WE ARE NOT all created equal. Or maybe we are, but the equality starts to warp, stretch and bend as soon as we’re out of our cradles. I’m not saying that everyone doesn’t deserve the right to equal dignity under the law, but eventually it becomes apparent that some people are just better at stuff than others. I’m not equal to my accountant when it comes to math, for instance. In that arena she’ll mop up the floor with me. My friend’s kid destroys me at chess. If one of the neighbors wants to polish up their résumé, they come to me, and I’ll edit for clarity. What follows is the statistical probability that everyone can be good at something, and we can all trade on our abilities to provide for our collective wellbeing. I’m always suspicious of the people, though, who are stratospheric overachievers. Or maybe just jealous of them. Or maybe just confused by them.
Here’s what happened:
I get my oil changed in my car about four times a year, give or take. So the other day I was cutting through this one neighborhood, as usual, on my quarterly trip to see my mechanic, who is way better than me at fixing cars, by the way, when I chanced to see a strangely familiar banner hanging in front of one of the houses.
The banner was decked out with the normal balloons and bunting all over it. It was a nice sentiment, except that the last time I’d been by the house, three months prior, the same banner had been hanging there, congratulating Henry on whatever great thing Henry had achieved. Seemed a bit too long for a celebratory banner to be displayed. Maybe a week or two would be appropriate, depending on the accomplishment. Which made me think: what was the accomplishment?
CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! RECIPIENT OF THE MACARTHUR GENIUS AWARD
CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! EARLY PAROLE… LET’S STAY OUT THIS TIME, BUDDY!
Maybe the family would just keep the banner up year-round, like Christmas decorations, either because Henry was so damn good at besting whatever challenge came his way, or to offer some preemptive encouragement to Henry so he’d get his ass off the couch and actually do something worthwhile. Maybe it was an ironic banner from the most sarcastic parents in the world.
CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! YOU ACTUALLY PUT THE MILK BACK IN THE REFRIGERATOR INSTEAD OF LEAVING IT ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER, YOU OVER-ACHIEVING FUCK!
The possibilities were endless, really.
Henry could be one of those natural winners, a child prodigy mastering everything he put his mind to: district spelling bee, dean’s list, all-state quarterback. There’s no end to what Henry is capable of doing. It made me feel a bit bad about myself. Here I am trying to make it through the week with all my fingers, toes and sanity, and here is Henry scooping up accolades left and right without breaking a sweat, heaping triumph upon triumph as casually as the rest of us check our mailboxes.
Keep the sign up then. Why bother taking it down, the little scamp is just going to win something else next week, and then the family has to hoist the banner back up, which, considering the size of it, is a two-person job, unless of course Henry is doing it, because Henry never needs help with anything. He was put on this earth to win, and win he shall.
Then I started to become haunted by the intuition that Henry is pure evil. One of these kid influencers with two million followers on Twit-Insta-Tok who, because of the endorsements, is now the main breadwinner in the family and who insists on insane things like banners in his honor every day of the year or else he’ll cancel his parents, slut-shame his sister and destroy his relatives from the inside out unless his every whim is met.
CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! YOU WERE RIGHT AGAIN, AS YOU ALWAYS ARE. THE REST OF US SHOULD JUST LEARN TO KEEP OUR STUPID MOUTHS SHUT.
That made more sense. Lucifer was smart, too, (non serviam!) and look at the horrible state of the world these days.
I mentioned the banner to my mechanic.
“Yeah, he graduated kindergarten, or something,” said my mechanic. “He’s got… what do you call them… helicopter parents.”
“I see,” I said.
CONGRATULATIONS, HENRY! YOU ARE ADEQUATE!
I don’t know why, but on the way home I felt a little better about myself. Thanks, Henry.
More Alembics to come…