Again, when dealing with “as a child” questions, I have to wonder what age range child encompasses? Are we talking about toddler to middle school or up through high school graduation? Also, we should probably define what kind of behavior qualifies as “well” or “bad” considering there’s a range there which is not insignificant. Either way, I don’t think I was a badly-behaved child. I mean, I wasn’t as bad as some, not that I didn’t get into my fair share of trouble.
Of course, there’s no way I could just leave the answer there, could I? Being me, I need to put in some details, some stories, or at least some commentary, right? The thing is, me being a “children” (as Monki would say) was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away so it gets hard to remember things. As far as the basics go, sure, I got caught shoplifting once or twice, but nothing horrendous. In fact, I think one of the things I got busted for was nabbing a cassette tape of Styx‘s Paradise Theatre, which, honestly, is a punishment in itself*.
Aside from a few normal childhood rebellions, though, my misbehaving was all more of the smart-ass variety. For example, when I was about 13, I wanted to see The Blue Lagoon (1980)** and the Fox Theatre down there on East Charleston didn’t want to let me in as it was rated R and I was by no means old enough. However, since I was over 12, they did want to charge me an adult fare for whatever age-appropriate film I did decide to view. My argument was that since I was being charged adult prices, I should be allowed to see adult films. The teenage girl working the box office eventually consented, probably because she just didn’t give a shit, but I was well pleased with my moral victory.
I also remember sneaking inside during recess at elementary school in order to continue reading whatever book I was currently engaged with. Okay, that one was a bit more complicated. I was definitely the kid who stayed up late, hiding with a flashlight under the covers, to read. I would also hide under the bed to read when I was supposed to be cleaning my room. Basically, any chance I had to read, I would take it. Even today I always have a book with me so if I have a spare couple of minutes, I can get some reading done.
Once I turned 16 and got my license, the possibility for behavior issues increased exponentially. There was the time I lied to the
folks in order to drive to Southern California to pick up my friend Annie and bring her back to Vegas for a weekend. I would also use the car as an excuse to skip classes or chauffer other folks around. As long as we’re talking about cars, I can’t really leave out the time my friend Thom and I decided to try and teach ourselves stunt work and would pretend to get hit by the car and go rolling over it, landing on the bench cushions from the folks’ van.
Broke a finger on that one.
Then there was school. I wasn’t a very good student. Not that I didn’t know the material, I did, I just didn’t care and was mostly bored. What I did do, though, was start a school insurrection. There was a policy I wasn’t too keen on so I, along with a couple of others (don’t rightly remember who at the moment), put out flyers encouraging the school population to enact a bit of civil disobedience. This wasn’t new for me***. I was the kid who argued that I would come in on Christmas Day when the school wanted to take away a perfect attendance record for missing a Jewish holiday. I got forcibly kicked out of the office for that one. My sister Faye, who was four years behind me, had to deal with teachers admonishing her that if she were anything like her brother, they didn’t want her in their classrooms****.
But this one was a bit different. In this case, it wasn’t just me fighting the system I didn’t agree with. Nope, I was actively encouraging the whole school to stand up and rebel. I got called into the vice principal’s office where she showed me a copy of the flyer we had printed up (I recall we had made an acronym for UNFAIR but lord knows I can’t remember now what the letters all stood for) and said “I don’t know if you had anything to do with this or not, I think you did, but even if you didn’t, you know who did. So talk.”
I talked. No use denying it. She explained there were better ways to fight for what you believe in without ever explaining what they were and then suspended me for a few days.
To answer the question, then, a little of both. I wasn’t an angel, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I also wasn’t a terror, either. I watched Scared Straight. I knew I didn’t want to go to the big house, so I kept it, mostly, calm and simple. As for anything else you may remember, you can’t legally prove a thing!
* I tease. I kid. I actually enjoy Styx as a band and have actually seen them in concert several times, and while I understand that may lower your opinion of me, I’m old enough not to care.
** Please don’t ask why, I’m sure it was for Brooke Shields and has no bearing on my current film appreciations.
*** I recount one such story in the blog post “What are some of your favorite ways to spend a Saturday?”