September 4th, 2006


What Children Learn

Girls learn that they have to be thin from their parents.

And they don't learn that it's healthier to be thin: they learn that thinness is a good all by itself and defines whether they are feminine or not.

In other words, they learn at a young age (as little as 5), that they will spend the rest of their lives trying to look like a Barbie doll, and that they are less feminine when they don't. It's this kind of insecurity that teenage boys will have no problem exploiting to get what they are after. Sure, when she's in her late twenties, she will be able to say ruefully, "It seems everyone's first boyfriend is a jerk" -- but she won't realize that she was set up, most notably by the fact that as she was growing up, her mother was on diets all the time.

Actually Useful Inventions

I compulsively scan gadget sites. It seems to be part of what guys do: we look at tools to see what is available.

Today, happily, there is something out there that looks really useful: LightinSight, which makes seeing the high traffic lights easier (I'm tall, so I typically have to sit way forward and crane to see lights if I'm first at an intersection).


"It's the coolest thing," he said. "I found it on one of the Mini sites. It lets you see when the light turns green without having to crane your neck."

Sure enough, it does. Another friend was riding with me a few weeks later became so enamored with the device, I peeled it off and gave it to him. While waiting for a replacement I had to bend my neck sideways and lean forward to see the light when I'm first in line. What a pain compared to just sitting back comfortably and waiting for that little red dot in the lens to go green.

Check it out.

You Won! Now what?

You're in Vegas. Despite the best efforts of some very savvy people, you've won some money (unlikely, but possible).

What do you do then?

As it turns out, there is a good answer. What is the key requirement of a good answer?

That it let you build up enough cash for an evening at a great place to eat, and a concert or good show afterward perhaps? Give it a little time, and you'll be surprised.


The most neglected athletic skill that any kid can learn is sportsmanship.

It doesn't take skill, but it does take determination, and the willingness of coaches (and parents) to realize that their childrens' careers are not affected by a loss (even one with a bad referee) in a game.

Take a moment and read. My favorite quote:

In sports, someone always wins and someone loses.

Lynch saw in this not a recipe for despair but the greatest of teachable moments for his young, inexperienced team.

One particularly brutal game sticks in Lynch's mind: "We -- a varsity team -- were getting crushed by another school's junior varsity." How's that for humiliation for a 16-year-old? "In games like that," Lynch said, "a boy's tendency is to pretend you don't care, to stop putting your best on the line."

I know what he was talking about. I've seen that "whatever" look on the faces of a team that's losing badly.

Lynch would have none of that. At halftime, he launched into his typical pep talk: "We're down 7-0. We're not going to win this game, but we've got 40 minutes. How are we going to respond? We can fall apart, we can blame each other, or we can give our best effort for 40 minutes more."

It worked. The margin of defeat didn't shrink, but the kids played their hearts out. "When you ask kids like that, they'll deliver," Lynch said.

"As the game went on, I watched our goalie continue to make save after save," he recalled. "And I thought, 'We talk to kids about doing the right thing when no one's looking. But actually, it takes a lot of courage to do the right thing when a lot of people are looking.' "

In other words, it's humiliating to give your all and still get killed. But the guys on Lynch's team refused to give up.

I'd suggest that Self-Reliance and The Conduct of Life are worthwhile reads for young people, too. Not least because in the process of reading them, you affirm and disagree, which defines you even better.