On teaching life lessons

We’re watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I’m explaining to Jessica that a vampire can’t come into a person’s house unless he or she is invited in.

“Of course there’s no such thing as vampires. And in some stories about vampires, that’s not true,” I say, in the interests for providing full disclosure.

“But it is true for Buffy.”


She considers this for a moment and comes to the logical conclusion. “Then why does Buffy leave her house? She knows she’s going to be attacked by vampires.”

“True. But she’s the Slayer, so that’s sort of her job. And also vampires aren’t the only danger in the world. Demons can come into her house, so staying inside doesn’t keep her safe, it just keeps her safe from vampires. And also her mom is such a conformist jackass that if Buffy didn’t get a chance to be among lights and people, she’d probably commit matricide just on general principles, and then she’d go to jail.”

“I do not understand.”

“Where did I lose you?”

“Buffy’s mom.”

“Oh my god, don’t get me started on Buffy’s mom. When you have a child like Buffy, you don’t have the luxury of being that small-minded and conventional. Whining about how you just want your kid to be a normal teenager. She’s not normal. Get the fuck over yourself.”



“Please do not say that word. I hate that word.”

“Fuck? Fuck is a great word. I couldn’t carry on most conversations without it.”


“Fine. Where was I?”

“I have no idea.”

“Buffy’s mom. Buffy’s mom just wants her to be safe,” I say, or possibly rant, “like safety is the fucking—”


“Like safety is the point of life,” I say. “Look, sweetie, I can’t be viciously sarcastic without the liberal use of the word fuck.”

“I just think you could choose another word. And not that other one.”


“That’s the one.”

“You are seriously cramping this harangue. Look, safety is not the point of life. Sure, try not to be a dumbfuck—”



“You could say, ‘try not to be reckless.’”

Geez. Fine. Sure, try not to be reckless.”

“And you should make good choices,” she adds virtuously.

“Unless there are Greek sailors. Then you’d be a fool not to—”


“Okay, look. What I’m trying to say is that safety is mostly an illusion. It doesn’t exist. And what happens if you sit inside your house all the time and never leave?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s try it this way. What’s on the other side of that door?”

Her entire face lights up. “Everything in the world!”

“Exactly,” I say, feeling smug and self-satisfied.

“You see?” she says, just as smug. “You were able to explain it without using bad words.”


My collection of travel stories, Travels with Jessica, is now available! Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here.

And I’ve published my essay “For Jessica” as a small book. Kindle and paperback here; other ebook formats here.

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1 comment

  1. Jessica’s wisdom is sublime! Someone once said that using “bad words” is a sign of a limited vocabulary and you do not have a limited vocabulary. Ok, my rant is over. You have an incredible daughter.

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