There is some part of me that is surprised by the words I heard at the skate park I went to with my son today, but another part of me that unfortunately isn’t at all surprised.
Here’s the scene.
Half a dozen kids at the skatepark riding scooters and doing tricks. A couple of those kids were about 14 years old, the others were all my sons age (around 11 or 12).
There were three men about 30 years old riding skateboards; standing slightly off to themselves but doing a great job of remarking to the younger kids when they did something cool or asking if they were ok when they wiped out. I actually thought how neat it was to see them being so great with the kids (aside from it’s also neat to see grown men still hanging out and having fun).
There were also three other men. These ones a bit older, mid 40’s or so and on skateboards as well. Off to themselves and louder and doing “bigger” tricks and generally mouthy and loud – mostly to each. But not quite just to each other.
One of the 14 year olds comes swooping around and does an impressive jump and spin thing (I don’t even pretend to know what these things are called). One of the 40 something men yells (loudly) “When are you going to man up and get rid of the sissy bars and ride a board?” The kid ignores him and rides off.
The man yells after him “Fine, I guess it’s good that your masculinity isn’t tied to your handlebars… I’m fine with LGBTQ… community, just didn’t know we had THOSE kind at our skatepark” At which point he and his two friends laughed and high fived each other.
Because it’s awesome to ridicule and taunt a youth?!
I was on the other side of the park and it was loud enough for me to hear it. At this point, the two 14 year olds were still scootering about and doing what they do, oblivious apparently and the taunts ended there. One of the thirty something guys yelled at the one kid that he “rocked it” when he went by and the kid just nodded and smiled. It was good to see that to try to balance the other remarks but the truth is that words can hurt. It was great to see that the intentionally hurtful remarks didn’t stop the boys. They didn’t leave and they didn’t stop. Who knows what was going on inside of them but they kept up a good front and that’s something. Hopefully that same strength was on the inside.
The upside to this was that it started a great conversation between myself and my son that continued for the walk to the car and the ride home. A conversation that let me see what an amazing young man he is. Open minded and understanding and aware. Hearing my son say to me that he doesn’t know why it matters who a person loves or has sex with because “people are just people” dulled the anger I still felt then after hearing the other words.
It’s sad that men who are supposed to be role models and examples for the younger generations to look to are expressing behaviours and beliefs that are hurtful. Expressions and actions that I sincerely hope end with them.