I’ve been really bad to you. I committed to weekly columns of Girls are Cool and I came up short. On the 17th week, I failed. Well, for that reason, you get a double shot today of Girls are Cool with the seventeenth and eighteenth reasons. Lucky you.
When I was a small boy, my brother and I moved to 7th street in Lubbock. Down the block from us in our new digs was a development of new homes and the construction zone had become a bustling playground for deviant kiddos, overwhelmingly boys, in fact, all boys. I never saw one girl out there. Not even an upset mother. For the boys of the neighborhood, it was a girl-free zone. Boys would be on bikes taking their stab at the dirt mounds by walking their bikes up to the top and then holding on for dear life as they made their amazing five-foot descent down to the ground floor. It was their chance to make like Cru Jones taking on Helltrack. I wasn’t as talented on a BMX. I, instead, opted for impromptu dirt clod fights. My brother was always happy to oblige.
One fateful day, my brother and I were out at the mounds up to no good. You never were. I can never recall how the dirt clod “war” (as we’d call them) started, but the most likely of scenarios was like they always started. You’re standing there minding your own business and you see a clod skip past you just grazing your leg, you take your post, start stockpiling clods and then throw until your arm falls off of your freaking body. You’re on a hair trigger at the mounds. If you were just expecting to walk in and then out of the mounds without throwing a clod at another kid with the force and accuracy of Nolan Ryan, then dude, you just should’ve stayed at home. It’s the boy’s nature to throw crap at each other.
This day, in what could only be described as a totally reactionary move, I found myself pinned behind relatively small mound of dirt under fire from my feisty brother Todd. With nowhere to escape to, I was gonna have to fire my way out of there. I grabbed about five clods in my left and for quick reloading action and started firing away. I was battling back so furiously that I was throwing without even knowing where my brother was…just in the general direction. I had unloaded my clip and had reached down for one last clod which was to end my series of devastating blows against my enemy. Clods continued to travel at blinding speeds, just grazing my dome. I wait for the stream of clods to cease. Waiting. Waiting.
Then, with the one clod in my little right hand, I pop up from my bunker and let ‘er rip. This thing was thrown so damn hard that I swore it whistled as it left my hand. I watched as my clod traveled about twenty yards to the other side of the site. It appeared to be a scud at first sailing towards an empty mound until, at the very last second, my brother’s skull pops up like a West Texas prairie dog just in time to catch my dirt clod with his eye socket. I distinctly remember seeing the clod disintegrate on his face. It’s a clod. It’s a clod. Still a clod. Then there’s Todd’s face. Then the clod immediately explodes into a cloud of dust with a (CLAP) as it hits his face.
My knees began to shake as silence arrested the mounds. Not but seconds later, I leap from my bunker and began leaping over the mounds towards my brother swearing at this point that he’s dead. Lifeless. I’m hurdling these freaking mounds like Jesse Owens and then…there he was. Laying on his back, rocking back and forth, holding his face. I pull his hands away from his face to reveal his eye that is beginning to puff up. I’m thinking, at this point, that my brother’s face will never be the same. I thought he was going to look like the elephant man or Rocky from Mask for the rest of his life. So fearful, I sprint home to prepare the family for my brother who was walking languidly homeward as his eye and cheek began to swell to the size of a softball.
The thing about boys is it’s in their nature to throw anything. They can’t stand not to. Give a kid a handful of dog turds and he’ll turn them into hurled missiles. Dirt clods are their weapons of choice. Once on a Boy Scout camping trip, I tossed one from atop a cliff and nailed a kid some seventy or eighty feet below directly in the crotch. It brought me such delight. To accomplish not just distance but precision as well. Doing so will earn you the respect of every little brother in the neighborhood. That’s your worth as a boy. Watch a pack of boys together as they cross a construction site or walk the banks of a lake. They instantly search and scavenge the ground for something throw. They immediately shut down socially and just set their sights on something to obliterate with a clod, rock or even rotten fruit fallen from a tree.
