I got to thinking about the guardian angels tasked with keeping teenage boys alive and, mostly at least, out of major trouble. This ties into my thoughts that boys need to get into a certain amount of trouble in the first place to finish growing into men. How we deny them that will need to be the subject of a longer post later.
Back to guardian angels. When you conjure that image, the timeless art of the cherub, encased in a golden glow and sporting white wings, springs to mind. A little three-year-old missing in the woods? She’ll have an angel to look after her, tall and strong and kind. An elderly person passing from this plane? A guide, compassionate and welcoming. Heart-warming concepts, indeed.
Exactly the opposite of what teenage boys need. By nature, teenage boys are prone to do stupid things, usually in an effort to either move up in the dominance hierarchy or to impress a girl. Which is redundant. Work with me.
When a teen looks at a small chasm with a swiftly flowing creek, he sees an opportunity to measure himself and impress his peers where mature adults see an idiot playing Evel Knievel. This is the narrowest point in the creek. It seems more impressive when up-creek and down-creek spread out like that to either side, but it’s also the point with the deepest plunge if he misses.
“Bet I can jump it!”
“Bet you can’t.”
He and his big mouth firmly puts his body on the line. His brag got called. No backing out now without loosing face. His friends will deride him not for the attempt, but to discourage him because they’re eyeing the same yawning gap and thinking, “Crap, if he makes it, I gotta try.” The girls, if present, will tell him, “Don’t do it, you could get hurt. Do you think you can make it?”
“Sure!” What other answer is possible? Thus committed, the teen backs up, checks the distance from one shore to the next. Backs up two more steps. Three. It looks like erosion made that damn jump a heck of a lot longer than it was a moment ago. His friends, sensing a chicken, heckle.
So far, his guardian angel, the one on duty – they work shifts twelve-and-twelve to keep up with the level of testosterone induced lunacy – sighs and puts down her cigar. Her squadron never has a quiet shift.
She’s a veteran at the game, not some rube cherub just getting its wings. Imagine a cigar-chomping, raspy voiced, frazzled woman, tougher than a Drill Instructor and half as sentimental. That’s the prototypical angel for boys 12-and up. Her mission, to keep the moron boy alive for one more day.
While he’s making his run up to launch mode, she makes decisions. Will the fall kill him? No. Good, a teachable moment, then. Can he get hurt. Probably, but not relevant. Will he make it? Snort. She could trip him before take-off but the chucklehead will just back up more, three times as determined.
She let’s him jump.
And he’s going to make it, by about a shoe-length, as in his heels hang on the edge of the abyss. But, since boys need lessons in mortality, she loosens the embankment. A dirty trick, to be sure, but if he makes it cleanly this time, he’ll try again, something bigger and more dangerous.
As the grassy verge breaks loose, the boy experiences an instant of panic and hurls himself forward, skinning his shins in the process. Inside, he’s pure elation. He won! At least, this time, because one of his buds is going to one-up him soon. But not today, no-sirree. He stands, wipes the blades of grass off his chest, and turns to face the rest of them.
The boys are looking at their feet. Hah! The girls are looking at him, which normally makes him uncomfortable as hell. One, the cutey blonde has hasn’t got the guts to ask out, looks at him concerned. She cares! It can’t get any better. Her next words crush that like a car compactor taking on a Yugo.
“How are you going to get back?”
His guardian angel snickers, picks up her cigar, and puffs it back to life. My, but she does love a two-for-one lesson.