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The older I get, the less I find myself caring very much about a lot of things. After years of experience and living in this world, I think that I have managed to knock a great many things off my list of things I care about and boiled it down to the bone.
I have also discovered that very little shocks me anymore. Certainly not anything in human behavior. I came to the conclusion some time ago that people are pretty much capable of almost anything under the right circumstances and the wisest course is to assume that anything can happen and probably will.
I was espousing this philosophy to someone the other day who accused me of being a cynic, an accusation that I believe is subject to personal interpretation and definition. I pointed out that a cynic expects the worst while I expect nothing at all; a significant difference in my book.
I believe that having no expectations is the best and safest way to operate; that way you can avoid being shocked, horrified, or confused and still be occasionally pleasantly surprised. It works for me.
I think that my son, Chuck, has been a powerful force in my evolution to this personal philosophy. Ever since he was little he has attempted to argue every single point of difference between us like a hard-boiled litigation attorney. He has continued to do this throughout the years and gets better at it as he grows older. He figured out pretty early on that I was not one of those parents who was comfortable saying, "Because I said so." Knowing this, he has come to expect that I will always offer an explanation for pretty much everything I ask or tell him to do. Like any good trial lawyer, he will then use it against me later.
Chuck's gift is the ability to build a case on what appears to be logic, but really isn't. He can put forth an argument based entirely on nonsense that sounds like ought to make sense when it really doesn't. Kind of like Johnny Cochran in the Simpson trial. He has always loved watching episodes of Boston Legal on TV, a fact which should have clued me in to the way his mind works a long time ago. When he was in 6th grade his teacher held an exercise at the end of the year where the students could put her on trial and make an argument for why they should not have any more homework for the rest of the year. This was one of the rare occasions when I saw him excited about something going on at school. He wanted to be the prosecuting attorney more than anything in the world and fought like mad to get the job. They had to write an essay explaining why they should be appointed as the chief prosecuting attorney and he put more effort into writing that essay than I ever saw him put into anything. Naturally, he did not get the job. One of the girls who was a typical teacher's pet got it. Chuck was furious. I read his essay, it was fantastic. He made a case for himself that was quite impressive. I called the teacher and asked her why should would not consider him as a candidate for the prosecution, explaining to her how excited he had been and how disappointed he was at not being chosen. She told me that she agreed that his essay was fabulous and that he would have been perfect for the job, which was exactly why she did not choose him. Evidently, she had no intention of losing the case and she was afraid he might make too good an argument. He was so enthusiastic that he ended up hoisting himself on his own petard. I told Chuck this and assured him that the one thing in life upon which we may rely with absolute inevitability is that there will be irony. That didn't seem to make him feel any better. I told him that he would get a chance in high school to join the debating team but he didn't seem very excited about the prospect.
So, having no other real forum, Chuck continues to practice his litigation skills on me, which can get pretty exhausting pretty fast. I can always count on him for long, drawn out arguments where he twists logic into knots and makes references to past instances where I contradicted myself or conceded defeat. He is ruthless in the courtroom. He also remembers stuff that I don't, and invariably puts a spin on it that supports his case. After a while, I can't even remember what it was I wanted from him or why it was important enough to merit so much discussion. Depending upon my mood, I either just roll over and cry mea culpa or put my foot down and threaten to deprive him of all episodes of Boston Legal for the rest of his life. There is definitely a future for the boy in trial law, although I can't honestly say that I am one of those women who dreams about her son becoming a lawyer. In fact, I would probably be appalled.
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