Acting Out

by Tina Blue
March 7, 2004

          When my children were little, they used to love it when I told them stories about strange happenings in the news, especially if those strange happenings involved unwise, unfortunate people who foolishly put themselves in the way of large carnivorous beasts.

          One such story involved a woman in Florida who went canoeing with friends.  She decided to take a little swim, despite the fact that the area they were in was notorious for its large alligator population.  Not just a large population of alligators (though that, too), but a population of large alligators.

          The headstrong young woman was determined to have her swim, despite the pleas of her concerned (and considerably wiser) friends.

          Now, I don't know whether alcohol was involved in the incident, but I almost hope so, because you just don't want anyone to be dumb enough to go swimming with alligators.

          Well, what happened was so predictable that it would be boring, except for that business about large carnivorous beasts.  They are pretty much always good for a little frisson of excitement, no matter how predictable the outcome. 

          Yep.  You can just guess what happened.

          Alcohol certainly was implicated in the case of the two teenaged boys in New York City who decided, after a night of drinking, that it would be fun to visit the polar bears in the zoo, which was, of course, closed for the night.

          You have to admit, polar bears look rather adorable.  They are big, pudgy, cute, amusing--carnivorous beasts. They only look like pallid Winnie the Poohs.  In reality, they prefer raw flesh to honey. 

          And those boys that went polar bear visiting were--well, they were raw flesh.

          One of the boys chickened out and didn't get into the compound.  Or he did get in, but managed to get out while his friend was being attacked by the polar bear.  At any rate, only one of the boys was killed and partly eaten.

          Yes, I know it's a gruesome story. And that boy was some mother's son--and the young woman eaten by the alligator was some mother's daughter.

          I am not insensitive to the fact that these are human tragedies.

          But they are also good stories.  Stories of a sort that kids find very, very interesting.

          So of course I would tell these stories to Michael and Becky.

          And they really loved hearing them.

          More than that, they insisted on hearing them repeatedly.

          And then, when they were sure they had the details down pat, they would act them out.  Several times.  Assigning different roles to each of us for each performance.

          "Okay, Mommy--now you be the alligator.  Michael is the friend in the boat.  I'm the girl swimming, and I don't see you coming up after me."

          "Now this time Michael can be the alligator, you be the girl swimming, and I'll be the friend in the boat."

          "Okay, Mommy, you be the polar bear, I'll be the boy you eat, and Becky is his friend who didn't get eaten."

          "This time I'm the polar bear, Becky is the boy, you be the friend."

          Through every possible permutation and combination, each of us played each role in each drama--often more than once.

          Sometimes, when no new stories had been offered for a while, Becky and Michael would have a "greatest hits" performance, bringing back all their old favorites. 

          Oh, don't give me that.  What do you think fairy tales are all about?  Murder, mayhem, monsters, and abandoned children, that's what. 

          They weren't traumatized.  They were simply fascinated.

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