Teenagers (preps, perfectionists, goths, skateboarders, thespians, mutes, junior thugs) and I see something in each other. Who doesn’t value a good gravitational pull? Three of them strode into the Laundromat the other night and we, at first sight, had ourselves a bit of a past-life connection. The tall one sat near me in the waiting area, where I was playing round after round of Candy Crush on my phone.
“Excuse me,” it didn’t take him long to call out. I knew we’d speak.
“Are you scared of waterbugs?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. (Actually not really, although I used to be. It would have been too antisocial to say “No.”)
He pointed at a beast that slowly crawled a few feet away, on the other side of me. “Look at him go,” I narrated, following it with my eyes, pretending to care. I asked him what the difference is between a waterbug and an extra-large roach. His nonsensical, long-winded answer demonstrated that he hasn’t a clue.
He volunteered that he’s terrified of bugs and would have gotten up and ran if he were sitting where I was. Now we were talking. It was a startling admission, considering he had the presence of a person who would kneel in front of an oncoming tour bus if it meant protecting the two girls he came in with. How often are boys his age - and men two, three, and four times his age – tough enough to fess up to their fears that candidly, especially when they concern something so outwardly trivial? Half class clown, half varsity athlete, smart but not studious, Homecoming Court but not King, at risk of one day looking back at high school as his heyday – that was my first impression of him. My second impression is that only the authentically confident ones have any prayer of winning Most Likely to Succeed.