Headmaster’s Thoughts – July 2018

The difference between thirteen-year-old boys and girls is quite remarkable. I have, for better or worse, spent a lifetime listening to groups of them talking to each other. With girls, the subjects are “boys” and then “boys” and then “Oh My God!” often shortened to OMG! (In all honesty, I have no idea why one should use this expression), and then “boys” and then “OMG!” and then, occasionally, “other girls, OMG!”
Boys of the same age talk about sports of some type, then “you would not believe what I saw on my computer last night”, and then sports again, and then….well it tails off. They really do not talk to each other very much. They do occasionally make a joke (often not very funny as far as I can see, and I am sure they do not think the majority of my jokes are witty either), but their conversation is about a tenth that of their female counterparts.
I think this reticence grows with us as we age. Jayme can talk on the phone to her friends for hours. To her credit, there is not an “OMG” once in any of their conversations. They talk about real issues; family, aging, food, vacations. They are genuinely interested in what each has to say. If I am on the phone for more than five minutes with friends, and maybe seven minutes with my children, lifetime records are broken. I cannot talk to someone whose face I cannot see. I think I can hold my own at dinner parties, I like to think (“vanity of vanities, all is vanity”) that I am not boring, but put me on a phone and it is a slow and quiet death.
Skyping, which potentially held such promise, turned out to be a great disappointment. Jayme and I tried to skype our grandchildren. It was a disaster. The grandchildren sat there totally in control, and I loomed in and out of the picture like a chameleon on “Blue Planet” coming too close to the fixed camera. Bulging eyes and enlarged nostrils! Apart from “Hi!” there seemed little other intelligent conversation I could produce.
I have found that I am actually better at writing than talking on the phone. I cannot see you as I write this, but I promise you that I could not have this monologue if you were at the other end of the telephone. I do not know if this is because you cannot interrupt (sorry!), or because I can go back and change whatever I write that I dislike. Maybe it is a combination of the two, but the truth is that I would never talk to you this way if we were on the phone. I would never tell you that today was the last day of exams, and that I am looking forward to the summer. I would never admit that I know that by the end of the summer, I will count the days until the students return and school resumes. I would never let you know how much I really like New York in the summer, and that I have found that vacations are all very well until one gets back and looks at the mountain of work that now has to be done. The truth is that I would not talk to you on the phone for as long as it is taking you to read this piece.
I do know this. Unlike thirteen-year-old boys, I will not discuss what I saw on the computer at any time of the night because I only use the thing for e-mail and writing these thoughts. I am not particularly interested in spectator sports, although one of my daughters graciously takes me to her beloved Islanders hockey games. And I like reading (as solo an activity as you can find), talking about real school issues and the family with Jayme, and have little interest in watching television unless it is the aforesaid “Blue Planet.” Likewise, and more obviously, since I am not a thirteen-year-old girl, I have never ever seriously used the acronym “OMG”, nor can I relate to any of their conversations about boys. I might as well be from another planet when it comes to those types of conversations.
So those are my July thoughts. Without the requirement that I write these essays every month, and have done so since 2004, I doubt if I would be sharing any of this with you. But let us not telephone each other, let us not skype. And, if you can, could you e-mail to me an intelligent sentence using the acronym “OMG”. I have not found one yet.