I Used to Ride on the Roof of a Car and I Turned Out Fine
I think one of the aspects that really typifies growing up as a man is gradually becoming more and more comfortable with taking risks. Young boys are always challenging each other to see who can jump further, climb higher or run faster.
Or, in my case, whether or not you could hold onto a roof rack of a car.
One of my best friends growing up lived in a gated community. I’m not quite sure how it started but there came a point where my friend’s mom would stop after she would drive in the gate and we’d slither out the windows and crawl onto the roof of her car.
We’d hold on to the ski racks for dear life as she finished the drive to the house. Looking back, I’m sure she couldn’t have been driving faster than 5 MPH but to us it felt like she was screaming around the corners.
As she would ‘tear’ through the corners, we’d slide around and be laughing our heads off. We wanted all of our friends to try it and when we all couldn’t fit on the roof someone would, reluctantly, stay in the car.
When we’d get off the roof we wouldn’t be anxious or scared. We were absolutely ecstatic. There was nothing quite as wonderful as the freedom of the roof!
Looking back on it, I think it was a subtle trick by his mom. We were always so excited when we got off the roof that we’d help carry the groceries in or do something around the house.
This was not the first or the last time my friends and I would propel each other to take risks in a semi-controlled setting like that.
Sometimes they were stupid risks, like going to go look for a mountain lion spotted in that same gated community (I was 12 and thought I was Attila the Hun. Cut me a break).
Other times they were risks to gain attention from a girl like throwing another boys shoes down a hill. Not my proudest moment, surely, but the gamble paid off for the 12 year old me because I kissed her on the bus later that year.
Regardless of what the activity was, my friends and I always found a way to add a little risk to it. I think that this typifies a lot of unstructured play amongst boys and it seems like this sort of play is being punished by schools or helicopter parents won’t let their sons engage in that sort of behavior.
I see this as a pretty worrying trend. I think it is a big mistake to not let boys engage in the sort of activities that my friends and I did. I think the worst that ever happened to us was that a friend broke his leg one time. Well, that same guy broke his leg multiple times.
Regardless, it was all good natured fun. We learned how to cooperate as a group where the cautious ones would stop the dumbest ideas and the most reckless would talk the cautious into riding down the stairs in a box.
Without that sort of unstructured play boys can’t explore and push each other to take minor risks. It stops them from playing in a way that is unique to young boys.
From a young age it became apparent that the girls in our grade did not enjoy the same sorts of things that we did. My friends and I could never understand why they didn’t want to hang onto the roof of a car and drive around. What kind of crazy person doesn’t want to do that?
This is why I am so confused when people tell me that women and men are the same. In fact, I find that it is mostly women who say that. The bitter irony is, I would never presume to tell a woman what it was like to grow up but somehow they feel comfortable telling men what their childhood was like.
We, as men, are constantly inundated with a message that we are not different from women (other than what we’re packing downstairs). There is nothing wrong with women and men being different. It is what has made us successful as a species and we should celebrate it.
But this androgynous notion of men and women is absolutely ridiculous. All it takes is a simple observation to find that people who hold this worldview think that women are the ideal standard for behavior.
You can see it in the disgusting amount of boys that are put on ADD medication because they are boisterous in the classroom.
I imagine that if my friends and I were to go through grade school again, the majority of us would have been put on Ritalin.
I can’t remember if the roof riding ended because of some killjoy or us getting bored with it, but one day it ended. However, the habit of spurring each other on never died.
To this day, we are encouraging each other to push ourselves to ever greater heights.
Those risks my friends and I took when we were children paved the path for us to be more comfortable with risk as adults. It was a fundamental part of growing up as a boy that I never saw the girls in my life do.
Whenever I get nervous about doing something now I think back on my life. If the 12 year old me had enough balls to ride on the roof of a car or go look for a mountain lion with nothing more than a rock duct taped to a stick, I think I can handle just about anything now.
What about you? What sort of risks did you take as a young boy?