Journal entry: May 8, 2008 (age 39): Enemies list
Hell hath no fury like a 7-year-old scorned.
Recently, my brother Dan told me that his son, Tommy, has a “Friends List.” This closely held sheet of paper lists the names of his second-grade classmates, baseball teammates, and neighbors. When one of those friends does something mean (or, at the very least, “unfriendly”) to Tommy, he gets a star put next to his name. The accumulation of stars on Tommy’s list signifies the opposite of stars on a movie or restaurant review. As Tommy explains, “When someone gets five stars, they’re off the list – NEVER TO RETURN!”
Eager to know more, I called Dan’s home this afternoon and asked to speak to Tommy. “Hi, Uncle Tim!” he chirped. He was very open to discussing his prized document, and I had lots of questions. First of all, I wanted to know who had the most stars on his list. Tommy said that would probably be a boy on their street who “argues all the time.” I asked how many stars his 9-year-old brother, Patrick, had. To my surprise, he said that Patrick only had one star. I told him that, when his father and I were growing up, we would have earned an average of 10 stars a day on each other’s lists. Tommy explained his relatively low level of brotherly outrage this way: “Patrick used to have three stars – for hitting me. But he’s been nicer to me lately, so I erased two.”
Next, I wanted to know if Aunt Amanda and I were on his list. “No, but I can add you,” he said. Thinking back to some of the less successful birthday gifts we had sent Tommy in the past, I immediately regretted bringing our names up. I shuddered to think of the metrics he would use to quantify my job rating as an uncle – and godfather, God help me!
Most of all, I wanted to know what happened to the names that were removed from the Friends List. Did they get added to a separate “Enemies List”? Tommy confirmed that he did have such a list, awakening my fears of a Nixonian reincarnation in our family. But Tommy revealed that his Enemies List contains just one name: “Kornheiser.” Apparently, Tommy had heard his dad’s hometown of Binghamton being disparaged by Tony Kornheiser, an ESPN personality. Kornheiser is an alumnus of Harpur College, which is now Binghamton University, and he frequently mentions his alma mater’s sports program in his columns and broadcasts. I know that even people who love their hometown or school can make an occasional jab at it in good fun, but such subtle distinctions are invisible in the worldview of a child.
“But what happens to the people who used to be on your Friends List, but have earned a five-star banishment?” Tommy replied that people can always improve, so he is thinking about creating a new “In Between List.” It seems this repository would house those who had transgressed, but were not beyond eventual redemption.
Purgatory hath no apathy like a 7-year-old nonplussed.