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Q: My second grader thinks he’s being bullied at school, and my wife is about ready to pull him out and homeschool him. I think the boys are being boys and that the situation will work itself out. How can I convince them of this?
A: While your little one may or may not have fallen prey to a genuine bully, his mother appears to have fallen prey to a world gone ever more haywire when it comes to kids. There is much more at work (and play) in an elementary school than meets the eye. In addition to classroom instruction, there are important lessons being taught on the playground, and achievement in the former setting is, frankly, not as reliable an indicator of future success as adept survival in the latter. Knowing how to spell “apple” or find Madagascar on a globe is nice, but learning how to give a wide berth to the Ritalin-gobbling, hairy-armed hoods who extort lunch moneys and mete out atomic wedgies is a critical skill without which there’s little hope that your boy will be able to navigate the cruel world that lies ahead. Life itself will be your child’s most fearsome bully, and though the wedgies it threatens be metaphorical, they be no less uncomfortable. The Texanist’s own skills were honed on the hard blacktop at Cater Elementary, in Temple, at the hands of one Brutus McSwirlie (names have been changed), but back then there wasn’t any mollycoddling to interfere with the vital transfer of knowledge. It’s not easy these days, what with the no-score sports leagues (sporting contests are decided by scores), participation trophies (worthless to all but those who sell them), and hovering parents (Mrs. Name Withheld needs to ground the helicopter), but your boy, like you and the Texanist and most all boys and girls, will figure it out.
Q: Some buddies and I just got back from our first (but not last) gambling trip to Bossier City, Louisiana. I hit a bit of a hot streak at the blackjack table and ended up winning a little money, but when I got up to leave, my friends chided me pretty good about not tipping the dealer. Should I have tipped, or are my friends too generous?
A: The Texanist is unable to say whether or not your gambling buddies are too loose with their loot, as this assessment depends entirely on knowing the total amount of loot in their possession. To each according to his ability, after all. But your pals were right to point out that the tipping of casino dealers is indeed accepted custom. You may not have realized it, but most dealers are service-industry folk who rely heavily on gratuities (and amphetamines) to get through their days. This is why the Texanist, whose total amount of loot is not as impressive as people tend to think, often chooses to satisfy his love of gaming behind the office at lunchtime with a man who goes by the name One-Eye Stanley. In such settings, no tip need be transferred, since both the Texanist and One-Eye are engaged in criminal activity in a urine-soaked alley. But by providing cards, chips, a comfortable seat, a pleasant waitress, a watery but bottomless gin and tonic, and a gambling license, the casino is rendering a service. The fact that most of the time it results only in wallet-emptying misery is beside the point. The service was rendered and a tip is proper. And if you get lucky enough to beat the odds and pocket some cash, it is even more proper. Stiffing the dealer is the wrong way to go—unless, of course, One-Eye is your man.
Q: I’m planning on attending the Texas-OU game this year with my family and need to know the location of the line between good-natured taunting and bad sportsmanship. We attended the game last year, and I’m pretty sure that my husband totally lost track of it. Can you tell me where it is so that I can point it out to him?
A: The Texanist enjoys ratcheting up the excitement of game day with good red-in-the-face and ear-numbingly-discordant fight-song singing, but he never forgets that the purpose of these a cappella discharges is not to incite actual fisticuffs between his crew and those ignorant, ugly, and depraved creatures grunting on behalf of the opposing team. The rules of tailgate-area engagement are simple: Sing, cheer, and chant with gusto but avoid mad-dogging (singing, cheering, or chanting with such gusto that foamy slobber collects in the corners of the mouth) and, aside from a handshake or a slap on the back, refrain from any physical contact with the subhumans painted in the other team’s colors. It helps to think of these lowlifes as literally “untouchable” (plus, they probably have communicable diseases). Tell your husband to follow this simple guide and there shouldn’t be any trouble.
Q: My daughter acts completely repulsed when presented with meat on the bone. She won’t eat it. Grosses her out. She’ll eat meat (she loves burgers and hot dogs), just not when it’s on the bone. No chicken, no ribs. How can I coax her along, or should I even bother?
A: You have two options, but first, an examination of your daughter’s reluctance to gnaw on bones is in order. The root of this particular problem, which the Texanist usually encounters in small children and people from California, is an overactive imagination. Connecting the dots, or in this case the bones, the imaginative child (or Californian) is able to reconstruct, from the sight of the comestible object with the bone still in it, an anatomically complete creature with big brown eyes. It plays out very much like, and to the exact tune of, the old spiritual “Dem Bones”: This rib bone was connected to a—backbone; that backbone was connected to a—neck bone; that neck bone was connected to a—head bone; that head bone contained two—eyeballs; those eyeballs remind me of a—puppy. Which brings us to your options. You can try to convince her that the boneless item is no less related to the living animal than its bone-in counterpart, but then you run the risk of pushing her into vegetarianism. So the Texanist would recommend that you just keep putting out the nuggets. If you do choose the first option, what you don’t want to do is ever explain to her in any amount of detail, or with any sort of visual aids, the process by which her favorite boneless meats came to be that way. Then she may never eat again, period.