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Pre-Adolescent Street Cred: Whatever the Cost

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Some of you may remember my previous post about criminals, which I opened with the words “Criminals are dumb.” Since writing that post I have come to quite a serious conclusion. This decision is the product of a lot of thought, and a lot of soul-searching, but here it goes.

Little boys are even dumber.

I know I’m classifying myself for a lot of my life as being dumber than people who roll joints in front of a SWAT van but I can’t in good conscience let the little blighters off the hook. My primary reasoning for this comes from the way in which the two groups choose to build up proof of their “street cred.” Criminals generally have a wealth of tattoos detailing what prisons they’ve been to, what gangs they’ve run with, and in some cases the sorts of crimes they’ve committed. No hardcore criminal is going to believe you’ve done time in Sing-Sing unless you’ve got the tat.

This one started young.

Admittedly, this is really stupid, since one of the easiest ways for the cops to ID you is if you have a sign literally etched into your skin declaring “I’M A FELON!” (note that I’m not saying all tattoos mark you thusly, just specific ones that you are hopefully unlikely to accidentally impose upon yourself.) Despite the inherent stupidity of this system, however, little boys have them beat cold on the stupid-o-meter. How do they do this? Little boys refuse to believe a story is true unless you have a scar to prove it.

Think about that for a second: the “pics or it didn’t happen” of the prepubescent and even adolescent boy is “bodily disfigurement or it didn’t happen.” You literally have to have injured yourself to the point that some part of you couldn’t grow back right to obtain credibility with these gremlins. And that presented a major problem for me, because I don’t scar.

The tribulation inherent in being a boy who does not scar plagued me all the way through my younger days. In fact, I think I ended up being even more self-abusive than most little boys in my reckless quest to kill myself just to prove I’d done it. No matter what I did, I couldn’t raise so much as a little skin discoloration to prove that I had, in fact, caught a metal drainage pipe with the lawnmower and sent shrapnel into my shin.

Over time, I developed a strange sort of background psychological complex bent on sabotaging me to the point that I just had to get a scar. I started at about 8 when within a week of moving into a house with brick stairs out front, my legs tripped me up and slammed my forehead straight into the corner of one of the stairs. Huge gash, no stitches, perfect conditions for scarring. The doctor even said it was going to scar up quite nicely. What do I get? A little tiny crease in the corner of my forehead if I crinkle my face up just right and the humidity isn’t too low.

Later in life I somehow managed to not notice that in attempting to remove some cornbread from the oven I had somehow pressed the inside of my left arm against the extremely hot metal side of the oven and burned an ugly little crescent into the side of my arm (it was the really bad kind of burn). Doctor’s opinion? “You’ll have a scar there pretty much for life. Three years later I had a tiny patch of slightly lighter skin and the first time I got a suntan it disappeared completely.

Since when does ultraviolet radiation heal you?

Over the next few years I ran the gamut of physical imperilment. I got myself hit in the face with an aluminum baseball bat going full speed, I slashed my foot with a metal grate, I even shot myself in the foot that only days earlier I’d had a 2 inch piece of wood removed from! (A good story, for another time perhaps) Nothing worked. No matter what I tried the boyhood equivalent of street cred eluded me. I’m like the convict who always gets caught by the guards every time he tries to start inking himself.

My absolute worst attempt, which I was positive would work, requires a little set up. You see, partly out of my masochism and partly because it was absolutely awesome, I was an avid street hockey player all through my childhood. We even lived in a cul-de-sac where not only did we have the perfect place to play, but also an abundance of kids and adults as into it as I was.

This next part is completely disconnected from the previous paragraph. When my mom was a kid, she was late for some sort of important event and so was running down the stairs of her house toward the front door. Unfortunately, what she thought was an open door was actually a plate glass storm door, which she managed to get her entire arm through before she realized the damage she was doing to herself. She was now stuck in the storm door, and began to try and pull her injured arm back into the house to get treatment. At the sight of this, my grandmother, in a moment of panic, screamed “NO! Go outside, you’ll bleed on the carpet!” My mother has never quite forgiven her for this.

So, back to me, one day I was out playing street hockey sans any kind of padding because I was a cocky little snot and was too good for any of that stuff. It just got in the way of my style. For the most part I actually was good enough that I didn’t fall down and since we didn’t have any kind of boards to check against, I was safe from being smashed up against anything. However, this day God decided I needed a good humiliating to make up for all my smirky smugness. While going as fast as I could the tip of my roller blade hit a tiny little pebble, which sent me flying. I landed on my (bare) shins on the asphalt pavement and proceeded to skid for around ten or fifteen feet. My legs were literally hamburger, but somehow I staggered back inside my house. I limped gingerly into the kitchen and started to make my way toward the living room, where my mom and grandmother were having a conversation.

“Mom?” I ventured, weakly.

“STAY THERE! DON’T BLEED ON THE CARPET!” she responded.

Immediately upon realizing what she’d said she turned as white as a ghost and clapped both hands over her mouth.

Rather like Macaulay Culkin, actually.

My grandmother, in spite of herself, busted out into uproarious gales of laughter at my mother that she couldn’t control for at least  five minutes. After bandaging myself, I started to silently rejoice. Here was finally an injury that couldn’t help but scar. For good measure I even accidentally got the injury dragged through a patch of poison ivy by my manic dog a few days later, which developed nicely into a tormentuously itchy, skinless patch of pain. The only thing that got me through all of the pain cheerfully was the surety that finally I’d have that longed-for cred amongst my peers, who would no doubt examine my mutilated legs and nod sagely to each other in admiring approval.

Nope. Nothing. Not even a little change in skin color. Heck, the hair even grew back after the new skin did. After failing to scar yet again I decided to give up on my insane quest and just accept that none of the awesome stories I had to tell would ever be believed by anybody in my peer group.

I’d love to say that I moved past that and realized how dumb the whole thing was. I’d love to say that the wisdom age has brought me has allowed me to renounce this frankly stupid form of validation. But then I realized that I just wrote an appeal to the internet to believe all the stories I tried to get my freinds to beleive as a kid.

And no, I still don’t have the scars to prove them.