Until you have kids of your own, it's hard to comprehend exactly how much of our empathy and respect for fellow humans is taught and not inherited. Evolution hasn't had enough time to weave these types of complex social rules into our jacked up monkey brains, leaving the task of not being assholes up to us. So we spend our entire lives making sure we don't slip up and offend someone by blurting out what a ridiculous monstrosity his cheek tattoos have turned him into. Then, when it comes time to teach our own children, we realize that if we use that same social etiquette on them, they'll be dead or homeless before age 30. So parents have to make an exception to rules like ...
#5. It's Rude to Talk About Someone's Weight
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As an Adult:
It's still what I'd consider to be a universally accepted bigotry to make fun of the obese. Meaning that I don't see a whole lot of people putting their foot down and demanding justice when someone starts whipping out the fat jokes. We still see overweight people as having inflicted a grotesque debility upon themselves, and we have an extremely hard time sympathizing with that, even if we know that the problem is beyond their control. However, what we won't do, unless we're straight-up sociopaths, is walk up to a stranger on the street (or even a loved one) and say, "Holy shit, you're fat. We're taking care of this problem right now. From now on, no soda, no chips, no chocolate ..."
If you made it past calling them fat without getting your lips punched off of your facemouth, you'd consider yourself pretty lucky, right? But even then, once you got to the second part of that ridiculous confrontation, you'd most likely never make it to your list of banned foods before they told you to go fuck yourself and ate, out of sheer spite, the foods that you're now listing to their middle finger as they walk away.
OK, that may be a little on the excessive side. And slightly weird.
But to Your Children:
Not long ago, I had to have a heart-to-heart with my oldest son, who was rapidly out-assing month-old pants. He's had off-and-on problems with weight, but nothing we'd consider major. It doesn't appear to be genetic or a malfunction of whatever organ prevents you from becoming floppy. He just has a tendency to eat a lot of nasty bullshit, coupled with hobbies that require him to sit motionless for hours on end.
Now, given, I didn't just walk up to him and say, "Hey, fatass! I heard you in here growing ever fatter, so I thought I'd come check out this freak show for myself." But I did have to beat back the politeness alarms that went off when I decided that it had to become a serious conversation. Those voices that pleaded, "No, this is taboo. Talking about this will make him feel shame!" Yep, and not talking about it will bring him heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
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It's either diabetes or heroin addiction. I can never remember which is which.
So we temporarily set aside everything I had ever taught him about manners and filtering, and we had the conversation that every parent needs to eventually have with their children. Letting them know that maintaining a healthy weight is not about adhering to the entertainment world's impossible body standards, but about making sure that their arteries are able to carry blood from one organ to the next without having to pass through a dam of grease. And his restraint isn't always going to come in the form of a parent not buying bad food -- very soon, that responsibility will be on his own shoulders, and no one will step in and remind him that "You are eating your own funeral."
If you let that shit go on into adulthood, unaddressed, you're not doing your job as a parent. And if you condemn them to a shortened lifespan because you were afraid of being impolite, you're not doing your job as a human.
"Man, there is nothing like a box of chicken skins and the fresh, open air."
#4. You Can't Tell People They Smell Bad
As an Adult:
I'll never forget my first task as a newly promoted supervisor at my last job. We had one employee who was notorious for having rancid breath because he chewed (as in chewing tobacco). Because of that nasty habit, his bottom teeth were all brown -- well, the half of them that hadn't rotted out. Not only was it disgusting to other employees, but he was also in direct contact with customers. So naturally, my job was to make him bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to work with him every day and make sure he used them. Because my boss was half demon.
I couldn't do it. At least not at first. Eventually, the boss told me that if I didn't take care of the situation, I wouldn't be a supervisor anymore, so I did what I had to do. But the point is that it took forever for me to figure out how to bring it up, or even if I could. I just couldn't imagine the balls it would take or what level of asshole a person had to be in order to do that without being forced to under threat of unemployment.
It got pretty weird.
But to Your Children:
I've yet to meet a parent who can't look their kids directly in the eyes and say, "You smell like Satan's asshole. Go bathe before I cleanse your stink with acid." Then, as the child closes the bathroom door, they have to add, "And USE SOAP!" Because we know for a 100 percent fact that if we don't add that in, they will not.
Say it to an adult, and they will get defensive: "Hey, fuck you, pal. I've been busting my ass all day at a job I hate, just to pay my rent. I'll show you a bad smell when I make Limburger fondue on your flaming goddamn corpse." You're an asshole because you're saying "I'm offended, and you are the cause." But saying it to your kids is necessary. Without your reminders, they won't get into the habit of regular hygiene. The only way to develop good lifelong habits is repetition when they're young. And that means cutting out the bullshit and addressing the problem directly.
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"Yes, you need a shower. No, that's not mud."
Even if it means renaming your children "Stink," "Gravy," and "Skidmark."
#3. Don't Judge People by Their Appearance
As an Adult:
Well, that's a no-brainer, right? We've all seen that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts returns to the snooty Beverly Hills clothing store and says, "You work on commission, right?" And then she pulls out a machine gun and says, "Closing time, bitches. But first, I'd like to make an exchange ... on these bullets." Or however that scene goes; I was kind of just imagining my own plot as the movie droned on in the background.
But the lesson has always been pretty clear in just about every story ever told. The janitor is really a genius mathematician. The frog is a prince. That chick in The Crying Game was slingin' dick. If you judge someone based on their clothes or features, you're going to get burned, because they aren't going to turn out like you imagined.
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For instance, dig deep enough, and you'll actually find that these people are into pop punk.
But to Your Children:
Being judged based on what they're wearing is a fact of life that your kids are not going to cure. Does that mean that they have to play the game themselves? No, not from the judge's standpoint. But it sure as hell means they need to know the basics from the position of being judged. They need to know what proper-fitting clothes look like. They need to know the difference between cheap and nice ... between what looks like something they bought as an afterthought versus what gives the appearance that they give a shit.
That's the important part. You don't have to give a shit about your outfit, but in certain situations, it needs to give off the illusion that you do. It's extremely hard to explain that to an early teen, because we've hammered it into him since he was born that appearances and material things are shallow, and you're an asshole if you covet that dumb bullshit. Then the first time he goes on a date or a job interview, we're harping on him to comb his hair a certain way and wear his dressy clothes. Do you own a tie? No? Holy shit, go buy a tie, are you crazy?!
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"Hello. I would like a bag of job clothes, please."
So they end up getting this convoluted and sometimes contradictory lesson that has all of these exceptions and asterisks, and it basically boils down to "People shouldn't judge others based on appearance ... but everyone does, and having a nice appearance takes knowledge and practice, which requires you to live like everyone has decided to ignore this lesson."