Needless to say (but I will say it, because I have to say all the things), anyone who’s lived among other humans has encountered, is dealing with or will meet at least one asshole. Because they’re everywhere …. Tailgating, then angrily revving up to pass you whether it’s safe or not, then squeezing in front of you. Just so they can get wherever they’re going a minute faster. Cutting in line at the grocery store, then feigning innocence when you say “excuse me, I was in line already”. They know damn well what they did – they were just hoping you wouldn’t have the cojones to call them on it. Pitching a fit at the DMV because they don’t have the required paperwork with them, while the people in line behind them roll their eyes and sigh. Five minutes on the website would have told them everything they needed to know, but they’d rather spend fifteen minutes berating some poor schmuck who has no control over the rules and cannot escape the asshole’s rage because this is her job. Monopolizing the teacher well past their allotted ten minutes, knowing that the teacher has twenty other sets of parents waiting to talk to him. Because, of course, there’s only one child who matters: theirs. Stealing from the office kitchen. They make the same salary as everyone else, but they somehow feel entitled to a free coffee, or even someone else’s sandwich. Neighbours who clear their driveway by dumping the snow onto yours. People who don’t flush. I. Can’t. Even. with the people who don’t flush.
I always knew of the existence of assholes. What I didn’t know is how early they take their first steps down the path to full-blown assholery …. until I became a mother. Fiona was all of one year old when a kid at least three years older than her snatched her pail and shovel at the playground, declaring that he needed it and she wasn’t old enough to use it anyway. At about the same age, two years later, Bridget was discovered by a sadistic little girl who – though older, taller and heavier – insisted on riding her, horsey-style, while she wailed. No matter how many times I pulled that brat off her, it was inevitable that I would have to do it again before the playgroup session ended. I can’t count how many times both girls have watched longingly while some kid hogged the swings, pretending oblivion to the fact that other kids wanted a turn. Nearly every time we’ve visited a McDonald’s, I’ve cringed while watching small ones jostled and toppled by kids who are old enough to know that they should be more careful – and, in some cases, too old to be using the play area anyway.
The most bountiful source, by far, of assholes has been school …. There was the girl who slammed Fiona’s head against the school bus window, and ripped the tassel off her toque. The boy who took Fiona’s beloved cowboy hat from her and danced around with it high in the air while she cried. This is the same boy who, horrifyingly, stuck another kid’s finger in the pencil sharpener and shaved off a layer of skin. Cue the theme from “Psycho”. The girl who, when asked if Fiona could join her group, let her eyes slide around, counting the kids already involved, then protested that Fiona was one too many because this was a game for seven. The boy who knocked Bridget down from behind, causing her to skin out both palms and both knees. The gang of sixth-graders who plagued the schoolyard last year, teasing younger kids about everything from the toys they were playing with to their hair colour, until the principle blew his stack in front of all the students and ordered the jerks out of his school (he earned my respect that day, and – presumably – the love of every underdog from junior kindergarten to the top). While we’re talking about sixth-graders, the sixth-grade boys who thought it was funny to ask the little girls on the bus if they’d like to have sex. This was confusing and upsetting for kids who, of course, didn’t even know what sex is. Who does that? The girl who just had to tell Fiona that she shouldn’t be wearing her Mario-and-Luigi shirt for her school picture. (I asked Fiona what this girl was wearing that was so special, and she couldn’t remember. But she has never forgotten how this girl made her feel.) The girl who heard Fiona humming and said “um, no offense, but you can’t sing”. Did she wake up that morning with the goal of trampling somebody else’s joy, or was it a random act of cruelty? (And why is it that, whenever someone says “no offense”, they follow it with something that couldn’t be anything but offensive?)
Then, there is what might just be the worst …. A disabled man – we’ll call him Jack – working as a helper at the after-school program the girls attend has been moved on to a different program. Why? Because the kids made fun of him, lied to him about the program rules, and openly defied him because they knew he was powerless to do anything about it. This upset Fiona, as she is fond of Jack. It confused Bridget. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to put a positive spin on it, saying that maybe Jack would be happier in a program where he is respected, treated well and can contribute properly. Neither of them were buying it. Finally, I just said “you know, I’m going to be honest – some kids are just assholes”. Bridget protested that she never disrespected Jack or teased him, and I said “exactly – because you’re not an asshole, and if I ever find out that either of you has become one, I will make your life very difficult indeed”. This wasn’t news to them; they already know that. So what’s wrong with these other kids? What’s wrong with their parents? Being a jerk shines through just like being sweet – I don’t see how they could be ignorant of their children’s atrocious behaviour. How can there be so many little assholes out there, making other people miserable? I don’t know. I’m frustrated, and sad for both my children and the assholes. Their world is supposed to be better than the one I grew up in, but I’m pretty sure it’s worse.
And now, because I teased you with my title – well, if you’ve got good taste in music, I did – here’s Waylon and Willie. The song is accompanied by charming pictures of cowboys, and children who want to be cowboys, and none of them look like assholes. Maybe it’s time to change the song. Go ahead and let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don’t know what the economic prospects look like for that particular career choice, but if it makes them happy …. Just don’t let them be assholes. There are more-than-enough of them already.
Update: Just today, at the after-school program, a girl told Fiona that she couldn’t play in the snow fort with her and some other kids because her name is “ugly”. None of the other kids stood up for Fiona, who cried. Presumably none of them wanted to have their names called ugly. How timely. Thank you, little asshole, for illustrating my blog post for me, and giving me another reason to post it.