“My Feet Are Killing Me from Kicking So Much Ass!” The 15-year-old kid wearing this two-color full-front silk-screened imprint (yes, I once sold ad specialties) didn’t appear to be an actual ass-kicker, just a regular, smallish, bespectacled high-schooler training for the upcoming track season. I smiled to myself as he worked up a sweat doing wind sprints on the indoor track, wearing that ass-kicking t-shirt, while I fast-walked on the treadmill in time with the Umphrey’s McGee in my headphones.
Teenage boys have all manner of reasons, real and imagined, to feel insecure, inadequate, odd-man-out, or just plain weird. And if you don’t know any teenage boys personally, you might find them a bit scary – there was a time when I would cross the street rather than share a sidewalk with such strange, often boisterous, beings.
Having since raised a couple of boys, though, I find their oddities, humor, awkward goofiness and general sense of being uncomfortable in their own skin quite endearing. It’s a phase, of course, and beneath the goofy grins and loud inappropriate jokiness, they’re sweet and kind and really, mostly, want to do the right thing, if they can just figure out what that is. That’s the charm of teenage boys, and when they gradually begin to understand their strengths – how they fit into the world – what a miraculous transformation it is to witness.
The next time you pass one (or a passel) of those awkward kids in the mall or on the street or at the gym, look beyond the teenage ugly duckling gawkiness and you’ll get a glimpse of the wonderful man that kid will soon (so very soon) be.
Speaking of teenage athletes, here’s a great story about a young and gawky Dick Fosbury who later became an Olympic high jump champion and changed that sport forever.