist who wasn't crazy. Same as you rarely see an optometrist with 20/20 vision.

moi said...

Fishy: Do as I say, not as I do, is my motto :o)

Karl: Why I do believe that is brilliant!

Czar: Unless they're cognitively based, I don't put much credence in psych help. The fact that there are still Freudian therapists out there just makes me giggle.

chickory said...

interesting. nobody ever rings me up to give their kid advice. heres why: I would tell them what a racket college is - especially liberal arts. I remember reading a Forbes (out of sheer boredom) on a plane once and there was a profile of like 20 top CEO's. more than half didnt bother to finish college. Contrast that with the ivy league cabinetry in government.

all you need is a library, internet and self direction. This is especially true of the racket known as "art school". Id direct my child into agriculture or something post pinhead professions.

@ Buzz: i love the stories of Buzz the father terrorist. closet monsters are useful. well played.

chickory said...

grrrrrherhahahahaha @ Karl.

moi said...

Chickory: That's all I need. To be the "aunt" that says college is a crock o' scheisse. Still I heartily agree. If any of us ended up doing for a living what we degreed with in college, raise your hands.

Yup. Thought so.

Aunty Belle said...

Heh..Aunty were a psych major.

Fallin' down hysterical to think of that now-- knew they's all looney tunes professors--mebbe only the UF statistics prof was not looney... but she seen Uncle when he came to git me after class one day --him standin' in the glass lobby of psych bldg in all his 21 year old glory. This she-wolf was a young newly minted Ph.D an' she made sure ever'body addressed her as DOCTOR Predator. She hustled out to see what he "needed" in "her" lobby. "Why mam," say Uncle, "I'se jes' waitin' on my bride, thar'" wif' a point into the classroom.

By midterm Dr. Piranha clued Uncle in she be an advocate of open marriage. By finals she give Aunty a C--a C??????

Aunty Belle said...

Moi--over heah I has more to say than at home--why's that?

Well, another little story fer ya'.

As fer cognitive approach? A local psych I knows wif' cognitive post doc spangles hanging off his sheepskin were tryin' to hep a patient deal wif' life. "Just remember it is not why you feel the way you feel, it's how you deal with' the feelings...change your feeling by thinking through your response--respond differently and you'll have different feeling about the situation."

Reckon the patient
( a professional la-di-da) needed to see how that be done in real life, cause the week after the doc got new carpet an new upholstery, the patient brought in a bottle of ketchup an mustard and squeezed it all over them new sofas an the carpets. Story goes the doc jumped out of the chair wavin' his arms like octopus shouting an cussin' an' threatenin' the patient, "STOP, your ruinin' my office. What in H--- are you doing??"

"Why doc", said patient, "I wanted to see how you'd respond,

"You've ruined my office you idiot!" the doc exploded.

"Yes, and look how you handled it. With feeling and emotion--rather uncontrolled I must say. How would you respond, Doc, if someone were ruining your *LIFE*?"

Oh I luvs that story.

moi said...

Aunty: What I wouldn't give to peek back in time to see a 21 year old Uncle :o) Good CogB story. And not to offend your choice of major (which gave me a great good laugh, but then again, I was Art History and Photography, so have at it), but, really, all therapies are a wee bit silly. Basically, I'm pretty much in the have a good cry, then get on with it camp.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a heartwarming story.

But yes, life's a bitch when others meet their soulmates so early in life, while the rest of us have to wait for years and years or even worse, resign ourselves to not meeting them at all.

moi said...

Poet: I believe it is strictly a game of chance, this meeting up of certain molecules. Soul mates? Not sure I believe in them. Long-lived relationships seem to either be the cause of genuine good luck, love, likability, and a certain finger plugging of the ears. But some are simply matters of habit. A neighbor once invited me to her and her husband's anniversary party. I congratulated her on 30 years together. She turned and whispered at me: "Not sure if that's in order. Had I been trained to do anything but type and raise children, I would have left him long ago. Too late now."

I'd rather be single and poor than stuck in that.