Remember how awesome it was to be a kid, especially in contrast to being an adult? Adults have taxes, boner shame, and social awareness. When you were a kid, you had Thundercats, marshmallows in your cereal, and two months of jack shit every single summer. Being a child is like being a millionaire, but without the stress. Or, you know, the financial upside. So good. I can see why Zach Galifianakis does the man-child schtick so much. I wish I could live that life, too.
As adults, we get wistful for the good old days, and think, "If we only knew then what we know now." Of course, when we think that, we mean that we wish we were 19 again and fully able to use our advanced knowledge to score more cash and ass. None of us want to be 10 again -- that was some straight bullshit. Sure, you may have had a wicked Sega Master System and discovered how awesome Wonka Nerds were, but that wasn't all there was to it when you were a kid, and you know it.
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"One day I'm going to own a Nintendo and eat Twizzlers. One day."
In all the wondrous fantasy and nostalgia of childhood, a bizarre and curious thread of insane irony was shat down upon our tiny heads by our parents and other authority figures. It's the melding of rules and chaos, the implementation of order from the hands of utterly disorganized buttfuckery of the mind. It's adults, in a panic, snapping out commands and edicts because they're taller and have more pubes and therefore assume that right, despite having no training or skill set that really puts them in a position to come by their parental authority honestly. And it makes no sense to you as a child, because it makes no sense period, but you're not allowed to question it. And the worst thing is that nearly every parent does it.
This idea is as old as the hills and drowned children. Time comes you need to learn how to swim, and Pa just doesn't have the patience to stand in the shallow end while you don water wings and try your best breast stroke. So instead you get in the boat, head out to the middle of Lake Weepaneglectakid, and get tossed like an Oreo-encrusted anchor into the balmy 38-degree water.
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"Daddy, why is it called Piranha Lake?"
"Oh ... no reason."
The logic behind this method of teaching is sound, in the way that it's sound logic to shoot your front door before opening it just in case someone who deserves it is on the other side. Maybe you'll achieve your goal, but maybe you're just going to murder a child. You won't really know until it either happens or doesn't.
It was my uncle who thought this would be an awesome method for teaching me how to swim -- when I was seven, and already fully aware of how to swim. When he simply hurled me from a boat into Lake Champlain and told me to swim back to shore if I wanted to have dinner that night, it really just taught me to never go boating with my uncle, more than anything. But say I didn't know how to swim. Or maybe say I was a particularly panicky seven-year-old who, when thrown into a lake by a trusted relative moments before that relative leaves in a boat when you're a solid 30-minute swim from shore, was apt to have a panic attack. Then this could have been bad. Basically, my options really were to drown or not. And thanks to six weeks at the community pool with instructions from a 15-year-old girl who I thought I was in love with, I was able to save my own life and set the foundations for a hatred of my uncle that has lasted my whole life.
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"Must ... reach ... shore. Must ... get ... revenge."
This idea is so a part of our society that the saying "sink or swim" can be traced all the way back to Geoffrey Chaucer, whom you may recall helped the Joker win the Nike tournament in that one movie way back when. Of course, back then the saying may have had something to do with the drowning of witches, but it shows where our heads are at and have been at as a species for generations when it comes to swimming. You either learn that shit or crabs will eat you. Ain't nobody got time for anything else.
Why are we so impatient when it comes to swimming? How many dads would hurl their kids on a bicycle towards the highway to get them to learn to ride? I'll guess none, except for maybe one or two in Florida.
This is a sitcom classic and anecdotally may have actually happened hundreds of times in real life to friends of friends, or maybe happened to no one at all, except for someone once on Roseanne. The idea is rooted in terrible psychology: "If you've done something bad, I'll make you overdo it until you hate it." Note that this will not work for sex or compulsive masturbating.
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It sounds reasonable on the one hand that making your kid smoke a carton will sicken them to the point of never wanting to smoke again. But realistically, when has overindulging in anything made you not want to do it? You have no idea how many times I've sworn off drinking after waking up next to a toilet, a shrub, a stranger, or crime scene tape. But I go back again when that sweet, sweet rum assures me it'll take me to party town in a tub full of margarita.
"You can always count on me, Felix! I'm there for you when no one else is!"
