One of the gifts that 3B got for his first birthday was the Dangerous Book for Boys, although I feel that it should carry a warning that while it’s likely harmless to boys, it will make more than one dad a danger to his family, friends, friends-of-friends, and probably even the neighbors of friend-of-friends. I had never seen the book before, which didn’t stop me from sharing my opinion about it. Best not to let knowledge get in the way of the facts as I see them. That’s how I see it, anyway.
Oddly enough, my opinion turned out to be pretty accurate–the book is chock full of stuff that my sisters know far better than I do. There are some items that perhaps are more in the realm of boy fascinations–although I notice that there’s no top-ten list of great cars, which does take the book down a notch on this boy’s scorecard. One of those items is the coverage of great battles, including the battle of Thermopylae, which includes a great example of the authors’ wonderful matter-of-fact style:
“The Persian king [remember, he’s the one with the army of 2 million] sent scouts to investigate the pass [Thermopylae, where the Spartans had come to cut off the advancing Persian army]. He was surprised to hear that the Spartans [numbering all of 7,300] were limbering up and braiding their hair for battle. Unable to believe that such a small group would honestly wish to fight, he sent a warning to withdraw or be destroyed. They made him wait for four days without a reply. On the fifth, the Persian army attacked.”
Raise your hand if you love it that the Spartans, outnumbered by 1,992,700, refused to dignify Xerxes’ warning with a reply? And that they did Pilates and braided their hair before a battle because the last thing you want is for your nagging rotator cuff injury to flare up right when you’re trying to drive your sword through someone to the hilt.
If that doesn’t convince you that Spartans were the original badasses, how about the account of the origins of the word “laconic,” from the Origin of Words section:
The region inhabited by the Spartans of ancient Greece was named Laconia. Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great) sent this warning to the famous warriors of the city, to frighten them into obedience: “If I enter Laconia with my army, I shall raze Sparta to the ground.” The Spartans replied with a single word: “If.”
How can you not love that? If only such exchanges were so elegant today, but instead we rely on our middle fingers, polysyllabic curse words, and lawyers to convey such messages. You want to prove to me that you’re a badass? Demonstrate your wit.
And therein lies the danger of this book: it’s so accessible that I’m taking the lexical lesson from a debate between Macedonia and Laconia and attempting to apply it to modern trash talking, which could get a man into trouble in certain neighborhoods.
While I think that boys are smart enough to know their limitations and when to take the advice and lessons of this book with a grain of salt, it makes every task it describes seem so damned easy–from playing rugby to making any cloth fireproof–that any fool dad might just try some of them. Doesn’t the author know that once we become dads, we donate a portion of our brains to our babies, making us just dumb enough to believe that yes, we can build a trebuchet in the backyard and no, it won’t bother the neighbors at all?
Sure, not our next-door neighbors, but the ones down a few blocks might be put out by the massive flaming stone that landed in what they used to refer to as their garage. Let’s just hope that
when if that happens, they respond by demonstrating their wit rather than by doing Pilates and braiding their hair.