Words to live by

When my dad was in his forties he loved a book by Jules Feiffer called Tantrum, about a middle-aged man named Leo having a mid-life crisis. His life has too much responsibility and too little fun and he throws a tantrum, willing himself back to age two! He spends most of the rest of the book looking for someone willing to pamper and baby him.

A new edition of that book was among the gifts from my dad when I turned forty myself recently. It’s witty and well-observed, if a bit depressing. You don’t have to be having a mid-life crisis to appreciate it.

In one scene, two-year-old Leo encounters an authentic two-year-old at an airport. Having by this point in the story suffered several rejections — everyone’s got their own problems (which is more or less the whole point of the book) — Leo bitterly tells the other boy, “If I knew at your age what I’ve learned with grief since… don’t thank me, just listen,” and then offers this advice:

  1. Get the grades, but don’t trust what they teach you.
  2. Don’t tell them what you’re thinking; they’ll use it against you.
  3. Never be rational if you want to have your way.
  4. Ignore logic; it’ll cripple your spirit.
  5. Look out for abandonment by your loved ones.
  6. Don’t be horny after marriage.

Then, as the other boy walks away to board a flight with his family,

  1. Don’t mature! Mature people do the shit work!

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