I Enjoy Being A Boy
I’m a boy at heart, and I like it that way.
Oh I like being a man too, but I never want to lose my boy. He’s always somewhere around, ready to stir up mischief or just remind me there’s this other way of looking at life.
I still retain some of my boyhood ways, as Shelley would be happy to tell you. She’s not the first to ask me, “What is it about guys and farts?!” while exhibiting that nearly universal female disdain and disgust. And the answer? I couldn’t tell you, but I can state unequivocally that a life without farting would be a life not worth living.
Another remnant from boyhood is I still keep a candy collection (or the adult equivalent). As a boy, I snuck marshmallows into my bedroom. It’s obvious why: My mother didn’t want me to. Also, they were delicious, especially when I kept them for several days, until they got crispy and thick-skinned. Now, It’s my chocolate collection in the freezer. It drove my first wife, who never met a sweet she didn’t instantly eat, bananas. How could I keep whole or half-eaten ice cream bars and chocolate bars and cashew-brownie stashes and not eat them up? Shelley just shakes her head. I have an “A” baggie (a gallon zip lock full of the best chocolates) and a “B” bag. I think everyone should do this.
Of course I didn’t only have a candy collection as a kid. I had a coin and a stamp and a baseball card and, of course, a rock collection.
What I recall most about the joy of being a boy is the feeling of being self-contained. I spent countless hours in my bedroom playing marbles and chess and checkers. Leaving the house, I always made sure my pockets contained everything I needed to go out for the day and play. (Later on this would help me pack a good knapsack for hitchhiking, the ultimate boyhood adventure. And to this day, my pockets are still perfectly organized.) When I rode my bicycle to Memorial Field, there was a wondrous object there that was clearly made for me: A large vertical cement slab. Some went to practice their tennis or play handball against it, but I knew what it was for: To practice my pitching. There was a white chalked box on that wall, for me to practice my wicked curve, not to mention a screwball that was impossible to hit, and a mean fastball. If it was warm out, there I’d be, staying past sunset, striking out imaginary sides.
These days, sometimes alone in my office between patients, I’ll still go into my windup and throw a few.
So you could say I enjoyed playing with myself. Yeah, very funny. Although, now that you mention it, I did that too, but that’s another story, probably one belonging in the TMI category, right?
So maybe next week.
Online entrepreneurs have known for years that most men are still boys, and exploit this playing-with-themselves stuff by offering either porno or gambling or other potential addictions. We don’t care if we lose money. We just hope mommy doesn’t catch us.
I once watched a show on NET about baseball (I think it was the Ken Burns doc) and how boys start off in Little League. An old guy was noting (as they showed a 10 year old standing out in Left Field) how “boyhood is really kind of a state of grace” –- before the heavier cares of the world are laid upon us. Well, I was anything but carefree (jeez — I read the Times every morning, even then) and the boy I was, was anything but graceful. But yeah, I was in some kind of state –innocence, I guess they call it. And as laden with experience as I now am, this kid still lives inside me, and can still poke me out of my doldrums and remind me how delicious an old marshmallow, or a summer night’s honeysuckle at the creek can be.
One thing we had back there on Essex Road in Great Neck was a gang. When I was younger, there was my favorite – Hide And Go Seek. In ’61, Civil War commemoration swept up every kid in the town like some kind of fever, and suddenly everyone was asking: “Are you North or South?!” On my block we were North (of course), and gathered our weapons –water balloon production and transport was a coveted art — and went looking for battles, invading neighboring blocks.
Later on in adolescence, besides teasing and torturing each other mercilessly, we played stickball and touch football and stoopball and flipped baseball cards and played some basketball too. Today, the boy in me helps me effectively gather a posse for an all-night party. He and I still want nothing more than to go together with a gang and stick together and play together. I’ve never outgrown the need to belong and have a blast. We return to innocence for a night, and I’m not so hung up about looking good and acting dignified and being responsible.
As I age further into geezerhood, I suspect I’ll still enjoy being a boy. Hey — regressing back to childhood is one of the true joys of growing old. Because these days I know better than to do such things, which makes doing them all the more fun.