Challenging the Challenges

I have seen news coverage of the “latest” teen challenge craze, snorting condoms, and I can hold my peace no longer.   Here is a doctor’s warning about the risks associated with snorting condoms.  Again, I am shaking my head that we would even need to warn anyone that this is a stupid idea, on top of all the other warnings issued regarding gulping spoonfuls of cinnamon, eating Tide Pods, wrapping yourself in duct tape, car surfing, and choking yourself until you pass out.

It would seem that condom snorting is a resurrection of a fad first making the rounds in 2013.  It has made a reappearance along with bell bottom jeans, cold shoulder sweaters, jelly shoes, and many other things that should just stay in the past.  In my opinion, kids snorting condoms should wear them to guarantee they don’t breed, and the Tide Pod challenge should include a teenager doing his own laundry and putting it away.

But are teens alone in stupid challenges?  I think not.  Adults are just as guilty, men especially (come on guys, you know it’s true), of doing ridiculous things in rituals called “Hold My Beer” challenges.  These range from jumping off a roof using umbrellas as parachutes to roller-skating on frozen lakes.  Things I have personally witnessed grown men doing include:

  • The firecracker challenge: I am not kidding, I have seen grown men challenge each other to light firecrackers in the waistband of their pants … “to see what happens.”  I mean, honestly. What do they think is going to happen?? I can attest it’s about what you’d expect to have happen.
  • Chicken: I have witnessed versions of this classic played out in trucks, on four wheelers, and on tractors. It never ends well for the drivers or the vehicles of choice. And once, it ended really badly – in the form of a mud bath (it was in a field, so we were all hoping it was mud at any rate) – for a particularly well-dressed bystander who had not planned on said mud bath that evening.
  • Impossible Obstacle Challenge: Let’s pile some debris and boards together and jump them with bicycles, four-wheelers, motorcycles, or heck, even roller-skates and skate boards. One guy thought he would impersonate Superman — you know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. What could go wrong? Broken bones. That’s what can go wrong. But hey, at least he held onto his beer.
  • The hot pepper challenge: My ex-husband and his friends used to see who could eat the hottest peppers whole. This was fun enough on its own, until wasabi became a thing and the challenge expanded to a whole new level. I think some of those guys still have clear sinuses even today. Of course, the subsequent ulcers are a constant reminder of the “good old days.”

With kids, this sort of behavior is really not too far out of the realm of somewhat kinda sorta normal … I mean, their brains and their impulse control are still developing. However, you’d think the adults would “know better.”  But they don’t. I do think that adults doing stupid things and teens doing stupid things comes down to a few similarities.  Boredom is probably a running theme for all of these challenges.  The need for recognition plays some part, as well; the people performing these challenges feel the need to be acknowledged for doing something, hell, ANYTHING, even if it is dumb.  I think another common trait among people who perform these stunts, adults and teens alike, is a pervasive feeling of invincibility. I’ve talked about this before. These people know that they are doing something stupid and dangerous, and they have read that people have been seriously hurt performing these stunts, but hey; it will never happen to me!

I think that every now and then, things are put into place to promote evolution; this is Darwinism at its finest.  Only the smartest and the strongest will be able to resist snorting a condom, therefore, only the smartest and strongest survive.  If they somehow survive the teenage round of stupidity, they will be tested again as adults in the “Hold My Beer” challenges.  After this, they are granted the wisdom needed to reach old age, and to impart that great wisdom to the next generation. Who, in turn, will ignore the wise elderly citizen, and chomp on a Tide Pod anyway.  This is definitely the new “circle of life.”

Luckily, there is a growing number of young people who not only resist these asinine challenges but show more courage and intelligence than many adults … these are the leaders of the future. Hell, they’re the leaders we need now, but sadly, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for them to come into their own. So, there is hope yet.

As for me, just check my Instagram for the latest challenges I will be performing.  There is the couch-a-thon which involves sitting on my couch for an entire episode of a QVC show while the remote is on the counter in the kitchen, totally out of my reach; then there is the gluttony challenge where I will eat an entire pizza by myself.  It’s dangerous, but I like to shake it up a little and live on the edge.  Then there’s the “rope the remote with the phone charger” challenge. It’s not as easy as it sounds – I almost fell off the couch performing this one, so there’s an added risk to be taken into consideration. Of course, my all-time favorite: eating a whole container of Oreos without milk (bonus points if it’s because you forgot milk at the store when you in fact purchased the Oreos).  Required Disclaimer: Don’t try these at home, people, I am a trained professional.

Devolving Toys for Today’s Kids   

Back in the good old days, we had toys that left lasting memories.  Sometimes, these toys left lasting scars, burns, and fractures as well, but mostly just good, warm memories.  One of my fondest memories growing up was playing with the Holly Hobbie Oven.

The Holly Hobbie Oven was a stove that was made to look old-fashioned.  Like, really old-fashioned.  The old black cast iron wood stove your grandmother used when she was young kind of old-fashioned.   Picture Little House on the Prairie old-fashioned.   It came with pots and pans, a rolling-pin, and a few mixing bowls and spoons.  It cooked, like its predecessor the Easy Bake Oven, with the heat of a light bulb.  It was sheer genius in its simplicity.  It was safe to use if you didn’t put your hand in too far (don’t ask me how I know this) and may be the reason some little girls grew up to be fantastic cooks.  I said some, not all (cough cough).

click the pic to learn all about Holly Hobbie!

I got mine for Christmas in 1975, if I remember right.  What I do remember clearly is just how excited I was to play with it and make real food (of a sort).  I played with it all the time too; this may be one of my favorite toys ever from childhood, next to my Curious George stuffed monkey (which I still have, by the way).  I still get warm fuzzies when I think of this toy and the hours spent cooking, creating and imagining.

