Scenes from an Awkward Childhood #1: Curiosity

By Shawn

As a child, I possessed a truly unfortunate combination of qualities. I was precocious, hyperactive, excessively imaginative, extremely sensitive, and overly philosophical. These traits led, on multiple occasions, to disaster. Here’s an example.

It is often a good thing for kids to be curious. Curiosity can draw children out of themselves, lead them to engage with the outside world, and inspire a lifetime love of learning. Another thing curiosity can do is make you wonder how it would feel to touch your friend’s eyeball. And so it was that four-year-old me, sitting next to my friend Joey* in pre-school, conceived a desire to jab him right in the eye. I abruptly set this plan into motion in the middle of story time. Joey, not being apprised in advance of my intention to brutally finger his iris, was taken entirely by surprise when I suddenly whirled around and jabbed the living shit out of his eye socket. And what I learned is, people hate that. Joey screamed, and the teacher, whose name I’m sure was not actually Mrs. Flyswatter, but that’s what I remember it being, immediately intervened.

When you are young, it is very, very important to understand the difference between doing something “on purpose” and doing it “by accident.” Because adults will frequently want to know why you did whatever you just did, and the wrong response can land you in quite a bit of trouble. This became a pressing issue when Mrs. Flyswatter asked me whether I poked Joey in the eye by accident or on purpose. A part of me recognized that what I had done was, in some sense, sociopathic, and that it was imperative to conceal the fact that I’d assaulted my friend’s eyeball intentionally. But I was always confused which phrase meant what. So when I started shrieking, “I did it on purpose! I did it on purpose!”, it did not produce the response I had been hoping for. I was dragged away from my mat yelling, and I wasn’t permitted to sit next to Joey for the rest of the year. At the time, this seemed like a gross injustice, because surely it wasn’t my fault I was too damn stupid to lie correctly. But in hindsight, fair enough, you know? An early sign that childhood was going to be chock-full of social misfires.

* This is not his real name. Dude, wherever you are, seriously, I am so sorry.

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