- Family and Parenting
A Modest Proposal to Improve Modern Parental Units
We, the brazen youth of America, have heard it all before from our parental units, who told us what it was like to live in the “good old days,” and we’re violently ill about it. We retch every time they say, “When I was your age.” We get the urge to vomit every time they say, “When I was little and sitting on my pappy’s knee …”
And what stories do they tell us? They tell us about all those trips up the hill both ways in four feet of snow (the depth increases every year) on their way to milking the family goat without wearing Gore-tex gloves or bathing in Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion before putting bituminous coal in the one-room schoolhouse’s only Franklin stove built by Benjamin Franklin himself while wearing paper-thin PF Flyer sneakers and a sweater knitted by the nearly blind but always lovable Aunt Edwina, all the while being truly thankful that they had un-boiled, frothy brown well water to wash down their dirt sandwiches, brown bananas, and melted Moon Pies.
We feel our normal meal of Doritos, sour Gummy Worms, a can of Monster, and a lethal dose of MSG rising in our gullets just thinking about it.
Our parental units’ addiction to living in the past has to stop. It is time we told our parental units to shut up about the past forever. My proposal is stunningly simple: because we know they cannot and will not shut up, we will put muzzles on every parental unit on the planet before it’s too late.
The leather for all these billions of muzzles will come from cows. We will all eat more beef, and we will harvest and export the cowhide—even “mad cow” cowhide—to all parts of the globe. Our trade deficit will shrink somewhat, American ranchers will be ecstatic, footballs will once again be made of pigskin, and pleather will take its rightful place at the pinnacle of the fashion world.
We will start, of course, by muzzling all grandparental units. Since most of us cannot understand a single word our grandparental units say to us anyway, this will be no great hardship. A Bostonian friend of mine has offered a refinement to my scheme. He says that all muzzles should come with titanium rings, which are perfect for attaching leashes. “Our grandparents,” he says, “will never wander off again, especially at malls. Just think—you take Granny to the mall and attach her leash to a great big pole in the center of the mall, and she can mall walk to her heart’s content without you worrying about her getting lost. Tangled, maybe, but lost—never.” I have not completely discounted my friend’s ideas, although I confess they border a touch on the cruel side.
As for parental units, as soon as the female parental unit discovers she is pregnant, both she and the male parental unit (a.k.a. the husband, stepfather, sperm donor, friend with benefits, or random guy she met at the bar at last call) will immediately be muzzled. We do not want any parental units talking even to zygotes. All in-home pregnancy tests will come with a chip that instantly alerts SMAT (Special Muzzles and Tactics) to the scene of a positive pregnancy test, SMAT will muzzle the parental units, and the zygote will be blissfully spared from hearing its parental units’ voices forever.
A Philadelphian of my acquaintance thinks all teachers, professors, counselors, preachers, priests, rabbis, nuns, imams, gurus, swamis, self-help seminar and infomercial givers, law enforcement personnel, lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, talk show hosts, pundits, politicians, sports announcers, and those so-called “economic experts” should be muzzled as well, regardless of whether they are parents or not. I had already convinced my friend from the "City of Brotherly Love" that supergluing their lips together would not be cost-effective, medically safe, or morally sound. I then explained to my Philadelphian friend that we could not possibly keep up with all the insufferable public speakers out there since America breeds so many of them.
Non-parental noise polluters will just have to wait, though not for long. Imagine how marvelous it will be to see an entire presidential election done in sign language. Imagine how wonderful it will be to attend schools with lessons taught only in mime. Imagine the sheer joy of attending religious services that have no sermons. Imagine watching the news crawl across the bottom of the television without news anchors spewing inane commentary above it. Imagine the joy of watching a sports contest without some color commentator saying, “Uh, yeah, Bob, he can do that because he’s full of athleticism.”
As we all know, the muzzle industry is currently in a shambles because dog owners allow their mongrels to yip, yap, and bite the neighbor’s children with impunity. My proposal will make this industry boom overnight. Just think: if Nike adds its Swoosh or Prada its upside-down triangle, designer muzzles will sweep the nation and posh muzzle boutiques will employ literally dozens of people on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Think of the ad campaigns for Nike: “Just Muzzle It.” Or imagine a fast food commercial: A muzzled mother in a mommy van rolls up to the drive-through … and lets her children order whatever they want. Have it your way, indeed. My proposal will create billions of magical moments like these.
