My post a few days ago about our family’s toilet paper inventory kicked up a fair amount of online dust. If you were present for that conversation you witnessed how a few of my straight faced comments about the glorious merits of 2-ply toilet tissue incited a Roman shield wall of mothers armed with the intent of protecting my wife’s delicate 3-ply desires. I apologize, because in retrospect, I believe my tongue-in-cheek comments are called “trolling” on the internet, and they are universally considered unsportsmanlike.
Please, loving, protective, and frightening mothers, do not fear. My wife will keep her 3-ply salvation. In fact, we actually have a subscription to the 3-ply toilet paper of the month club from Amazon.com. It is dropped off on our doorstep in a child’s play fort at regular intervals. So, I’m really powerless to stop such a mysterious novelty.
I’m afraid, it is my upbringing as the youngest in the family that makes me naturally desire to lead people to emotional outbursts. I’m sure my older brother got the worst of it over the years. He was something of a training ground of coercion and manipulation. I believe this is common for us babies. It is an attempt at finding control over one’s environment that the smallest of our species develops for the sake of survival. It’s the giant eye patterns on our delicate moth wings. It is our detachable tail. It is our spiky defensive hedgehog stance.
I was reminded, while considering this, how awful I am at baseball. I can’t hit, and I can hardly catch. I can throw but it’s usually to the wrong person. I was always embarrassed walking out onto the field in middle school because I had no skills to offer anyone. Baseball was a drudgery. I was regularly the last person picked for the team. I would hate for you to know the dweebs that were picked before me. It was a great low point for the weak uncoordinated baby of the family. I would wake up dreading the inevitable game that afternoon.
Then one day I had a thought. Why was I even trying to play baseball? I was a hedgehog. I should be playing hedgehog. So, I asked permission to stand at second base. And as every player came up to bat I would study them. I would study them like a geologist studies the side of a mountain. I looked past the vegetation and struggled to find the fault lines. I analyzed the batter’s personality for weaknesses or soft spots. Were they talented? Were they kind? Were they insecure? I had a mental checklist I would process for each of them. Then if they happened to make it to my base, I would be waiting with a presentation personally designed for them. I would congratulate them on a well-played game. I would complement their shoes. I would engage them in conversation regarding TV shows or their mother. I would make passive aggressive comments about their hair. I told them stories and jokes. I would share confusing made up gossip about their team mates. I would scratch my way into their mind and break their concentration in such a way that they were not aware that it was even being broken. It became my own private game to try to have a player still standing on base either deep in conversation or shouting for me to stop talking at the very moment when he and the player running bases behind him collided and the inning would be lost in a frantic explosion of confusion and inappropriate middle school language. Often players would give up immediately and transform the game into an attempt to kill me. I started to enjoy baseball. I also started getting picked first to be on teams. But I wonder now if it was less because people wanted me on their team, and more because people didn’t want me on the opposing team.
Please, excuse my rambling super villain origin story. I like to think I have found a way to use my youngest child powers for good. But most likely, I will just use my experience to try and preemptively save my children from the same notorious fate.