Greetings Fellow Adults

How do people even have conversations these days, anyway?

27 May 2024

For the past ten years, I have spent most of my time with children. I work from home, so I work precisely between 9am and 3pm. Afterwards, I exist in a frenzied mental state, in which I am imploring Hattie and Boudica to let me think. I am sometimes productive, though it’s difficult to think with all that singing going on in the background. As I’ve explained elsewhere, I’m doing this all the hard way – soberly and without whiskey. I also don’t provide my children with much access to electronic devices. This, I assure you, is parenting on hard mode.

Meanwhile, Apple and Microsoft have spent nineteen bazillion dollars on bribing persuading various departments of education around the world to buy their hardware. Children are required forcibly encouraged to have unfettered access to toy advertisements in their respective app stores. I remain sullenly unconvinced that these institutions have any merit whatsoever.

But ownership of both an Apple tablet and a Windows Laptop are required accoutrements at my daughters’ school. The tablet is a mindless internet appliance, in my eyes. The laptop – in my opinion, Microsoft lawyers – is a resource-intensive spyware application masquerading as an operating system. You won’t learn anything about computers from these things. They make computers much less fun to use. And computers should be fun. They should be tinkering with Linux on a Raspberry Pi, or learning to program and automating boring stuff.

But so you know, my children need a laptop with 16GB of ram so they can learn how to use Powerpoint in school. That might be the most soulless and degraded idea I’ve ever expressed.

That laptop … I want to wipe its hard drive and replace the operating system with a linux distro. The Apple tablet, I want to smash with an actual hammer. I won’t, obviously, because then I’d have to explain why I did that to my wife, and also to certain teachers at the school. Why is it that whenever I am at my most rational and lucid, people look at me as if I’m peculiar?

In the meantime, I look forward to giving that Apple tablet away – as soon as humanly possible – to somebody deserving. Somebody with children, I suppose. Ideally, a mortal enemy. You know, the sort of person who mows their lawn at 7am on Saturdays. Giving them an Apple tablet is simply the modern-day equivalent of buying their children drums.

I continue to fantasize about smashing that tablet to pieces. I certainly threaten to do so whenever my children argue about whose turn it is to use the damn thing. I am a father, after all; this is how we are obliged to be.

But I didn’t intend to talk about any of that. Actually, what I wanted to say is that for most of the past decade, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad, or working from home. I’ve not had a lot of recent practice talking to other adults.

Example: I sometimes, unwittingly, ask adults whether they need to go potty. I also unabashedly monitor their attention span and ask if they need a nap.

Talking with adults has become tricky. They seem to enjoy talking about property values. Or bathroom tiles. Or Taylor Swift. Personally, I seem to want to talk almost only about smashing consumer electronics with hammers, or the bliss of open-source software. Or else I rant knowledgeably about how corporations are turning all that is good in this world into something squalid and meaningless and tawdry.

About two American elections ago, talking with adults became an even more fraught situation. Fortunately, I spent that period with two toddlers, and much of it passed me by. I remember singing a lot. Actually, I sang so often to my daughters that they learned very well. They actually sing far better than me, it’s almost ridiculous. Shortly after we arrived in Australia, both girls were invited into the Australian Girls Choir. I had no part in that – they auditioned at school without even mentioning it, and neither Apple nor Microsoft had any part in the matter (he wrote peculiar emphasis).

Anyway. Talking to adults. Nowadays, something like forty percent of adults in North America are oddly convinced that having a fascist dictator would somehow improve their lifestyle immensely. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to initiate a conversation with a stranger over there these days. You’re picking up your kids from school, and the other parents aren’t talking about locking up gays or Mexicans, they’re just talking about bathroom tiles and Taylor Swift, and all you can think is, ‘Oh thank God – today is a good day!’

So, instead of all that, I’m living this hermetic life over here in Australia. I’m generally alone and working (writing books), or I’m telling my children to please stop singing Taylor Swift songs or saying, ‘No, you can’t have the tablet!’. Talking with adults? I am demonstrably out of practice.

I’m far too straight-forward these days. Too truth-inclined, too apt to saying things like, “I don’t like your Supreme Leader, he has silly hair.” I have to express it thus, as Boudica scolds me whenever I use coarse language.

But my daughters are growing up. My life among children will sooner-or-later end, and I shall be living in Adult Land, and neck deep in conversations about tiles and property values for ever more. I have loved this sojourn amid all this disordered whimsy. It has never made me feel especially lonely or anything. Increasingly, however, I have felt an incomprehensible interest in being among adults, even when they’re prattling about bathroom tiles. My suspicion is that most of them went mad about eight years ago. Half started blaming minorities for their problems, and the other half went mad from having to listen to them.

It is, conversationally speaking, a much worse situation in Australia, where most people my age only seem to want to talk about real estate. They bring the same morbid intensity as the English when they’re talking about the weather, except the weather in England is a much less dreary situation. I would rather stand in the rain than listen to somebody talking about raising the rent on their tenants. These people make me wonder if it’s all that difficult to build a guillotine in one’s backyard.

So, again, I’m not really spending a lot of time around other adults. But that has meant being subjected to a lot of singing and dancing because my children are sadly oriented towards the performing arts. I had hoped one might take an interest in something practical and quotidian, but Boudica is already showing an interest in divination, and Hattie has recently taken to detecting the presence of spirits. Such traits are not remarkable in our family history – we descend from Irish folk of a certain class and disposition, so if my children are tricksy, it’s not exactly my fault. I haven’t even let them read the book I wrote about me in which it is alleged I stole the famous skull of Phineas Gage. I’m afraid if they read it, their whimsy will become permanent. And then, I ask you, who is going to pay the bills?

Yours in parental agitation,

Kris St.Gabriel

I'm sorry I cannot hang out with you. Yesterday I saw a garden gnome.

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