Naturally, all of this will be good for the environment. Air pollution levels will plummet with the death of so many cows whose flatulence, as we all know, is a leading contributor to the hole in the ozone layer. The air around us will taste sweeter without the collective bad breath of our parental units who smoke, drink coffee and alcohol, and eat those nasty vegetables, which are allegedly good for us. And noise pollution will be a thing unknown. Glorious silence will fill our earth, except, of course, for our profanity-laced music, foul mouths, and indecipherable grunts. Most of all, muzzles will spare of us from listening to our parental units’ lame and childish childhood stories.
Our parental units’ childhoods were abysmally dreadful in every way. Most of them didn’t have the privilege of attending day care. Can you imagine that? I can’t. They actually had to stay home with a parental or grandparental unit and learn how to bake or sew or whittle or clean or wash dishes or do their own laundry or hang their clothes outside on the line to dry gloriously in the wind. They often had to raise their own pets, and those flea-collarless pets would lick them in the face! Oh, the germs! They ate Hostess snacks that had more calories per square millimeter than any other foodstuff known to the universe, slathered 100% real butter on their un-fortified with a zillion vitamins bread, and drank soda laced with lethal doses of real sugar, yet they were never horizontally challenged because they were always—get this—playing outside. Oh, I know! The mere idea of going outside where dangers lurk behind every tree, bush, and mailbox gives me the shudders.
My own male parental unit once built a go-kart, whatever that is, out of a little red Radio Flyer wagon, some scraps of wood ripped from a Flexible Flyer sled (what’s that?), a bicycle chain and sprocket, and a smelly, oily mass of metal known as a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine. He then raced it down a hill only to realize he had concocted no way to stop it until he hit bushes, curbs, and old Mrs. Terwilliger’s cement block front porch. He even lost his two front teeth playing soccer outside in the yard, and my grandparental units foolishly didn’t sue the family of the child who mistook his head for a ball. What were they thinking? They obviously weren’t. They actually believed “accidents happened.” Where’s the potential huge settlement in that phrase? My male parental unit even ate worms and ants and grasshoppers and honeysuckle and dandelions and buttercups and watermelon seeds and pennies and anything anyone dared him to eat or drink—and he often got sick as a dog! But somehow, he endured long enough to make me.
I don’t know how criminals didn’t kidnap my parental units when they were young. My female parental unit used to ride her bicycle all day long and all over her neighborhood and even all over her city, often from sunup until the porch light came on. She didn’t have a cell phone or a pager or a vial of pepper spray or a Taser. She was completely defenseless! And instead of spending all day and night on the phone or on the Internet or holding other handheld devices that we need to function, my parental units used to go over to friends’ houses. That’s right! They’d walk over to a friend’s house, knock on the door or ring the bell, and talk to them face-to-face! Imagine! Walking over, knocking on a door, and talking to someone in person! Imagine the couch potato calories that would sacrifice. Imagine the unhealthy idea of getting some exercise. And if they ever had to break up with someone, they did it in person as well. How obnoxious and intolerable is that? Couldn’t they have at least sent a letter in the mail? I am so glad I can send break-up texts, aren’t you?
I am also amazed that my parental units weren’t bored to premature death by the time they reached puberty. They only had three TV channels, or four if you count PBS, which only showed lame "educational" shows like Sesame Street and Zoom. They often had to sit through the movie at the movie theater. None of them had Playstations, X-Boxes, cell phones, iPads, iPhones, laptops, MTV, VH1, e-mail, instant messenger, text messaging, DVD’s, microwaves, microwave popcorn, satellite TV, HD, Twitter, Facebook, or the mall. They were so deprived!
What, then, did they do for fun? My male parental unit tried to explain some preposterous games called “Leap Frog” and “Kick the Can.” They sounded too technical and complicated, and I tuned him out as soon as he said “jump over your friends” and “home base.” He even created a game similar to baseball (now there’s a tedious sport) using a ratty old tennis ball half-covered in dog slobber, the handle of a broomstick, half a block of street, and manhole covers and mailboxes for bases—and yet kids swarmed the street to play! Didn’t they know how dangerous that was? They could have been hit by a bus or run over by a car or at least gotten some nasty microbe from the dog slobber.
Both my parental units—and I shiver as I write this—had to sit on the bench, sometimes for an entire sports contest, because they weren’t good enough to play. Imagine the severe blow to their self-esteem. My goodness, they would actually have to work hard to improve their athletic abilities to get off that bench. It’s a good thing we all get to play no matter how horrific we are, isn’t it?
