Friday, November 26, 2004

Know Your Enemy

Buddhism has its "Four Noble Truths", one of which is "Life is painful." I've always thought that truth was awfully helpful to remember (if not a little prosaic) since it girds us for the various moments when diaper tonage hits the fan, so to speak. So, "--it happens" serves to remind us that the bed of roses we'd like to imagine we reside in requires a certain amount of manure to thrive. The Buddha says, "Yeah, get used to it."

What the Buddha failed to mention is that the list of "ugly truths" far outnumbers "noble truths", so much so that I won't go into any of the items left off the list. Since life is graciously finite and mercifully short, I'll confine my discussion of "ugly truths" to a single axiom - the moment when you look at another person and speak loudly, in your mind, "What were you thinking?"

You know what I mean. You experience it when your friend shows you how they've invested more money than they have in one of those hideous Honda Box-cars or had the name of the Latest Loser tattoo'd on their back. It's that scream that echoes in the halls of your consciousness when your brother tells you he's engaged our troubled parolee nephew to watch his house while he's off tromping around in the Amazon.

It's easy enough to acknowledge our own dumb mistakes but it's disconcerting to see stupidity (especially stupidity of extreme proportions) in others because the world seems so much safer if we believe no one else is capable of screwing up as badly as we do. The experience of "What were you thinking?" not only comes with a certain degree of contempt and disbelief but also a sad realization that the world is rife with ill-considered decisions.

Take people with small kids who buy white carpet. As far as I'm concerned, people with small children who go with white carpet deserve whatever it is they forgot to anticipate: Kool-aid, pee, Play-Dough, Crayons, the red, red mood of Mississippi mud. Give me a parent with white carpet and I guarantee you kids who will grow up to become accountants.

White fabric is your enemy, folks. Unless you have figured out how to reverse time and can therefore reverse the inevitable Juicy-box-macarroni-and-cheese finger-painting fiasco, give it up unless you're into showing off your furniture as the latest unintentional art project. I have a coffee table (dark brown cherrywood) that has lost to any chance of being considered a "piece of interest" on the "Antiques Roadshow". Aside from being used as a 3-D coloring book, it's found utility as a race track, a diving board, a place to mix crackers and milk, and as the launching pad for a hobby horse rodeo.

Accepting the noble truths of single fatherhood entails being as proactive as I can in averting disaster. All my cabinets have childproof locks, not just the cabinets with toxic chemicals but everything. I'm not inclined to wash every pot and pan in the place after my cookware has been made into footware. I'd rather not find a kitchen floor carpeted with Rice-A-Roni.

My houseplants are sturdy things, oblivious to road-building and Barbie beach parties and unexplained spontaneous defoliation. Scotchguard only goes so far so I've allowed bedspreads to become drop-cloths. Serenity is accepting what is and I've learned to accept that whatever is, my children will cover it sticky hand prints, dye it Care Bear Rainbow and scent it with the remnants of uneaten hot dogs. Denial of these truths would be insanity and my insanity cup runneth over, thank you.

Maybe pride makes me hyper-vigilant for warding off the "What were you thinking" look but I try to pride myself on being nuts, not stupid. My own recognition of the "What were you thinking" moment is paired with recognizing the enemy and the enemy is any toy that has a gazillion pieces. So it's during Birthdays or Christmas (or random acts of stupidity disguised as charity) that my "What were you thinking?" glare kicks in when my children tear off wrapping to reveal The Gigantic Box of Bobby Pins or A Tub-O'-Glitter or anything that contains the imminent demise of a vacuum-cleaner belt. I know who the enemy is... and as the say in Sicily, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Indeed - and revenge is a dish with a Billion tiny pieces as an ingredient.


pinkme said...

I have white carpet AND a yellow couch- wanna make something of it!! JK

Cinnabar1 said...

ooooh... why do Legos always seem to find their way into the middle of the hall in the wee hours between "turn off the lights and get ready for bed" and "already put my shoes on for the day"?