Monday, September 18, 2006

The 'good oil' on adolescent survival

There comes a time as you approach adolescence when the dialogue from your parents, teachers and other authority figures changes, almost overnight. For years, all you’re ever heard from them is to sit still, be quiet, not to run in the house, do your homework, turn that TV off, don’t hit your brother, get your tongue out of the cat’s ear and eat your greens. But at some point, almost overnight, the dialogue changes substantially, and you’re all of a sudden bombarded with a new train of conversation in which they relentlessly remind you of the dangers of peer pressure.

This conversation wavers between telling you to stay away from one bad-egg crowd or other, to saying no to cigarettes and drugs because, “before you know what’s happening, your lungs’ll be full of tar, and you’ll be shooting-up on the street with all the other degenerates!” They will constantly reinforce the need for you to stand firm when encouraged to do something that might be harmful to you, and they put a great deal of emphasis on encouraging you to be comfortable and confident in yourself, so that when you do make a decision, you’ll not be swayed by the taunts and jeers of your peers.

I guess this is all well and good – at some point in our development, while we might be ready to make decisions about our actions, our guardians believe that we haven’t yet developed the ability to look ahead and consider the harm it could do us. I guess it’s probably true, and you could argue that I’m not a junkie, cancer sufferer or murderer of innocents today because of it. But I’m not perfect, either … I still succumb on occasions to pressure from my peers, causing me to do or not do things which I do or don’t want, and I blame the narrow list of topics covered by my so-called "betters" during my formative education on how to respond to peer-pressure.

With a great many tides of water under the bridge since those days when I was going from baritone-falsetto in 0.2 seconds, I must admit that I can’t today see anything too harmful about a lazy doobie while curled up on the beanbag in front of the tele on a Saturday night, and apart from those pretty disgusting smoking rooms at Bangkok airport, the idea of sharing the occasional ciggie with friends seems more social and communal than evil or life-threatening. So do you think maybe this peer-pressure education might have been a bit paranoid and limited? I’m pretty happy to see that it at least includes sex in the mix nowadays; perhaps a lot of young lives might have been saved, or at least improved with a bit more education on safe sex and the negotiation thereof, so steps have certainly been made there to widen the scope of peer pressure education. But what about some other skills which we all need, but which are clearly lacking in these messages?

I personally breezed through the introduction of cigarettes by my peers, and I easily declined Nick Dipetriantonio’s father’s stolen homebrew, and I only shook slightly when “saying no to drugs”, and when it came to safe sex … well, this is me we’re talking about, so that never really came up! Each of these adolescent, peer pressure challenges I mastered with ease, but there have been, and continues to be other peer pressures for which I was given no preparation during all those years of peer pressure education, and as a result I continue to succumb to the suggestive looks, judging glances and knowing nods … and I hate myself for it.

Mrs Donkey and I have become quite partial over the years to eating out for breakfast, and because we often find ourselves living in parts of the world where breakfast constitutes a loaf of bread and a tin of stinking mackerel or fatty cornbeef, we don’t often take the opportunity to indulge our hobby. Here in Delhi, however, we have been introduced to an exciting and extremely welcome phenomenon known as The Imperial Hotel Breakfast Buffet … and let me just tell you, that despite being incredibly and ridiculously expensive by India standards, as a special treat once a month, it is oh-so-fine!

We relish falling out of bed at some un-Godly hour and heading out into the stinking, tumultuous Delhi streets as we make our way to the oasis that is The Imperial Hotel. We even enjoy suffering the raging thirsts and throbbing temples from the previous night’s booze-up because we know it will soon be relieved by all the wonderful foods which we would otherwise never get to see, smell, taste and feel, including ham, cheese, fresh bread, fruits, pastries, eggs, BACON (Mmm … bacon) and just about everything else your heart could desire in a ninety-minute gorge-a-thon on a Sunday morning with a hangover.

And it’s not just the food – The Imperial is seriously swanky, and houses the largest collection of British Colonial art in the sub-continent. It’s breezy, interesting, welcoming and comfortable … and did I mention how good the breakfast buffet is?

Righto, so when something is this good, and it’s something you love doing so much, and you’re the kind of Donkey who loves to share life’s finer things with ones fellow farmyard friends, then it’s not surprising that the Donkeys have occasionally organised the odd group hook-up at The Imperial on a Sunday morning. But there are problems with this …

Y’see, approaching a breakfast buffet for the first time is like taking on an unknown enemy on a new battlefield. You don’t know what surprises they’ve got in store. The last thing you want to do is to attack their centre, and find you’ve got nothing left with which to take on their flank. Like a military action, a breakfast buffet, if done properly, requires strategy; it requires scouting missions; it requires analysis. You have limited time, a finite (although admittedly still large) appetite which is not going to be able to fit everything in (so you have to be able to make informed decisions), and these breakfast buffets are tricky things, often hiding goodies around corners or in other parts of the room, so you need to carefully and thoroughly scope the place out before making your initial and subsequent assaults.

