Saturday, April 04, 2009

"I could beat you up"

Brian had a couple of friends over for the night last night.

They are awkward gangly fourteen-year-olds definitely on the nerdy side. Brian and one of the friends have become somewhat less pudgy as they have grown. The other always was lanky. They are a geeky bunch. The sort that you would expect to be addicted to video games. The kind of boy who in an old comic strip would have sand kicked in his face by an over-developed bully.

And Gary is the one who would be kicking the sand.

He is taller than they are, but not by much. He is a year older. He is however much stronger. He was always strong, but since he moved in he has been working out more and more. His muscles are well-defined. He doesn't look like a body-builder, not quite, but he does look strong.

This is the first time either Roland and I have seen him spending much time watching him with his peers. He radiated ... what? He was always friendly, laughing, getting a long, and there was always an edge, a threat, a sense that everyone knew that he could beat them up. It reminded me a bit of watching a show about primates, watching the alpha male in a good mood walking past the lesser males, the ones who are not interested in challenging him, just relaxing and having fun, but keeping an eye on the alpha just in case he needs to express his dominance.

It was just a bit creepy.

I know this is why Gary had a hard time at Our Town High. In order to feel safe Gary has too feel secure in being the alpha male. He needs others to acknowledge that if it came to it, he could beat them up. Our Town High has its fair share of gang kids. The registration form asks if the kids are on probation and the principal made their accommodation of probation restrictions sound like a selling point. "We have a community resource officer here every day. Many of our students have arranged to check in with him instead of their regular probation officers." I know from Andrew's experience that you can go there, take college-prep classes, be in the band and stay insulated from the violence, but you can't walk around like an alpha chimp and stay insulated.

Gary's friends are almost exclusively girls. It is getting clearer why that is so.

Roland and I agree that one of the reasons Gary and Evan both did well here, why so many of Roland's students do well with him, is that Roland doesn't play that game. He seems not even to notice when others are playing. It helps that our attitude towards the boys is predominantly one in which we believe we should be there if they need us. The boys know that they can count on him for help when they need it. They also know that if they are in trouble they are more likely to have to deal with me.

I don't particularly have a point here. It's just an observation.

(I'm beginning to feel better. I still have some cold symptoms and little energy, but I am much better than I was.)


  1. I'm glad to hear you are feeling better.

  2. Very interesting. One of my sons would do this incredible hulk type thing when he got mad. Scared the other kids, and made me angry when he scared them. Sigh, testosterone. I wonder what Gary would be like if he had a different life?
    Glad to hear you feeling better!

  3. Dang, you're good.


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