I cringe whenever I recall the many instances my adolescent pranks and puerile pronouncements cast my parents down to the depths of hopeless gloom. They had little excuse for optimism about the prospects of their first-born. But seldom did the white heat of their anger flame more menacingly than when I dismissed myself as an animal. Admittedly, I had learned to light their fuses so I knew just what to say when Mom reacted to my disgustingly slurping soup out of the bowl by spitting these words at me, “Stop eating your soup like an animal!” What I said was, “But since I am an animal, it’s okay if I eat this way, right?” In order not to posthumously ensnare my saintly mother with the government’s Child Protective Services, I’ll leave you in the dark as to what she then did to me.
Not to leave my long-suffering father out of this stroll down memory lane, I recall his reaction to our picnic in the park being marred by a nearby amorous couple’s inappropriately public displays of affection. “That’s how animals behave,” he exclaimed. That was a poorly chosen moment for me to disagree with him. I mildly explained that I thought it was rather charmingly natural that they were indulging their animal instincts. I think it was the word ‘charming’ that sealed my fate. Or perhaps it was the approving way in which I uttered the word “natural”. Either way, the father-son bond became taut and suspenseful for a day or two.