Before starting this blog, I made myself a promise that my material was going to be honest and uncensored. I was going to use my little corner of cyberspace to creatively express myself without fear of reproach…. which was easy, until I did something worth reproaching – then I had to sit back and decide if I had the courage to follow through with the promise I had made to myself.
As it turns out, I do….
The school week ended and we were heading into the start of winter recess – ten glorious days of alarm clock free fun, where the only thing dictating the upcoming week’s schedule was our own whims and desires. A mere two days into the break it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the flight of fancy we had hoped for.
My seven-year-old son, Aidan, got sick. And in true Aidan style, he can’t just get a crappy cold; he’s got to contract something that adds a few more grey hairs to my head, and makes the worry lines on my forehead look positively cavernous. He’s given me three or four really good medical scares, but always manages to bounce back right before I start looking like Betty White.
This time he was laid out with a 104-degree fever for four days. And it wasn’t the fact that his body temperature was hot enough to keep a Jacuzzi bubbling that alarmed me, it was his lethargy. When he contracted mono last year, he was running around the house like he had secretly paid off the doctor to write him a bogus sick note, just to get out of going to school.
But this time he lay on the couch like a warm sack of oatmeal – uninterested in eating, playing, or anything else that required him to sit vertically. The only time I saw him stand up was when he needed to venture into the bathroom to set off a stunning display of stomach pyrotechnics. I thought it was impossible to throw up when you stopped eating…. apparently I was wrong.
He existed on one yogurt a day, and wouldn’t drink anything besides water. By the third day I had turned into my Italian grandmother, pacing the floor and perpetually asking him if he was hungry (seconds away from shouting, “Mangia! Mangia!”) The boy only weighs forty-eight pounds – I was panicked that he would disappear entirely by the week’s end.
But on day five he turned a corner, and was starting to look a bit more like himself. His energy levels still weren’t up to par, so rather than trying to venture out, I thought it was a better idea to have a movie night in with the family. I recorded the movie “Paul” – all I remembered about it (from the commercials) was the goofy-looking little alien; I thought the kids would get a kick out of him. Boy was I right…. and very, very wrong.
The movie’s main characters, Clive and Graham, are two British sci-fi geeks with a serious passion for everything extraterrestrial. They rented an RV so they could tour all the famous UFO hotspots in America, including Area 51. While en route, they witness a horrendous car accident, pull off to the side of the road, and end up coming face-to-face with the driver of the wrecked vehicle: Paul (the alien).
My first clue that this wasn’t a children’s movie was when Paul lights a cigarette – okay so maybe he’s not the best role model, but I naively thought that it might lead to Clive and Graham educating him about the dangers of smoking. Didn’t happen. In fact, smoking would turn out to be Paul’s least offensive habit.
The real problem began when Paul hitched a ride in their RV (since he had just totaled his car) and began a conversation with Graham, who was astounded to finally be meeting up with the real life version of something he had only seen in the pages of his comic books. The conversation went like this:
Paul: “Doesn’t this thing go any faster?”
Graham: “I’m sorry, the speed limit is seventy.”
Paul: “Screw the speed limit. Actually, don’t screw it. Yeah, that’s good thinking. Stay inconspicuous.”
Graham: “How come I can understand you? Are you using some kind of neural language router?”
Paul: “Actually, I’m speaking English, you fucking idiot.”
Both of my kids erupted into nearly uncontrollable laughter, so loud that they practically drowned out the next thirty seconds of movie dialog. If I wasn’t so horrified, I probably would have laughed too – pretty funny to see a little green alien drop the f-bomb. But how could a kid’s movie get away with have cursing in it? My brain was blatantly refusing to connect the dots. I immediately jumped on the Internet and googled “Paul” – the first hit dispelled my confusion. I could practically hear Paul’s voice in my head, “Of course the movie is rated R, you fucking idiot.”
Ever the proponent of parental denial, I reasoned that one curse word wasn’t going to scar my children for life – hell, they had heard worse than that from me when I’m behind the wheel of my car. So I snuggled back down with Aidan on the couch, and kept my fingers crossed that Paul wouldn’t do anything else I’d regret.
As the movie wore on, it became clear that the alien I expected to be like E.T.’s comical little brother, ended up being more like E.T.’s perverted uncle. And yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop the movie. Because this foul-mouthed alien had done something the Motrin couldn’t do – he brought Aidan back to life. When I heard Aidan’s contagious giggles for the first time in a week, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I knew letting him watch this movie was wrong, but at that moment, it felt oddly right.
My only solace was that most of the crude humor and sexual innuendos flew so far over his head that the joke was long gone before he even had the chance to question it. When Paul lit a joint (one more thing to flog myself for later), I looked over at my husband to see if he was struggling as hard as I was not to laugh out loud. His smile and silent laughter assured me he was. Both of us instinctively knew that one audible laugh out of either of us would prompt our kids to beg for an explanation we weren’t willing to give.
But even though Paul seemed to embody everything a parent tries to caution their child against, he also had a lot of redeeming qualities. And despite my better judgment (which was pretty much shot to hell by this point anyway), I found the little green bastard endearing.
There was no tearful E.T. moment when Paul’s spaceship finally arrives to take him back home, but there was a surprising level of sentimentality. Although, hearing E.T. say, “I’ll be right here” as he points to Elliot’s head definitely tugged at the heartstrings more than hearing Paul tell Clive and Graham, “Safe to say we’ve all learned something from this – be yourself, speak from your heart, some shit like that.”
Know what else I learned, Paul? I learned to pay a hell of a lot more attention to the movie rating.
Assuming your childhood innocence is already lost, press play and catch a glimpse of my parental FAIL.