1. "It's No, Thank You."
A lot of the circumstances were foggy, but I'll try to set the stage. I was at my Uncle's house, and I guess it was some sort of family gathering. My Uncle was moving a lot at the time, so that gave us all the excuse to go "check out the new place" a few times over the years. Incidentally, even though the place kept changing, it always smelled the same.
There we were, lots of people milling about, eating and drinking etc.. and I'm fucking off like 5ish year olds are wont to do. I was a super picky eater, and I guess everyone somehow caught wind of that and felt they had a responsibility to correct this issue. As a result, people kept coming up to me saying something like "HEY WOULD YOU LIKE AN ORANGE?" And no, I didn't want an orange. They were gross and stringy and not pizza so I said "No" because you know, the answer was no. My Uncle overheard one of these interactions and suddenly became the rudeness police and somewhat firmly informed me "Matthew, when someone offers you something you don't want, you say 'no, thank you.'" I thought to myself "ok sure whatever that's two more words than is necessary but I'll nod in acknowledgement that you conveyed this information to me." I tossed out this new information pretty much immediately because as I just illustrated, what the hell were those two extra words for? It seemed syntactically uneconomical.
See, maybe if he'd said "being terse with someone like that can be construed as rude" (phrased for a 5ish year old of course) it would have made more sense at the time, but since all I was told was "It's no, thank you" I had to make a choice between adopting this new way of life on faith, or rejecting it outright. I of course, rejected it. Even at the tender age of 5ish, I had some ingrained problem with authority and wasn't about to alter my vocabulary. Not for him.
I think he suspected this may have been the case, because not long after his lesson, he tested me. He came up to me and offered me something he knew I wouldn't like. It may have even been another orange. It still wasn't pizza, so I reflexively said "no" again, quickly realizing my error. See, I had no plans assimilate "no, thank you" but still should've had the wherewithal to at least pretend I had if I was talking to him. The funny thing though, is he wasn't even smug about my slip-up. He wasn't condescending or demeaning. He was purely interested in me learning this polite gesture to make the world a better place, so his failure hurt that much more, and he got pretty upset. Upset enough for me to think "whoa, this guy is fucking serious." He held my arm, the universal gesture for "I would hit you if I could" and made me realize in no uncertain terms that it's fucking "No, thank you."
Pretty sure I still checked with my parents after though. They said "yeah, that's the more polite way to do it." Even without the ironclad conviction of my Uncle, this was enough for me to start using the phrase, since my parents were basically king and queen of the world at this point.
All these years later I can't even imagine how snotty it must sound for even a 5ish year old to dismissively say "no" so I'm glad I learned when I did. I hope I didn't raise too many eyebrows before that valuable lesson.
2. "HOW CAN YOU TELL PEOPLE APART?!"
Same age. Which is good, because if I was much older you'd probably think "wow he was a dumb kid." I mean I was, but you'd think "no this kid was really dumb."
So I'm not exactly sure what triggered this concern, but I remember thinking "wait just a god damn minute...we all have eyes, mouths, noses, ears...how can we tell people apart?!?"
No, seriously. I thought this.
I honestly could not fathom how, despite having all the same things on our head, we were able to tell people apart. I thought it must be a combination of height, hairstyle/color weight, etc.. because obviously a nose is a nose and eyes are eyes just like a circle is a circle and a square is a square. This couldn't be enough information to distinguish people from one another right?
This is the part where you may pause and think "nope, I definitely never thought that."
A lot of times when you're perplexed as a small child, what do you do? You ask your parents. But with this one, I didn't. There was apparently some evolutionary process firing in my brain that made me think "No man, not this time. Keep this one to yourself." Something told me this should NOT be a mystery to me and if I asked my parents they'd probably think something was wrong and then "accidentally" leave me at a gas station miles away or something and that would be that.
I don't know how long this inner turmoil fermented in my brain, but I do remember when it stopped. I was sitting in the living room. My parents had an impressive vinyl collection, and one of the albums that had been pulled from the shelves at the time was a Beatles album. Looking back at the album art, it must've been "Hard Day's Night". I was looking at all of their monochromatic faces and I thought to myself, "Wow, Ringo's eyes are a way different shape than John's.....wait a minute..."
The elimination of color and texture from their faces was enough of a reduction to give me that eureka moment. I was so disproportionately proud of myself. I almost told my parents about my discovery. I would stroll in and be like "Hey Mom and Dad, so I was thinking the other day about why we can tell each other apart. I thought we all have the same things on our faces so it should be impossible right?" Here I would pause to smugly chuckle and add "luckily I'm really smart and I figured out how our facial features, though similar, are different shapes for different people, so, you know.."
But I thought even that would be pushing my luck. Best to just celebrate this one quietly and move on.
3. The Day I Smacked my Dad in the Face
This one is really fuzzy. I must've been really young. The fact that the memory is still with me speaks to how intense the experience must've been.
We were at the library. My parents were good parents, so we would frequent this place for everything it had to offer. At this point since I couldn't read, that was basically puppet shows, magic shows, and I guess looking at picture books. This day in particular my Dad brought me and my brother. I mean, I assume my brother was there I'm not sure. Whatever happened, it must've been super fun, but I don't really remember anything before...the incident. I only remember the moment where everything changed.
My Dad gathered us up, only I didn't want to leave, cause you know, libraries are gangster as fuck. I had no concept of "time" or "jobs" or "responsibility" or "other people" really so to me what reason did we have to leave? I was having fun, so fucking wait til I'm ready to leave, and then we can go. If I'm still having fun, what sense did it make to cut it off? So I evaded my Dad, who grew increasingly frustrated. Eventually he had to just pick me up and haul my ass out of there. I didn't like that very much, but couldn't exactly fight back. Or could I?
I can't quite tell you exactly what happened after that. I'm not sure if it's cause I blacked out or what. What I do remember...is silence. I remember no backlash. No reprimanding. No shouting. Only silence. This was strange and unfamiliar. I think I had braced myself for..something, so when it didn't come, I felt the psychological equivalent of stepping down that last stair when there are no more stairs and the floor greets your foot sooner than you expected and your equilibrium is jostled for a bit.
The leaves outside rustled in the breeze.
Life had now been divided into "Time before I smacked my Dad's face" and "Time after I smacked my Dad's face"
I wandered around confused in this state of condemned nothingness. I knew something bad had happened and the fact that there were no immediate repercussions must only have meant my Dad was plotting. Plotting what though?
We got home and my dad went to another room. There was no gathering where I was sat down and scolded. I was left to stew in my own guilt a little longer. Eventually my Mom approached me.
"Did you do something bad?"
I must've been clearly struggling with my guilt. I was told to walk into my parents' room and...
I was on fucking edge. I never went in my parents' room. Especially with nobody escorting me. Now I needed to walk in there alone like a fucking man and tell my Dad I was sorry for hitting him. I quietly entered. He sat on the bed, facing away from me. Dammit I didn't even have his attention yet. I had to earn it. I don't remember the exact exchange but it was probably something like,
This didn't need to be creative or heartfelt. This was clearly driven almost entirely by fear and shame. But I was forgiven. I exited, shaken.
I have not hit him since.