No one has ever done anything bad to the point of wanting to stop, not really. It's a secondary matter that causes you to hit rock bottom. You gamble your money away and that's fine -- it's the homelessness and raging family who want you dead that make you regret it, not just being broke. You drink yourself into oblivion and that's OK -- it's when you see video of yourself humping a trash heap that you start to feel bad in the soul. Likewise, no smoker ever thought, "Shit, I just smoked too much," even if they threw up from it -- it's the cancer down the road that gets them. Which, ironically, is what you're setting your kid up for if you force them to take in such an addictive megadose of nicotine in one sitting.
My parents pulled this shit on me all the time when I was a kid. See, I hated canned peas because -- and maybe you don't know this bit of trivia -- canned peas are actually made out of shit. They're 100-percent shit trash filth and should be consumed by no one at no time ever under any circumstances. I would sooner tongue-buff the assholes of a whole colony of lemurs than dive into a can of peas. That said, my mom served them at least once a week for the entirety of my childhood.
Like dozens of tiny Sisyphus rocks, made of the turdlettes of the legume family.
When I was able to, I'd hide my peas in any number of places -- under the table cloth, back in the pot from whence they were served, behind the fridge, whatever. When I was under more heavy scrutiny, I would avoid them until the inevitable ultimatum was given: If I didn't eat those peas, I could be given all the rest of the peas too.
It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I developed the wherewithal to call a spade a spade, so back when I was 10, I was not in a place to tell my mom she wasn't exactly proving herself a Rhodes Scholar with this methodology. Instead I stared steadfastly at my new mountain of peas and began to develop what, to this very day, is a remarkably steadfast constitution. I have the patience of a spider in a web, and can sit, nary moving a muscle, and perform the most simple and monotonous tasks for hours on end if need be, and I will never grow weary or bored. Your peas cannot break me, for they are soft and shitty and I am strong and shit-resistant.
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"I will wait you out all goddamn night, lady. You want to do laundry and watch TV, while I have no grasp on the value of time."
What was the purpose of this punishment? It seems to be an offshoot of the "starving children in Africa" line of thinking, which my parents also threw at me once, until I questioned how those children were going to be fed if I ate all the food here. Wouldn't it help them more if I didn't eat and mailed them my crappy dinner? I was grounded for that.
All I can say about this is that two punches in the face is never better than one, and you're not proving a point by making a bad thing worse. Bad things don't become good when faced with worse things. Ball cancer isn't great when you get AIDS.
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The most horrifying example of non-logic in the parental syllabus is this incoherent threat, which is often lobbed at children by dads who wear trucker hats or moms who Irish up the Diet Coke they drink for breakfast. The kid is crying because who knows? Kids cry when they get the blue shirt on green shirt day -- you can't puzzle out this riddle of instability. The best you can do when confronted with a crying child is make sure they have all their limbs and nothing is crushed and/or gaping open. If they're more or less in the same condition in which they were shipped in from the factory, you just go with it from there. Kids cry when they learn to use the toilet. It's ridiculous.
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It's just a loud, unnatural contraption that goes against everything you thought you knew. Big deal.
Despite the lack of sense, some parents just can't handle a crying child, and I get that. Crying is one of the worst sounds on Earth, next to the sound of eating with your mouth open and Taylor Swift. It grates, and over extended periods, it seeps into the cracks in your brain like oil and makes you want to claw your face off. But if your response to this horrible happenstance is to loom over a child and proclaim like some ogre-king, "If you do not stop being frightened / in pain / traumatized immediately, I will become more frightening/painful/traumatic than you could ever imagine!" then maybe you don't understand the nature of crying or ultimatums at all.
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"Do you want to stop crying, or do you want to smoke another pack of peas?"
You can pretty much guarantee that telling a crying child that if they don't stop then you'll give them a reason to cry is going to produce one of two reactions. The first is a deluge of more tears, because that insane threat is kind of terrifying, and just imagine how you'd feel if a stranger in an alley said that to you after surprising you. The second is a stoic, neurotic, anxiety-riddled child who is always and forever waiting for the moment when their parent may or may not murder them for getting a skinned knee.
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"Why is she crying?"
"Because she's nervous that you're going to make her cry! And she hates that sweater."
I can recall this line being tossed at me once as a child. The reason I was crying? No clue, let's presume I had dysentery. My reaction to the total mindfuck of a parental threat? Dead silence. I could turn that shit off like it was operated by a switch. Boom, emotions get put away. Boom, implement Operation Vacant, Soulless Stare. Commence 30-Year Distance Project. And now I only call on holidays because I have to. That's what you get.
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