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Mr. Suave

Watching Simon’s social life unfold is getting pretty amusing. More specifically, I’m watching two trends speed towards a head-on collision.

Trend One: Simon’s best friends from preschool are girls. In part, this is because Matt and I have stayed close to the parents of Caroline and Ruby, and in part it’s because he has known them a very long time and has a deep and genuine fondness for both. He’s making nice friends at Brandeis, but as he himself told me, “you don’t just make a friend like X right away. It takes time.” Plus, two of our best family friends are the parents of girls.

Trend Two: His interests are getting more stereotypically boyish all the time. Basically, Simon’s three favorite things in the entire world are soccer, cats, and math. Typically, his girlfriends are only interested in one of these. Which is great, one is better than none and all, but it still has its limits. And watching Simon try to entice the girls into games of foosball, soccer scrimages, or–perhaps worst of all–watching soccer games, is simultaneously painful and hilarious.

Painful because they have no interest. Hilarious because you can see them debating internally between pretending to be interested and outright admitting to lack of interest. You can see the same look among women pretending to enjoy a football game.*

Then there are his conversational gambits. Here’s a sampling:

“One time, XYZ had an own goal in a game against Villa. He was totally the goat! Do you like Man City?”

This is typically met with a blank stare.**

But the best-worst absolute funniest and most misguided attempt at conversation I have seen in a very long time came at our friends Dave and Lisa’s Hanukkah party. Simon, Leah, and Sophie had their own kids’ table, and I was positioned within great hearing range of it. At one point, Simon was trying to hold forth by quizzing the girls in math.

“What’s 13 plus 12? What’s 10 times 10? Oh, I know, here’s the hardest math problem ever. What’s…”

And again, I hate to speak in gross gender stereotypes, but by and large the way to engage a girl in a conversation usually does not involve the confluence of “math” and “problem”.  To be fair, this won’t work with most boys, either, but since Simon is at a math-science magnet, he’s more likely to get away with such in-your-face geekiness. In fact, part of me feels like we have twin strategies to pursue where Simon is concerned: If we keep him at the right schools, the nerdiness might be normal or even socially advantageous. If he gets and stays good enough at soccer, his athleticism might cancel out the social liability of extreme math love.

And, of course, if the math skills are really aces and he ends up at Carnegie Mellon or the like, he can have the last laugh by geeking his way to a great and interesting science or engineering job.

*Yes, some women in fact love watching football. I know several such women. Others make no bones about having no interest in football. I am one of those. But we all know or have known women who will hang around the guys during a game and pretend to be interested when, in fact, they would be equally interested (or not!) in watching paint dry. The younger the woman, the more likely you are to witness this phenomenon.

**I want to tell Simon, nicely, to get used to the blank stare. Matt and I are well familiar with it ourselves stare after years of pursuing interests no one else finds much interesting ourselves. With Matt, it’s talk of computer networking or (sorry honey) guitar effects pedals that is most likely to put the listener in a stupor. With me, it’s more likely to be something related to my old field of Near Eastern Studies, anything related to my 20+ year obsession with the arctic, or something political, especially if the statisticians have started talking about it. And if you want to test your own powers of concentration, give my brother Perry a beer or four and start asking him about electricity. But don’t say I didn’t warn you first.


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