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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon


The pool at Dreams

Last week, my 6 yr-old frolicked in a large pool with a couple 9-yr old girls he befriended at a family resort we hit with my mother, siblings and grandmother. Adjacent to the pool stood a 3-story building of bone-colored rental units, each with a balcony overlooking the turquoise Caribbean. Suddenly, one of the young girls exclaimed, “Look at the naked people!”

My boy instantly scanned the area but saw nothing atypical. My wife, however, looked up to the 3rd floor, where she saw two very naked people. Not only were they naked, the woman clutched the railing desperately, while he clasped her neck from behind and pumped like he saw a tidal wave offshore and had 30-seconds to live. Jodi stood mortified by the thought that our son’s initial contact with sex was to be this hardcore-exhibitionist-boink circus.

I can just see us having THE conversation with our kids: “And when a man and a woman love each other, he claws at her throat from behind and tries to beat her to death with his penis from the inside. And that is how babies are made.”

Luckily, my kid never did see the coital culprits and Jodi was able to change the subject.

I got on an empty elevator in a fancy office building 3 months ago and pressed 8. Right before the door closed, a guy in a gray maintenance shirt stepped on and pressed 3. The moment the doors touched, he farted. He followed the tiny yet clearly audible sound with a similarly tiny, “Excuse me.” As if that did, in fact, excuse him.

My father had a comparably terrifying experience when he walked into an empty elevator that had already been egregiously fouled and rose 30 floors expecting to be shamed at each.

Don't Box Me In, acrylic on cardboard, 30"x36", 2002, Stuart Sheldon

Don’t Box Me In, acrylic on cardboard, 30″x36″, 2002, Stuart Sheldon

I lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in my early 20s and rode the subway to work each day. One afternoon, a bedraggled woman boarded my car and launched into a heartfelt soliloquy about her sick baby and leukemia and how she just needed a few bucks to get medicine.

She welled up with tears, and in no time, the whole car reached for our wallets. The following day, on the same train, at the same time, the same woman boarded and told the exact same story, word for word. She teared up at the same precise moment. Her sinister deception stung me (though her acting skills impressed).

Rousseau's Social Contract

Why am I telling you all this?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s seminal 1762 treatise defined the Social Contract, the idea that in a highly functional society, everyone agrees to certain basic civil behaviors. In other words, we consent to obey the law and not kill each other in exchange for peace and justice.

More simply stated: Don’t be a dirty dog.

This requires very little effort:

  1. Show basic respect for others’ personal space, particularly small enclosed rectangles.

  2. It’s ok to pull my hearts strings, just don’t break them on purpose.

  3. And no hiding the salami in the kiddie pool.

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