This weekend, while visiting relatives in New Jersey, I spotted something in the wild I have not seen in many a year. In a supermarket parking lot, I saw a boy about 10 or 11 years old, and he had a rattail. Not a little one either, but a HUGE rattail that extended past his shoulder blades.
I was overcome by a precocious douche-chill.
I had very few deeply held convictions as a child–at least when it came to important stuff. Most kids don’t. Despite how children are portrayed in the media, very, very few of them have strong beliefs about Big Issues. You know those kids you see in TV shows who are committed to saving the environment or organize bake sales to rebuild an historical landmark? They don’t exist.
However, kids do feel strongly about dumb things, like the superiority of one line of toys over a nearly identical one. Or they can be 100 percent convinced that kids from a certain town, or part of a town, or even the other side of the street, are dumber than them. As for Kid-Me, there were a few things I firmly, unequivocally believed in, and one of them was this: If you had a rattail, you were a dirtbag.
One of many reasons why I’ve never understood 80s nostalgia (other than the fact that it was a terrifying time to be a kid) is that the fashions were horrendous. It amazes me that, when confronted by these trends, most people didn’t throw up their hands and say, Are you fucking kidding me? Shoulder pads. Pastel blazers with rolled-up sleeves. Acid-washed jeans. Any one of these items should brand a decade beyond redemption, and yet within a ten-year span, we got all of these things (and worse).
Even among this haystack of horror, the rattail stands out as the fetid pin it is. Because while those other fashion statements were simply awful, the rattail told the whole world that the wearer himself was awful. To me, even as a kid, I thought having a rattail meant you were a bad person liable to do bad things to other people. Because in order to have a rattail, you’d have to want your hair to look like that. And Jesus God Almighty, what normal person would want that?
I’ve held childish biases about certain things and places in my life, as I’m sure we all have. But in my journey through life, I’ve come across actual humans possessing characteristics I formerly mocked. I’ve realized that just because someone comes from Place X or looks like Thing Y, they’re still human. I’ve relinquished the unfair prejudices of my youth.
All but one: The rattail. Because as a kid, I interacted with kids with rattails on a far-too-often basis, and they were invariably dirtbags. The kinda kids who would try to force you to do their homework under threat of violence, or dump a bag of pencil shavings on your head, or key the teacher’s car. Every kid I ever met who had a rattail was a rotten kid, and I will guarantee every single one of them right now is either having lunch at a strip club buffet or doing time for some meth-related offense.
I’ll say the same for the kid I saw in the parking lot in New Jersey. So help me god, he had beady eyes. He looked like he was scanning the ground for rocks, so he could chuck one through someone’s back windshield. He walked like a dirtbag, with his arms bent slightly, Popeye-style, just so he could be ready to punch something at a moment’s notice. He looked like the kind of kid who’s a little too jazzed to dissect frogs in science class.
My question is, Is this just me? Am I just a rattail-ophobe, or is my prejudice justified?