Friday, August 17, 2018

"Big Fat Baby"

Yesterday, a group of us so much enjoyed the 1812 Ovfarture that we listened to it twice. We had been dancing properly, to Abba and the theme songs from Paw Patrol and Batman. I'd watched a pair of four-year-olds, girls who had only just met, performing a mirror of one another: they looked into one another's eyes and copied one another's moves so precisely that it was impossible to tell which one of them was "leading." A third girl, a younger one, then joined them and it was like a little miracle. We had been truly enjoying our dancing, earnestly, but one thing lead to another and, before you know it, we were listening to the classical piece instrumented mostly by loud, juicy farts, courtesy of the students of the Jerome Horowitz Elementary School.

The girls laughed, of course they did. I laughed. It's a funny song and part of the reason it's funny, perhaps the entirety of the reason it's funny, is that it's off-color. Someone is going to be offended. It's a pushing of the boundaries, so we giggle in part at the thrill of going up to the edge. To truly live, I think, one must regularly go up to those boundaries, all of them, and at least have a little look.

A few years ago, the children wrote their own song, not prompted by me in any way. It began when one of the kids began to chant, "Big fat baby, walkin' down the road . . . Big fat baby, walkin' down the road." Before long his friends were doing it. Each time they said it, it cracked them up, genuinely at first, and then ritualistically, like an attempt to return to the original moment. It was mostly funny because of the image of a baby walking down the road, but also because they all, at some level, knew that calling someone "fat" isn't acceptable.

Then one day, a different kid added a second line:

Big fat baby, walking down the road
Big fat baby, hopping like a toad.

Which lead quickly to the punchline:

Big fat baby, walking down the road
Big fat baby, hopping like a toad.
Big fat baby, about to explode.
BOOM! Big fat baby everywhere!

I was there with them as they pieced it together, four or five of them, standing around the sand pit, shovels in hand, building upon one another, correcting one another, creating a chorus that one of them suggested we try to sell to Casper Babypants. It was wildly funny. We sang it for months. It was highly inappropriate and that made it even funnier.

There is a temptation to tut-tut or to seize on these moments in order to make a point about violence or body shaming or manners. This, of course, ruins it.

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