Do carny-folk really have beadier eyes than the average citizen? Are Nebraskans always ready to party? Do geologists, in fact, rock harder? Stereotypes are sometimes most dangerous when they contain some truth. We don’t want to judge an individual simply based on group affiliation, but must we deny what is plain to see?
Consider, if you will, the following persistent generalization: Children are adorable buckets of love. Now, youth across America and worldwide have made a lot of progress in recent years towards dispelling this stereotype. Through wanton violence and gross obesity, children have tried valiantly to show us the full range of their capabilities. Nevertheless, the image persists. Whenever we begin to have doubts, some little whippersnapper somewhere does some little thingsqueezes a tattered teddy bear, mispronounces the Pledge of Allegiance, whateverand our hearts melt all over again, and the relentless pigeonholing marches onward.
Case in point: Aidan Grundy-Reiner. Five years old, with a bouncy head of unruly cornsilk, quick blue eyes and a large and unpredictable vocabulary, he runs and romps, joyfully discovering the world in all its many-splendored glory. Aidan is the child equivalent of a money-loving Jew, a violin-playing Korean, a melancholy Dane. We try to be good, open-minded twenty-first-centurions, but certain young people... it’s as if they have no social conscience. Consider the following cute little true story about this cute little fellow:
Aidan’s parents are progressive people, so they wanted to take their child along to a recent peace rally. Aidan, being very charming, was thrilled about this, and was especially excited to carry a sign. Not some standard “No Blood For Oil”—no, Aidan is a free thinker, so he had his own take on world affairs. He asked his parents to make him a large placard reading “No Cannons in the World!”
Pretty adorable. But it does not stop there. Aidan has a little brother—Simon, eighteen months old. Simon is already displaying some of the same adorable tendencies as his brother, and this sometimes includes crawling inside the dishwasher. Adorable, yes; safe, no, and so Aidan’s parents have recently been on a campaign to keep the dishwasher doors closed. Aidan, being the lovable pup that he is, took this to heart, and so a few days later he asked his parents to add another message to the other side of his peace sign. That message: “No Babies in the Dishwasher!” Don’t you just want to die? Do you not just want to eat him up? But not in a cannibalism way (cannibalism is bad for children and other living things).
It’s like the panoramic poster hanging above my bed, the one with the rainbow and the flying unicorns and the sunset. Sure, it’s all the things I love and they’re all together, and the girl-unicorn is looking towards the boy-unicorn with pure unbridled passion, and even though I’m not sure rainbows and sunsets can really happen at the same time, well, this picture looks pretty realisticI mean, just check out the authentic musculature in the stallion’s powerful haunchesand so maybe all my dreams are possible. But still, somehow the overall effect is a bit disturbing, disconcerting. Like dipping bacon fat in chocolate sauce—it should be great, and it is great, kind of, but in a way it’s just too great, too perfect, too precisely what I want. (I am currently developing a semi-sweet chocolate sauce to address this problem.)
Aidan is an adorable child and a pleasure to be around. I hope that never changes. I am old, sick, cynical, confused, and so I have trouble accepting a good thing for what it is. Aidan, if you are reading this, being the precocious lad that you are, pay me no mind. Do not be troubled by your ugly, decaying elders, all those who fear youth and try to stamp it out. Please continue on your way, riding a single-horned Pegasus into the fiery rainbonic sunset.
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