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guys girls and mustard

Nearly lost control of the car the other night, driving Ed back from a ski day. Nothing to do with weather or road conditions -- he was telling me what he'd been up to on the slopes.

Boys are different from girls. (I know I know -- this just in.) But I am part of the generation that believed in total equality. y = x. Boys = girls. If you treat them the same they will react the same. And it's not true. You have to bear in mind that y is different from x. They may represent the same number but they are intrinsically different letters. Essentially, boys are dumb. (Yes, yes, another startling insight. ) I do realise that girls are dumb too, in their way maybe just as dumb as boys (y=x) but it's a different kind of dumbness. I can not, for the life of me, imagine a group of girls planning to live in an RV for the school year in order to save on parking. (Sam's master plan involves his vehicle slowly creeping through the streets of Kingston, one block ahead of the meter maid.) My other son, Ed, is only fourteen, so his kind of dumbness does not involve driving. Yet. It involves eating.

Dinner time at the tacky ski chalet, kids sitting around cafeteria tables with plates of pizza and fries, and Ed's friend Frederico remarked casually that he loved mustard. (Not a lot of dessert at his house, if you remember from a previous post. Frederico didn't have as many options as the rest of us.)

Oh, yeah, said another kid, how much do you like it? I'll give you five bucks if you eat ... a whole bowl of mustard.

And so (as Ed put it) the epic began. Money was collected from various zippered pockets in the kid's ski outfit. Mustard containers were gathered from surrounding tables and squeezed into a common bowl (yeah that's the picture. The long skinny thing is a French fry).

We were so excited, said Ed, that we didn't even laugh when the plastic squeeze bottles made that little farting sound.

You didn't laugh at all? I said.

Well, maybe a bit.

News of the feat spread around the big dining area, and dozens of kids from neighboring public and high schools clustered around Ed's table to watch. Some stood on chairs for a better view. And Frederico grabbed a small plastic spoon and started in.

I won't go into too much detail here, in case sensitive people are reading. Let me just say that the task proved tougher than Frederico had expected, and he began slowing down after the third or fourth spoonful. The spectators cheered him on, and he plugged away gamely. Another couple spoons and he was asking for something to drink, to wash away the taste. Half a dozen water bottles were thrust at him. He gulped dizzily, and went back to the bowl. Cheering reached a crescendo. And then, said Ed, guys began throwing money. Big guys from high schools, even grown ups, tossed quarters and loonies. One guy with a beard threw a five dollar bill. By the time Frederico got to the bottom of the bowl there was close to twenty bucks on the table. The cheers was deafening. And then of course everyone got out of the way as Frederico ran for the bathroom.

What is courage? Frederico wanted to back out, but didn't. Fear of failure in front of a crowd? Determination? I wonder. Maybe it's part of being dumb. What I like about the story is the way everyone appreciated Frederico's situation, and wanted him to win. The extra money was added incentive, like the spotter telling you you can lift the weight an extra time.

I steered carefully away from the ditch, and asked Ed if there were any girls throwing money on the table.

Oh, no, he said. Girls are different than guys.


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