One of my favorite bars in New York is a secret.
It has no telephone number. No windows. No signage. And the address on the front door is conveniently wrong. The bar's owner just wanted to open a tiny, intimate space where friends could come for quiet conversation and exceptionally well-made cocktails.
Framed discreetly inside the dimly-lit bar is a subtle sign dictating the rules of the house.
- No name-dropping.
- No hooting, hollering, shouting or other loud behaviour.
- No fighting, play fighting, no talking about fighting.
- Gentlemen will remove their hats. Hooks are provided.
- Gentlemen will not introduce themselves to ladies.
Ladies, feel free to start a conversation or ask the bartender to introduce you. If a man you don't know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.
- Do not linger outside the front door.
- Do not bring anyone unless you would leave that person alone in your home. You are responsible for the behaviour of your guests.
- Exit the bar briskly and silently.
What I love about these rules is that they don't just outline a set of house policies. They convey a form of tolerance and politeness that seem to be lacking in society today.
The only rule I might add is "If you must talk about the Yankees, please feel free to do so. At home."
I often think about rules when it comes to parenting. Growing up, I didn't have very many rules. That's not to say that my immigrant parents weren't very strict. Hell, they were the original Tiger parents and they reigned over me and my brother with an iron fist.
But aside from the fact that I was a pretty good kid, they didn't really lay down a large set of rules.
I think the only three I ever had were no reading after bedtime, no piercings and no swearing.
Ironically, I got my ear pierced right after they told me that rule. I now stay up until 2:00 am every night reading. And I don't think it's a secret to you guys that I curse like a fucking truck driver.
My daughter is 6 years old and I realize that I have a million rules for her already.
Why do I have so many rules?
Partly because if she had her way, she'd drop out of first grade, watch TV all day, and subsist solely on burnt ends and ice cream. But it's also partly for my own protection because the Peanut is constantly trying to work me over like a piñata.
For example, this is the first year she's had homework and it's like she's allergic to it. The first week of school, we sat down together and while I read the paper, I told her she had to do all of her homework. Literally every 30 seconds, she'd stop and say something ridiculously absurd:
"Hey daddy, put on some music. I think this would be a really good time for a dance party."
"This would be a lot easier if I had some ice cream."
"You just do the first part and I'll take it from there."
The first 5 minutes of doing homework together and I immediately had to set three new rules; (1) Dance parties are for weekends, (2) No eating ice cream during homework, and (3) You have to do all your homework by yourself.
THIS SHIT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME!
I remember, years ago, a pivotal parenting moment for me was when I first caught myself saying, "If you don't finish your broccoli, you don't get any dessert."
At the time, I started laughing hysterically because I felt like I had lost my parenting virginity. Generations of parents have uttered those exact same words and somewhere along the line, it's become a rite of passage. I remember thinking, "Ha! You made your first rule."
I just didn't know that it would never end. Does it?
Today, I was walking around the neighborhood holding hands with the Peanut and actually found myself saying: "New rule. No trying to push me into the dog poop when we're walking down the street together."
The Peanut shook her head, looked up at me, and said, "Man, you sure do got a lot of rules."
You have no idea, kiddo.
What about you guys? Did your parents have any crazy rules when you were growing up? Do you have any ones for your kids that sometimes make your head spin? What's the funniest rule you've ever had to say to your kids? An inquiring mind wants to know.