My son came home with a bar code
on the back of his neck. It was the real thing too, with two sets of numbers along the baseline and everything. I guess I should've been pissed off in that time old paternal manner, but I have to admit: it just made me feel old.
He’s only eleven years old. What kind of sleazy business tattoos an eleven year old boy?
I asked him why he did it and he said he didn’t know, which was expected. So I asked again.
"We made a bet. Jimmy Bovine and me. There’s this class. In school. It like used to be called something else but this year they changed it to Family and Consumer Science. So me and Jimmy made a bet. To say something. We’d get bar codes on our necks, you know, to make a statement or something."
Eleven years old and he’s already taking up arms against The Man. I almost admired him.
"Did Jimmy get one too?" I asked.
"No. His rubbed off. I think he drew it on with a magic marker."
I wondered, if I tossed him up on a checkout counter and scanned his neck, how much would he cost? Or would they have to look him up in that special book for fruits and vegetables? My son, the bar-coded vegetable.
"But you went through with it. Yours is permanent?"
Again, I almost admired him. Back in the day we went to rallies and smoked dope and wiped our ass with the American flag. We killed brain cells and made noise. This was so much simpler, so much more personal. He damaged his body, not his mind. He disrespected himself in order to snub the real cause of his discontent, which, perhaps, is more effective than just lashing out at large looming symbols like the American flag. America isn’t the menace really, the Constitution and all that, just the culture and its need to churn out mindless shoppers. He knows that. This was an act of personal empowerment. A cooperating...wait, what’s that word? - coopting derisive term. He stole their symbol, the bar code, and he’d turned it against the insidious ploys of Family and Consumer Science. I admired him, my son.
I noticed that he had been standing there, teetering back and forth on his heels while I hung above deciding his fate. He wanted to say something, so I let him. He wanted to know if he was in trouble. I said no. He seemed relieved, and allowed an appropriate pause before saying "Dad?"
"Do you think you could spot me $80.00 then? I still have to pay the man for the tattoo."