Parents always tell their kids to “use your words.” I tell B. that curses will inevitably be among his son’s words, so he should simply explain to the boy when unbelievably gross and offensive language is appropriate and when it’s not. That way, when I come over, I won’t have to censor myself.
A nasty symptom of parentage is how it suddenly upends priorities. Previously ambitious, eloquent people are suddenly never at a loss for a cliché. Having this little person in your life … it just changes your values.
No, I tell new parents, giving life to a human being isn’t an out clause from the social contract. And yet, parents opt out of driven society left and right.
And not just any people: Every famous actress in a career skid knows the nine-month road back to the cover of People. And not just actresses: A few years ago, a health club ripped off the “Dewar’s profile” magazine ads. Inevitably, quasi-noted artists and directors cited their greatest accomplishment as: “My daughter Lindsey …”
This is a dangerous state of mind, remedied only by reminding parents that the planet is circling the drain because five billion people pulled off the same accomplishment.
Case Study No. 3:
C. and D. have a son applying to colleges and have inexplicably lost sight of how little impact college has on anyone’s future. These people once knew full well that college is merely a place to meet people who haunt you the rest of your life. Now they pore over Ivy League applications with an intensity usually reserved for prenups.
In Los Angeles, kids covet the Ivies for two reasons: It’s the best path to getting a high-paying sitcom job, and they’ve seen Legally Blonde 40 times.
I suggest a huge state college with pep rallies, bonfires, recruiting violations and dorms the size of the Sears Tower. They say their son didn’t amass a 4.2 grade point average to end up in some state school. Confused, I ask, “His GPA is 4.2? Isn’t that a world record?”
They shake their heads at my naïveté. As a former Seinfeld writer, I offer to write a letter of recommendation. They cry in joy at my generosity.
The most insidious affliction for parents is the lowering of standards for friendship, so this is my most important piece of advice: Meeting another person with a stroller doesn’t qualify as having “something in common.” The stranger with the stroller is not your friend. I’m your friend. I’m the one you listed on the school’s emergency call list. I’m the person you confide in, learn from and then walk away thinking, Who cares what he says? He doesn’t even have kids.