In today’s world, where is the source of a child’s warm fuzzies?  It seems that kids are growing up too fast to enjoy life’s simplicities.  Adults feed a child’s need for distraction, myself included, but maybe we’re choosing the wrong kinds of distractions.  Where is the imagination and excitement of the simpler toys in life, such as building blocks and good old-fashioned board games?  I wonder if the kids get the same sense of wonder when they unwrap an iPhone for Christmas that we used to get while unwrapping our Barbies and GI Joes.   In a microwave world, maybe I am hopelessly camp-fire addicted, but I believe that we need to allow our kids to have an “innocent stage” for as long as we can. It’s hard to do in today’s world, though.

There are some kids who still enjoy the simpler toys like yo-yo’s and Legos (my son was NUTS about Legos growing up) but in general, it seems society has outgrown these things.  I find that sort of sad.  There is no imagination needed in today’s scripted world of video games and smart phones.  What are we teaching our kids about self-reliance?  Are they learning how to simply slow down and enjoy the fun things in life, like cooking with a light bulb or ripping off Stretch Armstrong’s arms to see what his gel insides looks like?

I am glad that society is moving forward, don’t get me wrong.  I think there is a time and a place for electronics, but I also believe technology needs to be balanced out for our youth with good old-fashioned toys that spark the imagination and employ creativity; toys that evoke a friendly competitive rivalry like Monopoly, Uno and Sorry (umm…well, in my house, to this day, when we play these games, someone usually almost always gets killed before it’s all said and done, but still, they’re fun games…yeah, that’s right, fun games!)

I’m not saying we shouldn’t embrace progress. I’m all for progress. Maybe it’s good that toys have evolved, along with everything else. And maybe it’s sad that things like the Holly Hobbie Oven are tossed to the wayside.

Patience of a Saint

This tickled me probably more than it should have done. Every time I look at it, in fact, it makes me chuckle. Maybe because it hits so close home. When I first came across it, still giggling, I sent it to my mother who replied, in a tired voice — a voice no doubt burdened with the weight of dealing with her daughter’s… umm… hilarity (cause let’s face it, I am hilarious), “Yeah, of course you would find that funny.” You know, sometimes, my heart just goes out to that woman.

Door to Door Holiday Sales

It’s that time of year again. Time for students of all ages to make the rounds of the neighborhood – and for parents to hit up their colleagues, with holiday-time fundraisers. You know the fundraisers I’m talking about – the ones that sell 12” x 12” squares of wrapping paper for $10 each, 6-piece boxes of candy for $12, and candles for $22. Oh joy.

My son, being 7 years older than my daughter, has been out of high school for a while, and my daughter graduated last year, and while I don’t feel the same inclination to purchase from the neighborhood children as I did from my own, I understand these fundraisers are to benefit the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association). Though admittedly, I’m not quite sure exactly what they fund. I’m sure it’s something worthwhile. At least, I remain optimistic that that’s the case.

Since their goal is to raise as much money as possible (I mean, right?), I can’t help but think that if they switched from holiday trimmings, candies, and baubles to whiskey, liqueur, and wine, they’d double if not triple (quadruple??) their revenues. They’d have no shortage of customers, I’m sure…especially among those parents with kids still in school. Hey, you need something to get through those upcoming parent/teacher conferences, not to mention the holiday break. Hell, they’d make a fortune at my house alone, despite my kids being out of school.

As I go to close the door: “No, I’m sorry, I don’t need gold-plated teeny-tiny squares of wrapping paper. Wait, what?? Baileys, you say?? Get back over here!  You came to the right house.  I think you just surpassed your quota, kid.”

Winter is Coming

Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.

Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and turns them into your worst adversary. Maybe it’s the pressure of finally get the perfect gift for someone you love. Maybe it’s knowing your friends will all be jealous of the fancy new TV/microwave/laptop you have without being any the wiser that you got it at 50% off, or maybe having the ability to pat oneself on the back over such an awesome deal is in fact part of it. Maybe it’s a mix of all these.

All I know is that people who are out and about doing holiday shopping will get downright mean if their mission is slowed down in any way, even by their own kids. On many an occasion I’ve seen seemingly normal parents threaten their children with the promise that Santa will skip over their house Christmas morning if they even think about throwing a hissy-fit in the middle of the store. If I could relive my kids’ childhood, I personally would’ve used the Krampus threat a lot more than I did…that’s the kind of thing that gets kids to sit up and listen.

I’m not sure who I feel for more when I see these parental showdowns in the middle of a jam-packed store…the exasperated parent driven to Santa-related threats, or the kids for throwing the fit in the first place (or at least those kids where you can tell it’s due to stress and being seriously over-tired). Okay, well, that’s actually an easy one…I feel for the strangers having to deal with both of them when all they want is to make it through the crowds to get their paper towels and toilet paper in peace.

Thank goodness I’m not a child (at least not age-wise anyway). I’ve lost my shit MANY times at the mall and would be a permanent name on Santa’s blacklist if the “no visit for you” rules applied to me. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I may be on the no-fly list for Santa’s sleigh, but it’s for entirely different reasons.

In fact, kids have it pretty good, don’t they? They can get away with a fairly good amount before they face any real consequences. But if one of us so-called “adults” yells and screams and stomps our feet in the middle of a store (maybe even knock over a display or two), all of a sudden here comes security to take us to grown-up timeout, which trust me, doesn’t involve cookies and milk afterwards.

I guess that’s what really separates adults from children. We ALL want to bitch and moan, but adults have learned how to keep all of that inside for the sake of appearances, ulcers and migraines notwithstanding.  Most of the time at least. If there’s ever a time when the rage might be too much to control, it’s in these next couple months. So, please, be careful out there. Winter is coming.