Father and son stuff - cool or uncool?
So, two years ago, being told that he’d been called a ‘wigger’ by a group of Bishops boys when seen at Cavendish Mall with the friends he usually hangs out with didn’t surprise me at all. Style is symbolic of identity. That’s not an absolute truism but, as generalisations go, it’s a good one. Rap and hip-hop are often associated with drug culture. Nowadays, they’re also associated with misogyny and homophobia, things I know he’s not guilty of. Recently, his tastes have veered towards dance music. To some, ecstasy may be a bit passé but, not so many years ago, it was synonymous with dance music. So, do his music tastes say anything about his attitude towards drugs? It’s so easy to generalise and get things horribly wrong.
We exchanged a series of text messages the week before he arrived here:
- Oh my god, I gotta try hash and shrooms when I get to Amsterdam.
- Why not? Cos I want to.
Difficult logic to argue with. Coincidence maybe, but I’d suggest that his text message confirmed a definite link between his personal style and his attitude towards drugs. I sent a text to my wife.
- Has J tried dope before?
- Yes, but don’t encourage it!
She can talk! She was one of the last to make the hippie trail. Like thousands of kids before her, she took the Magic Bus from Greece to Nepal via countries like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. And we all know what those hippies got up to!
But I know what she means. It’s one thing having been a ‘roker’ (Afrikaans word for smoker, often used in South African English to refer to a dope-smoker) of note while growing up but it’s an entirely different thing when it’s your own son who’s dabbling with the stuff. Especially these days when readily available skunk is so much stronger than the Durban Poison and Malawi Gold that we used to rave about 25 years ago. It was the potency and ready availability of those strains that led South African psychiatrists to recognise ‘dagga psychosis’ as a mental condition long before I was a medical student in the late seventies. My best friend at the time moved to London in the mid-eighties to study psychiatry. Also a roker of note, it surprised him that the condition was completely unrecognised, even dismissed, in the UK. It’s taken UK health professionals more than 20 years to recognise that very strong cannabis smoked regularly by the young can cause some of them to have permanent mental problems. Today, ‘marijuana psychosis’ is a valid psychiatric term. Not really something you’d want associated with your own kids.
Since arriving in Amsterdam, I’ve not been tempted by the coffee shops spread throughout the city. In my ‘roker’ years, I’d have been in them all the time. Then, I regularly smoked weed on my own. Now, on the rare occasions when I smoke the stuff, I prefer to smoke it with someone. Not having someone to have a toke with has kept me out of the coffee shops. Knowing that my son was coming over and that he’d want to visit the coffee shops, I began to wonder if it was cool or uncool to smoke weed with your son.
When we lived in Kenilworth, we befriended a couple a few houses away. They were an older couple whose kids were about six and eight at the time. That didn’t stop us from really enjoying their company. Many a raucous evening was spent at their place. Sometimes we’d get stoned together, sitting outside in the garden while the kids played somewhere in the house. The parents smoked (cigarettes) but seeing a fat joint being passed round from adult to adult wasn’t the norm. Especially when some of those adults, including me, weren’t smokers.
‘What’s that, Mommy’, C, the daughter, piped up one day when she saw what we were doing.
‘Oh, nothing, darling, it’s a cigar. Everyone wants to see what it tastes like.’
‘Can I try?’
‘No, darling, you’re too young.’
Many years later, we’d still get together and sometimes have a joint after a long boozy meal. C and M, her brother, were no longer ‘too young’; they were included in the passing round of the joint. A few years after that, I met up with the ‘kids’ in London at a wedding and we indulged in more than conventional old weed. I’ve always got on well with them and I think that there may have been a stage when they thought of me as cool, especially M. After all, I was the only one of his parents’ friends who listened to Morrissey and played Doom for hours on end. I also enjoyed talking literature and politics with his Dad instead of having interminable conversations about golf and football like the rest of his Dad’s friends. Today, coolness doesn’t enter it - I’m just one of their good friends, one who has known them since early childhood.
I think it’s great when parents and children get on as friends, especially as they get older but some boundaries should persist. My one uncle (long dead), used to park outside the Costa do Sol in Maputo with his two sons. They’d sit there for hours, ogling the women in their bedrooms with binoculars. Uber uncool! A case of ‘boys will be boys’? Sure, when it comes to watching a game together, maybe. My uncle was divorced at the time but still uber uncool in my opinion. How about clubbing with your children? Potententially very uncool. A bit sad and desperate, actually. Be open about such things, sure, but doing them together may not be such a cool thing.
So, how about smoking a bit of weed together?
Read part 2 here.