And please don’t get me started on their music. It was dreadful stuff full of meaningful lyrics and actual musicians playing actual instruments in actual sound studios without the obviously necessary use of computers to enhance their voices. It was a crime that they had to listen to singers who did not die the acceptable Kurt Cobain way like Janis Joplin (overdose), Jim Morrison (overdose), Jimi Hendrix (overdose), Jim Croce (plane crash), Harry Chapin (car crash), Buddy Holly (plane crash), Richie Valens (plane crash), Marvin Gaye (murdered), John Lennon (murdered), and most of Lynyrd Skynyrd (plane crash). What could they have possibly learned from that motley crew of performers who did not wear much makeup, did not make videos, did not curse in their music that only came out in one version, did not tattoo themselves another color, and did not go on talk shows to talk about their music? They actually preferred to perform their music. What kind of role models were they?
And I refuse to discuss their so-called “education,” that school of hard knocks they claim existed once upon a time. My parental units unfortunately went to school just about every day it was in session. They didn’t get days off for snow, floods, terrorist attacks, heavy frost, power outages, or those indispensable teacher in-service days. They took tests that the teacher didn’t curve, sat in hot and stuffy classrooms without air conditioning, and couldn’t take classes that had weighted credits. Get this—sometimes their valedictorian only had a 4.0! It’s true!
Some vicious, tyrannical school systems even held back some of my parental units’ friends or had them repeat the same grade or re-take classes they failed. Where were the lawyers when that was happening? My male parental unit had to learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide without the apparent benefit of a calculator to think for him, and when he had a book report to do, he had to read the book! He couldn’t rent the movie or scour the Internet for someone else's book report. Imagine the horror of having to turn the pages! Imagine the wasted hours and days of drudgery! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the paper cuts!
I am so tired of hearing about their generation’s alleged “accomplishments.” So what if some guy developed a vaccine to stop something called polio. It doesn’t sound that dangerous. So what if they found time to do some marching and striking and got a few unimportant civil rights laws passed. Those laws don't mean a thing to me. So what if they walked on the moon or sent probes into space or explored the depths of the ocean or helped some starving people somewhere hot and dusty or invented nearly everything that makes our lives better today. We don’t care about any of that, do we? Why should we? We have everything we already need.
Our parental units have had their day, and now they need to shut up about it. We must muzzle them now. We don’t have the time to listen to them waxing hysterically historical anymore. We have far too many important things to do like watching MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, Jersey Shore, Wild ‘N Out, Pimp My Ride, Pranked, Punk’d, and Ridiculousness. We’d rather pierce something new and potentially life threatening or tattoo our necks or get our hair and nails done or hang out until all hours doing absolutely nothing or play eye and hand coordination games in our rooms or blame others for our failures and our problems. We’re far too busy in our self-absorbed lives to learn from their triumphs and tragedies.
They want us to go outside and get some fresh air. That is for nerds and kids who do not have satellite TV or high-speed Internet. They want us to go hiking, camping, or surfing at the beach. We can surf the Internet all night and not have to leave our comfy chairs. They want us to read books. Why should we when the book is now a movie on a bootleg DVD we can buy from the trunk of some guy’s car? They want us to support musicians we like by buying their entire albums. Why? We can download and burn only the songs we like and often don’t have to pay a cent.
They want us to draw or paint something original. Why should we when we have clip art? They want us to struggle and think a problem all the way through. Why should we? Our teachers give us partial credit if we make even the tiniest of efforts. They want us to retake classes we fail. No way. We will just threaten to sue the school for failing to teach us. They want us to write something completely original. Be serious. We can surf the Internet to find the most obscure essays, poems, plays, and stories out there and cut and paste our way to an easy A. Mainly, they want us to be responsible, trustworthy, motivated, patriotic, and ambitious. They have to be tripping on all those drugs they took when they were our age.
The problem of parental units living in the past is obvious. The solution—muzzles for these hysterically historical dinosaurs—is also obvious. I will, of course, not benefit in any way from this proposal since A. I am allergic to cowhide, B. I do not own stock in a muzzle factory, C. I am too old to join SMAT, and D. my parental units are safely ensconced in a retirement village where they can cause no further damage with their tales of infernal woe, like surviving something called the Great Depression and World War something-or-other, as if those events are ever going to happen again.