Monday, January 26, 2009

Rites of Passage

There's this tribe in Africa where, in order to prove their manhood and be accepted as adult members of their village, the boys must first kill a cow with a rock. I saw it on some Discovery Channel documentary about ten years ago. And when I say "I saw it", I mean I SAW IT. I distinctly remember channel surfing late one night after one (two) too many cups of coffee, and sitting in stupefied, slack-jawed horror watching this bloody initiation rite. I will say this: it is not easy to kill a cow with a fist-sized rock. Also: I didn't get much sleep that night.

I tell you this for two reasons. One: I think of this from time to time, and I think that you should have to think about it, too. Two: It really puts junior high into perspective, doesn't it? Showering in gym and being snickered at by classmates when you trip in the hall may suck, but you didn't have to beat a cow to death with a rock, now did you? (Mental note: use this information to console Bear the next time she has a junior high-related emotional trauma).

Also, there's this: I've noticed a more subtle rite of acceptance here in Maine. Mainers take a perverse pride in their frigid climate by refusing to admit that it's cold and won't even admit awareness of the cold by dressing appropriately for it. Sure, it's chilly today, but it's nowhere near as cold as it was back in '78. Now THAT was cold. (Insert anecdote about thickness of lake ice or birds freezing onto telephone wires, which, frankly, I think they're making up). The quickest way to get yourself labelled an outsider is toss off a comment like, "It's freezing out there today." Wandering outdoors in an ankle-length down coat or, God forbid, a ski mask is to invite both ostracism and teasing, no matter what the LL Bean catalogs try to convince you is appropriate for Maine winters.
Case in point: this morning when I left for the gym it was -10 degrees. I wore capris, a sweatshirt, and gloves. No coat. No hat. I wore the same attire to the grocery store after working out. I didn't get a single curious glance or question from any of the people I passed, most of whom were wearing either coats (unzipped) or fleece jackets. I felt like a true Mainer. And a little chilly. But mostly cool.

DISCLAIMER: Same rules most emphatically do not apply to Maine kids, who don't step out without coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and boots. As I tell the girls, adulthood means you earn the right to poor judgment. (I don't really tell them that, but they'll figure it out themselves one day).


TommyB said...

I saw that cow thing, too, and you suck for reminding me of it because I was managing for it to be a LONG time before I had another one of those "time-to-time" thoughts of it. Now I'm going to have to listen to my iPod for a very long time to get that moaning cow sound out of my head. And you forgot to mention that the only reason Maine kids go out in all that stuff is because their scantily clad Maine parents berate and threaten them into suiting up.

Sass said...

Guess the grass isn't always greener, eh?


grandpa said...

O.K., if you say so, but as for me, I support the "L.L.B. look" and I do not care what the Mainers think, afterall, L.L.Bean is in Freeport MAINE and if it is good enough for L.L.Bean, then it is good enough for grandpa!