This makes boys a much higher risk for inflicting or, even worse, enduring ridiculous clod injury to the skull. Girls, however, show little interest in such shenanigans. They’re more likely to injure with manipulation and emotions. They’re social beings. They’re like word ninjas. Not saying it’s better, but it’s definitely more creative and resourceful. Any monkey boy can pick up small objects and hope to draw blood with them. Girls are cool because they put it down without getting dirty and they don’t play with hardened dirt and rocks. Also, because of this, they’re less likely to put holes in windows.
While I was pondering on the days where I was in Boy Scouts and splitting my time between tying sheep shanks for merit badges and chunking dirt clods at hapless new scouts, it dawned on me another reason why girls are cool and that is, simply, they’re less prone to ritualistic hazing at a young age. I think cruelty and deviancy like hazing and initiations is so much more a male-oriented sport. Statistics show that it’s just as prominent in females by the time they hit middle school and high school, but at an early age, I swear if you leave boys alone it turns into freaking Lord of the Flies before you can utter “Piggy” and they’re looking for the weakest kid to lure out into the woods and bludgeon him to death with a large tree branch.
For us (and a few readers can contend), Boy Scouts was the first fraternity for us. In fact, I learned my lesson and it was also my last. I think I embedded the lesson at an early age that unsupervised boys are a gang that make and enforce the rules sometimes with bloody results. Don’t get me wrong, Scouts was very important in my development and still have friends to this day that are my good friends, but sometimes it’s like their my friends because I didn’t want them becoming my enemies. It’s halfway between a fraternity and a prison rec yard. From the moment you get there, you’re trying to prove your worth. And your worth is not in your knot-tying skills. It’s in your speed. Your might. It’s in your ability to whoop ass. If it weren’t for the adults constantly correcting our ways and creating a sense of equality and fairness, patrols would’ve by age or weight. Big boys in this patrol. Little turds in this patrol. Then you’d make ’em play basketball and then just sit back and watch the blood spill.
I, myself, wasn’t so susceptible to the initiations because I was what a fraternity would refer to as “legacy” in the troop because I had an older brother that, when the rubber met the road, Brother Todd had my back. Don’t think he could watch his friends terrorize his brother. Todd, though, when he joined Troop 543, he had to earn his stripes. Once I got there, though, my road was paved. So was Steve Myles’ by virtue of his older brother Chris. Guys like Billie Doyle-Myers and Sean McDonough were on their own. Some survived and others ultimately were “killed” off by cruelty.
While we were accomplished scouts, we were just mean. I can’t remember how many times just after meeting a new member, we’d be out in the parking lot playing capture the flag and we’re all gunning for this kid. They’d be running scared with fear in their eyes, but never questioning what was happening. They knew. Boys being boys.
We called this one kid “Tard” and another “Punjab.” One kid we called “Corporal” because he always showed up in fatigues. It wasn’t until probably the third month before I discovered his real name, but still insisted on calling him “Corporal.” We put human feces in sleeping bags, for crying out loud.
Man, those were good times.
The heartiest of boys…those who could endure the initiations and constant paranoia racking on their nerves…became leaders in the Troop. It was even more remarkable if you were diminutive in size, but still conquered. Billie Doyle-Myers was one of those kids. He was so small. And still an easy target. Like, literally, still an easy target to hit. I remember pinning him by a wall at point blank range and nailing him with a snowball below the belt. But Billie was as hearty as they came. He had the kinda speed that only could be accomplished by a steady diet of junk. He was almost super-human. Put him on the basketball court, he was fearless. In a game of capture the flag, dude was heroic beyond description. He laughed when he was teased. He smirked in the face of danger. We took the dude snipe hunting and he caught, killed and ate one. And we believed him. Dude was hood.
But Billie’s besides the point. Boys are mean. They just are. And yes, bullying is, without a doubt, a non-gender specific issue, but make no mistake, girls get it from the boys. Boys wrote the book on hazing. Girls are getting worse. You hear the horror stories on college campuses. I’m not sure what makes girls more inclined these days to hazing than in the past, but they’re doing it more and more often. Maybe the traditional gender lines are incredible blurred and undefined (I blame Madonna’s “Vogue” video). Not sure.
But girls are cool because a pack of them are as harmless as your church’s knitting group. And that’s no slam on knitting groups.