ww: american boy
28/07/2010 § 1 Comment
I leaned over the counter and caught a glimpse of golden curls. He looked up and peered over the lacquered-beam bar, just enough to see his eyes, just enough to show he was smiling. One of the workers at the shop told me this little boy was always smiling.
A coffee shop on Roncesvalles means a lot of families stroll through. Not only moms with babies braced to their chests, but dads, too, towing the row of siblings — aged 2 to 9. Outside, the dog is tied up but waits patiently without separation anxiety. Enter one family, passing another on its way out, a standard salutation, sometimes a segue into Emma’s registration for kindergarten in the fall.
One little boy, not the golden curly haired one, frequently comes in with his mother. He is older than 9 and well-spoken, ordering banana-chocolate loaf and a chocolate-chip cookie for he and his younger brother. I can tell that they are not close in age, but have a strong bond. When I was stocking lids on the milk-bar, I caught the older brother waiting for a hi-five from the younger for putting his dirty dishes in the bus-bin. “All right boys, it’s time to get going,” mom calls out.
For a moment, I wondered if things would change for those two. If the dynamic would strengthen or dwindle as the years wore on.
For class, we were given an article to read called “The American Male at Age Ten”, by Susan Orlean. It’s an “ordinary” story, something Orlean is known for, depicting the life of a ten-year-old boy living in the suburbs somewhere in New Jersey. This boy is Colin Duffy. He is the average American boy who likes video games, especially Street Fighter, and dislikes girls. Both these things will change — in some way or another — as well as shape what kind of man he will become. According to Orlean’s research, age ten is when boys begin to develop their career interests and issues with commitment. Essentially, on average, a boy’s life changes course from awesome fun to serious structure at ten-years-old. Some thing inside shifts and his shadow stops running away.
His age eludes consistency, usually portrayed between 10 and 13, although there is a statue of his six-year-old self in England. His character was based on J.M. Barrie’s older brother, deceased at the age of 14, eternally locked in the mother’s memory as a boy. But, in general, the media speculates that Peter is ten-years-old — Captain Hook saying to Robin William’s 40-year-old version, “to a ten-year-old I look huge.”
Look how that turned out.
As an old(er) man, Peter Banning was boring and lost his imagination. He had succumbed to the work ethic, the American Dream, of becoming a stuffy and successful lawyer. He had kids, who thought he was stuffy, and a marriage that could not be clapped back to life. He was merely a shadow of his former self.
It raises the question of what compels this shift. Is it hormonal, biological, societal or all of the above? Is it media induced, indentured through education, or a mass-produced box? Is it love for a lady or the fear of insufficiencies? Is it the Wendy-ladies that wonder why their boys do not grow up?
I do not know, but right now, let’s go out and play.