Last night my daughter and I went out for dinner because we have no kitchen. When we arrived at the restaurant, the hostess seated us at a booth directly across from an open area containing several small folding chairs and a clown, who was busily making balloon animals.
Apparently it was “Kid’s Night.” Little children kept dashing over from other parts of the restaurant, making requests for absurd items. “Make me a Spider-Man!” “Can I have a Thanksgiving turkey?” “I want a ninja mask!” To her credit, the clown fulfilled every request with a surprising degree of craft.
But of course, during the entire evening, we were subjected to the constant sound of balloon animals being fabricated: SQUEEAAK! Squika-squika-squika SQUAWK!
My daughter was captivated by the performance, and told me that she thought she’d like to learn how to make balloon animals. This, unfortunately, struck one of my hot buttons. “Be careful about the skills you acquire,” I told her, “Because some things you think you’d like to do now will be things you wish you’d never learned later. You’re better off learning something you’ll use all your life.”
She gave me that “What the hell are you talking about?” look, so I had to explain.
“If you learn how to make balloon animals, you’ll be making balloon animals for years, until you get sick of it. Once people find out you have this skill, they’ll call you up and want you to come over and make balloon animals at their kid’s birthday party, and they won’t want to pay you. Even if they agree to pay you, it means you have to dress up in the stupid clown suit with the makeup and the wig and drive over there hoping you don’t see any of your friends on the way. If you work 8 hours every day making balloon animals, you’ll never make much money at it. And most jobs you’ll get will be on weekends, so you can forget about having a social life. Plus, it’s a skill that cannot be expanded into another skill. It means nothing on your resume. You won’t find many Senior Vice Presidents who can make a balloon Spider-Man.”
She seemed satisfied with this answer, but then she noticed a man at another table with an eyebrow piercing. “What would you think if I had my lip pierced?” she asked.
I found myself making the same argument. “Don’t make decisions now that you’ll almost certainly regret later. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have to remove them at some point later in your life because they’re inappropriate.”
“That’s OK,” she said, “they fill in eventually.” We had a brief stare-off.
I guess if she later comes to me and wants to get some bizarre piercing, I can always just counteroffer and send her to Balloon Animal School.