Teachers across the country are being bombarded with the following narrative from well-meaning but horribly misguided parents: “Don’t tell my daughter that she got a ‘B’ on the test. We don’t want to damage her self-esteem. We will help her more with her homework, we promise. It’s just that she’s so delicate and she doesn’t have a good sense of herself because she has an August birthday and her older sister is so much smarter. If our younger daughter finds out that she got a ‘B’ she’ll give up studying and I know you don’t want her to quit on herself. Please tell her she got an ‘A on the test’.”
Not so many years on vacation in Aspen, my parents changed hotel rooms. I forget why although I do remember that this was in the days before cell phones. Connected inadvertently to the room where my folks no longer were, I spoke at length to a Mrs. Stone about her grandchildren, Alabama football, the weather in the mountains, and other gentle concerns of the day. Sensing that we might not agree about politics or religion, we both graciously skirted those potentially disagreeable topics in favor of more congenial connections. We talked about the Rocky Mountain Trail near her hotel, we chatted about the big western sky, we schmoozed about animals wild and domesticated. If I remember correctly, she may have shared with me a recipe for corn muffins. Twenty minutes in to our communication, it occurred to me that I still hadn’t spoken to my parents and that I might be intruding on her vacation. I said, “Mrs.
Not one to name drop but I have to tell you that a buddy of mine is one of the preeminent screen writers in the country. He has sold scripts to Stephen Spielberg; he has written movies that you have seen. “B” is top of the food chain in Hollywood, which is why I believe him when he says that no movie about an underdog sports team that doesn’t win can be produced. (Hey, I’m not going to use the “L” word in a family publication). Go ahead and add your favorites to this list: “Bad News Bears,” “Dodge Ball,” “Space Jam,” “Mighty Ducks,” “Sandlot,” that unwatchable Sylvester Stallone film about soccer. The list is as long as the movies are tedious. To enjoy M*A*S*H, a better film, you have to overlook that the “good” doctors use syringes to incapacitate the other players. In Hollywood films, take it to the bank, the “good” guys always win.
In “A Nice Place to Visit” from the inaugural season of “The Twilight Zone,” Sebastien Cabot welcomes Mr. Valentine, a recently deceased criminal, to a posh hotel suite. “My job is to see you get what you want, whatever it may be,” says the impeccable Cabot who goes on to supply gourmet meals, attractive young women, liquor, and skeins of hundred dollar bills. Mr. Valentine, who killed a little dog and organized street gangs as a child, is surprised; he believes that he must have “done something good to make up for all the bad stuff” to have arrived in heaven. Indeed, every bet he makes at roulette wins; every coin in the slot machine hits the jackpot; every woman to whom he speaks wants to be with him.
I appreciate your patience in allowing these seemingly disparate vignettes to be woven into a workable, if not perfectly seamless, tapestry.
Part 1) The Young Realtor
Realtors who view their clients and their work as an unrelenting series of losses punctuated by rare big hits are unlikely to be satisfied or successful.
Young Realtor: Are you buying a house?
Potential Client Number One: No.
Young Realtor: Are you selling your house?
Potential Client Number Two: No.
Young Realtor: Are you buying a house?
Potential Client Number Three: Yes, but I gave the listing to my mom.
Young Realtor: Are you selling a house?
Potential Client Number Four: Yes, but I hate you and won't give you the listing.
Adrienne is playing cards with his cousin, Melanie. Melanie’s mom watches as the children play, occasionally, pointing to a card in her daughter’s hand, giving advice, or suggesting a play. As the game progresses, Melanie’s mom becomes more involved, more insistent. Ignoring the other adults at the family gathering, she makes constant recommendations and hurls invective at her daughter when the ubiquitous instructions are not followed. Melanie’s mom expresses exasperation when Adrienne makes a good play; she communicates disgust when Melanie does not. In the course of a few minutes, what had been a pleasant children’s game has morphed into the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series.
Oh, and one more thing: Melanie is 15. Her cousin, Adrienne, is 8.
In the generations before social media-texting and whatnot-students passed “notes.” Notes were, as the name implies, pieces of paper on which messages were transcribed. In those halcyon days, “I’m going to kick your ass after school at Burger King” was about as literate a message as you were likely to receive.
So there’s this married guy on this secluded beach. And there’s this attractive, young woman--not his wife--sitting behind him on a blanket rubbing coconut scented suntan oil into his back. He’s talking to her about how much he loves his wife and how great their two young children are. She’s talking to him about how much she loves living in the islands and what fun it is to meet traveling businessmen.
Being a gentleman, the married guy walks the attractive young woman back to her apartment. As the sun sets over the rhythmically swaying palm trees, the married guy turns to face the woman with whom he has been spending every minute that he hasn’t been in meetings for the past three days of his trip. He has a decision to make: He has to decide whether or not to accept her invitation to come inside her apartment for a drink. Then he will have to decide whether or not to kiss the attractive young woman.
Just as Sauron’s ring makes the wearer power mad, running marathons tends to make narcissists of us all. At the risk of using too many first person pronouns, I am going to allude in my column this week to the 15 times I have failed to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. Or as Thomas Edison said about inventing the light bulb, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” I promise, as usual, that if you’ll bear with me to the end of the page, I’ll make a point about raising healthy children.
In 1980, I failed to qualify for the Boston Marathon by 19 minutes. In those days, the qualifying time was two hours and 50 minutes. Three decades later, in May of this year, I failed to qualify for the 15th time-this time I was 41 minutes off the mark.
"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own."*
Norma is lovely. My wife and Norma have been friends since college. Norma went on to law school some thirty years ago and was subsequently appointed to the federal bench by Bill Clinton. My wife and I ran into Norma at the supermarket this week. Norma is so busy trying heavy duty drug cases that we don’t see her as much as we’d like. In fact it had been several years since we had had a chance to catch up.
“What happened with that handsome guy you were dating?” my wife asked. Apparently not too many polite preliminaries are necessary between old college buddies.
“He turned out to be such a narcissist.” Norma sighed. “We broke up over two years ago.”
“He was a partner at that international business firm” my wife said.
“But what an ego. And selfish? You can’t imagine.”
“So are you seeing anybody?”