A quick web search reveals different interpretations of this phrase—everything from modeling good behavior for one’s children to anthropological primate studies. I first learned this saying in kindergarten. The teacher left the room after warning everyone to stay on the story-telling rug. Someone told me that Sammy had messed up my painting, which was still drying on the easel over by the door. I got up to check, and half the class followed. We were WAY off the rug when Mrs. Fields returned, and she scolded the lot of us. Then she singled out just me, for starting it:
Monkey see, monkey doMonkey get in trouble, too.
I was a good little kid; I was often chosen to lead the class when we had to walk through the halls, single file. I guess when they saw me get up, they just decided to come with me. Any time I stepped out of line that year, I had groupies. Ah, the downside of a public image. Even then, back in the early 1970’s, I wasn’t too hip on having our teacher call us monkeys. Sigh.
By the time I was a freshman in college, I had learned to be more circumspect when performing misdeeds. My friend Tom and I had both been active in drama in high school, and fancied ourselves quite the thespians. We tried out for parts in some one-act plays, and found out later the next evening that neither of us had been offered roles. Miffed, we wandered into an art classroom (in the same building), and finding both cans of spray paint and classroom walls which were already covered with graffiti, we added our own message: I was damn good in high school!
I loved Margret and H. A. Rey’s Curious George books as a child. The oversized yellow volumes, the bright, simple illustrations, the misadventures of that mischievous monkey—what’s not to love? Well, apparently, these days ole George has come under fire for being politically incorrect—on two different counts. First of all, The Man In The Yellow Hat basically poached George from Darkest Africa. George was perfectly happy in his native land, and yet he was captured and ripped from his homeland just because the man wanted a pet. Secondly, innocent little George has been deemed a bad role model by some parents. He is forever misbehaving, breaking rules, and not following directions, and yet instead of receiving some sort of consequence for his actions, he always saves the day. Do we really want our children reading this? What if they start to emulate the little critter?
I was talking to my mom recently about Curious George’s critics, and their arguments against the next generation being raised on his adventures. She scoffed. I told her how much I had enjoyed the books—particularly the scene where George breaks in to the apartment that is being repainted while the painters are on a break, and paints jungle scenes on the walls, turning the sheet-covered furniture into zebras and giraffes. Alluding to the twinkie defense, my mom commented, “well, just because you read those books, you didn’t grow up to break into buildings and paint on the walls.”
Hmm. Actually, I did. It’s all the monkey’s fault!