So, as I was saying, in the truly genuine desire to find out more about the secret lives of boys, I sent out this blast email to a bunch of men I know:
Okay fellas, I need your help. As part of The Dangerous Quest (what, you’re not hip to that? See it and subscribe at: kevinnelson.wordpress.com), Gabe, Hank and I were playing cards and I taught them 52-Card Pickup, which they had never seen before and loved. So it occurred to me that younger boys today are not hanging out at street corners enough and learning enough inappropriate games and activities from older bad influences. They need to know, in essence, all the activities such as 52-Card Pickup that we played when we were boys and that mostly you tend to learn from other boys. So I need you to come up with “inappropriate” games/activities that you played (no sex or drugs and alcohol, age 12 and under) or know about. These I came up with myself: Arm farts. Ring and Run. Spitballs in class. But I’m looking for more. Help!
I sent this only to men at first (the ladies would get their chance later and their response was much different), and in all my years of writing emails to people, I have never gotten a response to match this one. It was instantaneous and overwhelming, like a damn breaking. In less than a half hour I had gotten twenty-four inappropriate boy activities—and they were all different. There were very few repetitions, and this has held true even as I continue to send the email out to other people not on the original list and hear from them.
I’m not saying to people, “Oh, I’ve got that one. Gimme something else.” People are sending me original, unique activities all their own. There’s a lot of inappropriate creativity being shown out there.
One of the most commonly mentioned pranks is toilet papering somebody’s house-and this is something it seems every young person has done, boy or girl. “TP-ing” appeared on the inappropriate lists of both the guys and the gals-that is, when the gals chose to get back to me. Whereas one man (Gary Grillo) ripped off eight inappropriate things in a single email (tipping outhouses over, pulling out chair when a person is about to sit down, etc.), and another (Bob Newlon) sent a two-page, single-spaced treatise on how to hook junk metal pieces to the bumper of a moving car so that it drags the metal down the street, the women tended to be more muted in their replies. While there were some glorious exceptions to this rule (thank you, Katie Lynn!), they were hesitant about the whole thing.
There are many reasons for this I suppose, but one thing I see already is why so many stupid, crude and inappropriate Hollywood comedies are made by, for and about guys. Generally speaking, we like to do stupid, crude and inappropriate things because we think they’re funny, and often they are. And this doesn’t change much even as we get older and become (it is hoped) responsible adults and fathers. You can’t take the boy out of the boy—and you can’t take the boy out of the man either.
For instance, Pull My Finger was one of the inappropriate activities suggested by Scott Lynn, a Silicon Valley software engineer, father of two, and the husband of Katie Lynn. When I asked him what that was, he said, “I thought for sure you’d know “Pull my finger.” When you know you need to fart, you ask someone to “Pull my finger” and then let it rip. I had a friend ask me this recently. When I didn’t he said, “Come on. Give me an assist.” He’s fifty-one!” Although he thought it was a little “weird,” Scott grudgingly agreed to his friend’s request, for after all, what are friends for? More to come, and some of it of a far more inappropriate nature.