I'm going to kind of change the tone a bit today, and momentarily veer away from blowing things up, conducting elaborate insect wars, building forts, and so on, and talk just a bit (well... probably not a bit, you know how long some of my posts can be) about something else that is fundamentally a component of being a boy.
But I don't know what to call it. So, I'll just tell the story I had planned.
I coach a boys' high school rugby team. It's a lot of fun. The kids are great, and they love playing the game, because it's all about playing and having fun (see the post from last month called "playing games," among others, where I lay into most high school sports for the damage they do to young men). Anyway, I've been involved in this for a pretty long time.
And I know I can be fully honest in my blog posts about the school environment because I know that none of the teachers or principals I work with ever read my blog. One of these days, I'll tell you why they don't read my blog, but that's another story.
One day around the start of the rugby season last year, there must have been about 15 boys from the team sitting in my room having lunch with me, just talking and joking around. An English teacher (I'll call him "Albert") happened to walk into my room that day, and he stopped in the middle of the floor and started giving the boys all kinds of crap.
"Whoa!!!" He said, "What's this, the Rainbow Club??? Don't you guys know there are all kinds of hot girls out there having lunch, and you want to be sitting in here with a bunch of guys???"
In his defense, Albert is a really cool guy, and the kids love him... so, of course, nobody was offended at his dramatics.
We just laughed at him.
Okay, now. Here's a little side note that shouldn't matter at all. Every year that I have ever coached the boys' team, there has always been at least one kid on the team who's gay. In fact, there was probably a gay kid sitting in my room that day when Albert walked through.
I know. What a freekin' shock.
Guess what? It never mattered to anyone... not to me, not to the team, nobody. Never.
See, that's one of the things that's so ultra-cool about rugby. It's such a fringe sport, that borders on the insane, that kids who play it tend to be more confident about their identities, and they also tend to tolerate and stick up for their teammates to a far greater extent than the more traditional sports that demand the loss of personal identity and conformity. Just look at a football team, for example. When they're suited up with their helmets on, they don't even look like human beings, and they all look exactly identical. Football demands that loss of the person in its players.
Sorry, it's one of the things I don't like about it.
It's why Bobby Framingham is such a compelling character in Bill Konigsberg's Out of the Pocket.
Okay... back to the story of the Rainbow Club.
The next day, the boys all started piling in to my room again at lunchtime, but I could tell something was up. They all had these goofy smirks on their faces, and there was a lot of whispering-so-the-coach-can't-hear-us going on. Oh well. I just ignored it. I know better, after all these years, to ever take anything too seriously when it's coming from the mouth or mind of a teenager.
But later on during lunch, the principal came into my room, walkie-talkie in hand, and said, "Uh... Smith, do you want to explain to me the purpose of that sign outside your door?"
Just then, all the boys started busting up laughing.
Oh yeah. Something was up.
I went outside. The guys had hung this enormous, airbrushed poster announcing that this was the meeting place of the "Rainbow Club."
It had, like, every color imaginable on it. I know the boys had to have spent quite a bit of time planning and making it. They even drew a juggling clown in the middle of it, just beneath the apex of the huge rainbow, and they wrote "Smith" and drew an arrow pointing to him.
It was probably the gayest thing I've ever seen.
But it was hilarious, and I loved it.
The principal, never one to have room for a "sense of humor" inside the detention-hall-filing-cabinet of a brain, was not amused. But I took the poster down, and hung it up on the wall of my classroom, behind my desk, where it stayed for the entire school year. Oh yeah, I got plenty of strange looks for it, especially from school district administrators.
It's probably why they kicked me out of that classroom and put me into "the room that kills people."
But that's another story, too.
Oh... and you're probably figuring out why it is that teachers and principals don't read my blog, too. I've got a few more stories about the Rainbow Club, but I'll hold off on those for a while.
Oh... at the top of this blog I said this story was about something that was fundamentally a component of being a boy, but I didn't know what to call it.
Now I do. It's called character.