Also, just like on the battlefield, you need your fellow soldiers – loyal friends with the same goals as you, who will help you cut down on valuable breakfast buffet minutes by dividing up what needs to be investigated, and reporting back, or by helpfully bringing to the table two custard doughnuts to share, and thereby saving you a trip. These elements of taking-on the breakfast buffet are very important, and in this I could have no better ally-at-arms than Mrs Donkey. Together we attack the ‘enemy’ like a well-oiled military machine, and together we are able to take full advantage of the buffet, every time.

A masterpiece like this doesn't just happen, it takes careful surveillance, planning and precision in the placement of ingredients. Photo: Hagas

But when you have accompanying friends, blundering around, taking their time and bringing to the table plates of salad, or a single piece of fruit, or only ONE chocolate croissant, suddenly your own plate, piled high and looking like a work of art with well planned, strategically placed bacon, eggs, toast, grilled tomato, sausages (Mmm … sausages!), mushrooms, asparagus, hash browns and baked beans starts to look a bit conspicuous, and by the second helping, your “friends” are starting to exchange judging glances, and asking “jovial” questions like, “Going for some more, Donkey?”, at which you mumble, “Um, no, just stretching my cramped leg here” and you sit straight back down, defeated.

What the hell’s that all about? No 1; I’m paying for MY breakfast, and if I want twenty-eight different varieties of fried eggs, I should be allowed to have ‘em! And No. 2; I discovered this place, and I invited YOU, so that technically makes you my (admittedly self-paying) guest, so let’s have a little less lip and a little more offering to grab me an extra apple danish, Hmm? And while I’m at it, No.3; if you’re going to come here and only eat fruit salad, then how ‘bout shutting up about the price when the bill comes?!

Yeah! That’s what a Donkey should say … ‘cause he’s well within his rights to do so, and because he has spent a lifetime dealing admirably with peer pressure and feeling confident with his own being; he should just get on with the business at hand. BUT, because all that peer education was about drugs and ciggies, and not about breakfast buffets, I don’t have a clue what to do or say, so instead of gorging myself as is my wont, I EAT BLOODY SALAD FOR BREAKFAST! And I don’t need to tell you what giving into that kind of peer pressure can do for your confidence.

This is the breakfast of a weak-willed Donkey with limited self-confidence. Doesn't quite stack-up, does it? Photo: Hagas

And it’s all because our “betters” made some arbitrary decisions about what sorts of peer pressure they thought we would and wouldn’t need to be prepared for. So while my smoking parents and swilling teachers ironically banged-on about the dangers of tobacco and the demon drink, never once did breakfast buffets receive even cursory consideration. And when those funky young actors came to school, all dressed as suspiciously squeaky-clean home-boys, never once did they say, “No thank you, Tony. I don’t need smack to have a good time, and I’ll eat as many croissants as I like, after all, I paid for this and it’s all you can eat!”

There is a gap in our children’s social education, and it needs addressing immediately, before salad for breakfast takes hold and begins destroying the self confidence of an entire generation!


murph said...

I'M THERE!!!! With you and Mrs Donkey....pick me, pick me!!!

I stopped eating breakfast when I was 8.

However, I choose my overnight stopovers by the SIZE of the brekky buffet.

For someone of small stature (well I was before I had too many of those breakfasts...hee haw), I scope the brekky buffet, and I SOOO get my money's worth.

I meet with the father of my two big kids most school holidays in Newcastle, which is approx. halfway between Canberra & Coffs.

We stay at The Executive Inn at New Lambton, and I love it. Games Room for the kiddies, beautiful outdoor pool area....but THE BEST...

"BREAKFAST ON THE TERRACE"...I scope Donkey...and I scope good and proper!!! (Don't invite these wanks and wankettes who ate at home to "keep up appearances")

I start "hot"....toast, bacon, tomato, mushrooms...and I order my poached eggs FRESH....the Executive also have a delicious creamy potato bake...YUM YUM....

Then I inconspicuously (that's the key Donkey) help myself to the pancakes with cream and sugar....

For some reason...ME...who NEVER eats breakfast now sidles along to the "fruity" bar....a little fresh fruit...strawberries, kiwi fruit...some yoghurt...and the Executive make THE BEST creamed rice...

The great thing is they keep taking away the dirty no-one knows I'm a pig!!! (I'm actually known as a "wopig" in blogland, but that's another story)...


then Donkey....yust like yoo...It's the pastries...the kiddies go, I go.....I con the janitor in.....and lo and behold if I don't have lunch in me less...

Sorry....a couple of wines (bottles) and a big mouth, and the "sanctuary point girl" pops out her ugly lap up that Brekky at the Imperial Mr & Mrs Donkey

sabrina said...

I know what you mean about succumbing to peer pressure dude. I used to have a big bug up my ass about things like boozing and pre-marital sex. But now i've started boozing a bit and even agree (although i don't) with my friends that pre-marital sex is ok just to fit in.
*sigh* I miss that big bug!

DonkeyBlog said...

Murph and Booby, you guys really make me laugh - it feels really good to have funny and intelligent people writing to you!

Murph, if it's alright, I'm gonna use "fruity" bar, and Booby, I used to have the pre-marital sex thing up my arse (well, not sex up my ... you know what I mean!), but that's probably just 'cause I wasn't getting any!