I am the proud father of two teenaged boys, and the owner of two male cats. As I see it, my job in the case of the former is to raise them into upstanding young men. In the latter case, my job as my wife sees it is to raise–by shovel or whatever other means suits my fancy–the dead chipmunks, squirrels and field mice that they bring home into the garbage can.
Which is why she said to me, as she went out the door on her way to a fun evening with a girl friend the other night, “Would you check the garage? It smells like the cats left a dead squirrel out there.”
Resigned to my role in the universe, I complied with her request, and went to the garage to look around. After a thorough inspection, I determined that the odor she had referred to emanated from my son’s baseball bag, which contains a catcher’s mitt, a batting helmet, sunflower seeds, dirty socks and an athletic supporter that carbon dating has established was worn by Harmon Killebrew during the 1959 All-Star Game.
An easy mistake to make, I thought, and then it hit me: What if I suddenly went blind, or contracted amnesia as characters in 1960’s television dramas so often did in order to provide the plot twist that enabled sponsors to keep viewers glued to their seats in order to bombard them with detergent commercials? How could I tell my teenaged sons from dead rodents?
When you stop to think about it, it’s not an easy question to answer. I sat down at my desk before I contracted amnesia and wrote down a list of similarities and differences between the two types of organisms in case I ever found myself thrown back on my native instincts, like an animal in the wild, forced to choose between two comparably smelly objects. Here they are; I hope you find them helpful as you decide whom–or what–to thank for your Father’s Day gifts:
1. Teenaged boys will ask for your car keys; dead rodents will not.
2. A dead rodent will not come when it is called; neither will a teenaged boy.
3. Dead rodents cost less to feed than teenaged boys.
4. A teenaged boy may finish his homework if you yell at him; a dead rodent will not.
5. If a teenaged boy in a car hits a tree, he will blame it on the car and the tree. If a dead rodent falls out of a tree, he will take full responsibility.
6. Because of demographic trends, many colleges and universities are actively recruiting teenaged boys so as to offset an upsurge in female enrollment. According to the American Association of University Women, most liberal arts colleges are not currently accepting applications from dead rodents except for positions as lab assistants in Introductory Biology.
7. Finally, and most mysteriously, teenaged girls are attracted to teenaged boys, but not to dead rodents.
There’s no accounting for tastes, unless it’s the Old Spice Body Wash.