Yesterday I attended my nephew’s 16th birthday, though, in actuality, it is yet to come, as he was born on the 28th. A few other boys were also attending. Being in the company of teenagers can be thoroughly entertaining, and as I’m prone to listening to what they have to say, I often find myself in the situation where I hear myself delivering life lessons, or making points that often have a ring of finality to them. Paul is good at initiating a feel-good atmosphere on all levels. For instance, as soon as I entered the room, he hurried towards me, kissed me, and then proceeded to check out my silk jersey dress. “Why have you come as if dressed for the funeral?” he asked, and then swiftly moved on to admiring my necklaces: one made of real pearls and the other made of lava stones and amethyst. He particularly liked the latter. “Oh, that’s very beautiful and interesting,” he said. “I made it myself,” I said, and then he went on even more swiftly to telling me that he liked my presents.

Between eating, singing, and playing the piano, there was room for some other kind of playing that involved argumentation and belief. “Last chance,” Paul said to me, after showing me all the insides of his computer, and all the technical stuff in it, “to admit to the benefits of a PC over a Mac. If you’re not going to believe this now…” “Then what?” I cut him short. He tried to argue, but he wasn’t convincing. So I said to him, extrapolating from the event, and adopting a reverential air suited to the making of a universal and therefore important point. “Don’t ever give people ultimatums, or tell them that this is their last chance to do something, or believe something, unless you actually really know what you’re talking about, and unless you can really calculate the risks pertaining to the implications of such statements." “Why is that so important?” he wanted to know. “Because” I said, “if you don’t know what you’re saying, and yet insist on issuing final ‘warnings’ without thinking, then you will merely disclose that you’re full of shit, that you have no good judgment, and no experience.” “Oh,” he said baffled, and then continued: “that’s bad.” I read this as an implicit statement that, when it comes down to it, and in spite of their age, boys do want to be taken seriously rather than be dismissed on account of being silly, insensitive, or foolish. “You’re goddamn right it’s bad”, I then said, “and the sooner you learn this the better, namely that knowing what you’re talking about is what distinguishes between mature and immature people. So take your pick.”

Benjamin came to my rescue, as I was about to venture into a potentially unpleasant ‘grow-up, for Christ’s sake’ moment, and started performing massage on my back. “Oh, my,” I said, and just as I was getting into it, he ran to his computer while asking: “how do you write this in Italian?” – he was fascinated with the google translator and the robot behind it uttering all sorts of sounds. Benjamin is a bit of a language genius. I said to him: “now, you finish the job you started, and then I’ll tell you.” “All right he said, and then proceeded to even ask me how hard I liked it, and what other sado-masochistic-like punches on my back I preferred. The other grown-ups in the house were giving me the look of: “Benjamin never takes any orders from anyone, how did you manage…?”

After the massage, Peter tried to convince me, also by way of helping Paul out, that an Acer computer is better than a Mac because you can play all these things on it. “Like what?” I said. He showed me a game in which he was running around with a shot gun in the desert trying to kill infidel soldiers. “Why is running around like that interesting at all when there’s no strategy?” I asked him, implying that if that’s all you can do on an Acer that otherwise looks like shit on a Mac, then I wasn’t convinced why I should even bother installing such things on my computer to begin with, not to mention why I should change computers at all. “Oh,” he said, quickly, “there’s strategy, there’s lots of strategy.” “Yeah,” I said, "like what?" “You have to be fast,” he said. “Oh, and that’s what you call strategy?” I asked, destabilizing his beliefs in a snap, which, also in a snap left him dead on the ground. He got shot by the other guy on the screen. It goes to show that thinking can also have this consequence.

At this potentially metaphysical turn, I got hit in my head by Janus who wanted to play with the huge Pilates ball. It was lucky that I decided to wear a jersey dress, for I wouldn’t have been able to handle that one, had I opted for some other garment. I made this remark in reference to Paul’s initial ‘funeral’ comment. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve been thinking about it” – Paul is always thinking – “and I’ll grant you: you wanted to match my white shirt, but you didn’t know that I was going to wear the Norwegian one, did you?” Oh, I liked this game the best, for it gave me the opportunity to ask him: “are you absolutely certain about that?” "No," he had to admit, and then went: “if the opposite is true, then I want to know how you arrived at that calculation and conclusion.” I told him. When we parted he whispered: “I’m glad you’re part of my life.” Back at home, I sank into my chair and I felt like saying that I was also glad that I was part of my life. And his, of course, of course. Just for laughs. Paul, happy birthday.


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