Thursday, August 26, 2004

Why Boys Need Dads

My daughter Camie is in 8th grade, and takes the bus to junior high school. There's a boy in the same grade that lives next door to us, and also takes the bus, so naturally my daughter winds up walking home with him on occasion. He's a nice enough boy, usually. He's not the type to shoot BB's at cats, or cut off rats heads, but like most teenage boys, he's a bit awkward. He has some serious issues with "verbal brakes" and is sometimes very crude in his speech. He has had, off and on, a reputation as quite the little perv, and as a result, doesn't seem to be able to connect with the female population at school. Young girls don't often respond well to being called a hoe, nor do they respond well to wolf-whistles and cat-calls from other than their boyfriend of the moment.

Well, this is a new school year, and right now, being the first week of school, this young man is behaving pretty well, so Camie, being Camie, forgives and forgets (she's been on the receiving end of several of his crude attempts to gain attention) and is more than willing to be nice to him, because she's just like that. Not girlfriend nice, just friendly, social-norm nice.

So, today the boy asks Camie, "How can I get a girlfriend? I don't know what to do to make girls like me." Camie says "Try being nice, not a perv. Try to be charming." Good advice, right?

The boy says, "I wear Dickies, and I sag. What more charming do they want?" Sigh. Good advice, clearly not understood.

Boys today seem to be missing the concept of kindness and compassion, and.... well.... charm.

Charm has nothing to do with how you look, but how you act. Charm is getting up and grabbing a straw for the girl who forgot to grab one in the lunch line. Charm is offering a pencil if someone forgot their own. Charm is telling a girl, "You look nice today", even if they really don't. Charm is being kind for it's own sake, not expecting anything in return. Kindness with an agenda is manipulation. Kindness for it's own sake is charming.

But boys today just don't understand that. They see feelings and compassion as failings and weakness. I wish they understood that it's not. It's actually strength in it's best form.

Think about it. Remember Happy Days, the TV show? Fonzi was the toughest tough on the block. But he was never mean to anyone. The best episodes I can remember usually were when Fonzi, the toughest guy on the block, did something very kind for someone much weaker. And he didn't do it with an agenda, he did it because, in the end, it made him feel good about himself, and because it helped his friends. We liked Fonzi because he was charming. He was strong, but kind and compassionate. We liked Richie Cunningham for the same reasons. He was kind and compassionate, and developed a strength of his own as the series wound on. Granted, this is a TV show, but the concept remains valid. Good TV characters reflect the values we cherish.

I hope the neighbor boy can learn to be charming some day. Clothing is NOT the key. How he acts is.

Although, in Fonzi's case, the leather jacket didn't hurt.

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