Boys and their Personal Brand

One night, more than 20 years ago, I was sitting at a bar with a friend, who was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t have a girlfriend. One of my favorite guys in the world. Smart. Fun. And truly decent. I remember telling him that he needed to change how he talked about himself.

“Girls don’t want to date a guy who thinks the best thing about himself is how many beers he can drink without throwing up.”

“But…” he smiled in spite of himself.

That night, I described to him how his friends saw him. “That’s what you should be saying too.”

Then last night, my fifteen-year-old had an assignment to fill a box with things that explain who he is, and I was immediately reminded of my friend.

My son filled his box with a Green Bay Packers t-shirt, a candy bar, a shoot ‘em up video game, a ski glove, and a golf ball (although he complains when we ski or golf).

And I thought, this is what you think is interesting about you?

I wish tonight’s follow-up assignment was: ask your mom to refill your box with things she thinks describes who you are. Then, let’s compare.

My box would include a hilarious joke, a souvenir from the Museum of Nature and Science, a photo with his brothers, a Lego Star Wars set, a toy tractor, a challenging math problem, a map, an Italian cookbook, and yes, his Packers t-shirt.

I might slip in a baby photo so everyone could see what a sweet, serious little man he was. Now, a 6-foot version of that, with all the cool things in this box picked up along his way.

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Fortnite Versus Mom

If you have teenage boys (or, apparently, are the wife or mom of an NBA player), you’ve heard of Fortnite, the multi-player, shooter video game that went temporarily offline this week, sending the youth of America into a tailspin.

At one point last month, more than 3.4 million fans were playing simultaneously.

Now, I know my boys would be appalled by this comparison, but from a conflicted parental perspective, it reminds me of Pokemon Go.

Remember that fad? Kids carrying cellphones and iPads and even laptops roaming the streets, trails, and playgrounds with their friends, catching imaginary Pokemons? Rumors of grown-ups falling off of cliffs because they were so absorbed in their search?

“Well, at least they’re getting exercise.”

“I’m just glad they’re outside.”

Now, comes Fortnite. A shooting game. An enticement to disappear into the dark, cold basement on a beautiful, sunny day. And what are we, as parents, saying?

“The thing is, it lets him spend more time with his friends.”

“They’re all inside the game talking to each other for hours. And I can hear everything they say.”

“It’s safe.”

“It’s social.”

“…and they’re learning to think strategically.”

“I want to say it’s bad, but…” said one Dad, “It’s really fun.”

Parents, I’m afraid those masterminds at Epic Games have figured out how to beat us at… well… our own game.