Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thirteen Year Old Boys

I don't really remember my brother as a thirteen year old boy. What I do remember about my brother is that he has always been the way he is, no matter what age he was. Adam's behavior is ageless and without period. What he was as a thirteen year old boy was mostly like what he is now, except with less money and less women calling him at all hours to tell him Adam, I love you! Adam, you're so hot! Adam, you're so fun!

When my brother was thirteen years old I was eighteen. I was in college. Our parents had just divorced, and so my brother was living a divided life. Some days he would ride the school bus home and other days my mother would pick him up and drive him to her new apartment. He had a poster of Britney Spears on the ceiling over his bed. He had a girlfriend named Amy. He had back acne.

But that's all I know. I didn't spend a lot of time around him, so I can't tell you the finer points of his thirteen year old boy self, which might be why I was so stunned when hanging around with my mother's boyfriend's son these last few days of their vacation in Maine. I don't have much experience with thirteen year old boys, so I'm not sure if this boy is what they're generally like, but all I can say is wow. I used to think he was gay, a tiny gay child who didn't know yet that he would never like girls or any of the things the female kind could do for him. But I'm not sure how I feel about that now. He may or may not be gay--he has ditched his obsession with Beanie Babies and replaced it with an obsession with ghosts, hauntings, and haunted places, which concerns me less than his five thousand angel bear Beanies--but even if I'm unsure about that, I am pretty sure about one thing: that kid is annoying.

The annoying is not a bad annoying. It is not the type of annoying that hangs like a cloud over some people and makes you think Should I hang out with that person today? No, I'd rather clip my toenails and make a snack of that almost-spoiled deli meat. It's not the kind of annoying that makes you bargain with yourself, makes you decide that if you spend half a day with this annoying person, you can go straight home and climb into bed to drink a bottle of wine and watch Two Weeks' Notice. Instead, it's a mild annoying. A half-endearing kind of annoying. It's an annoying that permeates from the skin of children.

And it's not entirely the boy's fault. He is the product of rotten circumstances. His parents had an awful marriage and an even worse divorce. His mother spends most of her days filling her son's head with nonsense about his father and nonsense about life. He is afraid of most things because his mother is afraid of most things. He has silly ideas about the world. For example, he thinks that a real party involves going over to someone's house after they've laid out a spread of Totino's pizza rolls and mozzarella sticks. He thinks store bought brownies and pie are better than anything that could ever be made at home. He says, "I'm not picky!" and then says he likes hot dogs, but only when they're split down the middle, placed on a toasted bun, and served with room-temperature Heinz ketchup. He says blueberry pie is gross, although he's never had it. He thinks potatoes--unless they are fried in some capacity--are foul.

He talks too loud. He shouts. His voice cracks. He giggles and giggles and giggles. He giggles so loud it startles me, my mother, my cat, my mother's cat. My mother's cat hisses any time he comes near her. My brother rolls his eyes whenever anyone mentions his name. He is just gawky, jangly, itchy. He is just a little off.

And, yes, I realize that any thirteen year old--girl or boy--is going to be a little off (at the age of thirteen, I used to chug Pepsi after Pepsi just because I wanted the guy at the racetrack's pop stand to know I was alive), but this kid seems so off it breaks my heart a little bit. He's nice and sweet, but he's just trying so hard to be liked and loved. If I use a fancy verb, he'll use that fancy verb in the next hour, and he'll beam so big like he's proud at himself for just coming up with that on his own. He'll put on a big oblivious act when he knows he's suddenly at the center of everyone's attention just so he can keep it. If his father says, "Hey, you've got to anchor those napkins down with something or else they'll fly off into the ocean," he'll widen his eyes like he's never before thought about the effect wind has on things that weigh less than nothing. "Really?" he'll say without a trace of sarcasm. "I didn't know that."

When I take a step into the ocean and grit my teeth at the coldness of it all, he says, "What? It can't be cold. I know it's not cold." And then he'll jump into the ocean with both feet and he'll immediately break into shivers, and then he'll say, "See? Not cold. It's warm. So warm!" while his lips turn blue and I run for shore.

When I see that he is ignoring the coleslaw that came with his fried shrimp and fries, I'll say, "This is great coleslaw! Don't you want to eat it? It's delicious!" he will say, "Coleslaw is disgusting. I hate it." When I ask him if he's ever had coleslaw, he'll say no, he never has. When I suggest he might give it a whirl--after all, this is very good coleslaw, and if he doesn't eat it, it's likely that the seagulls will dive bomb our table and pluck that slaw straight from his plate--he wrinkles up his nose. "Cabbage," he says. "Ew."

When I tell him enough is enough and that he's definitely trying the coleslaw, he gingerly picks at it with his fork looking like he's afraid the cabbage is going to spring to life and bite his head off. When I stick my own fork into the coleslaw and hover it near his face, he opens his mouth and plugs his nose. When the cabbage hits his tongue, he shrieks and shrieks and shrieks. "Eeeeew!" he screams. "Sick! Ick! Blecchh! Barf, barf, barf!" He swallows without unplugging his nose, without tasting. He sticks his tongue out of his mouth and scrapes it with his fingertips. "I'm going to throw up!" he says, not caring that the neighboring tables perched on the shore of the ocean are giving us a critical eye. He gags. He gags again.

When I roll my eyes and set aside my fork and reach for the just-out-of-the-oven mini blueberry pie, he stops gagging and shrieking. He takes his hand away from his throat. "Blueberries are gross," he says. And so it goes and goes and goes, and my mother raises her eyebrows and gives me a Look that says, See? See? This is what I have to live with, and I feel for her--oh, I really do.

Still, even if I'm no great friend, no great cheerleader for thirteen year old boys I do have to admit sometimes they are pretty cute, pretty fun, pretty darling things when you least expect them to be.


1 comment:

Diana said...

This behavior is nothing. This behavior is so so manageable. Just wait until he's sixteen. Then he'll be REALLY charming.