It was November 1991. I was 12 years old and a model of the innocent child.
Well, there were a few visits to the principal’s office and that time I pulled out a dummy pineapple-shaped hand grenade in class in fifth grade.
“Allah says it is time for me to enter paradise!” (I had recently watched “To Live and Die in L.A.” late night on my dad’s pirated HBO.)
“Mr. Bear,” my disinterested teach announced. “Put the hand grenade away until recess.”
Can you imagine a time when a kid could flash a dummy hand grenade to class, and the only repercussion was a mild admonition to save it until recess? Nowadays, such childish monkeyshines would bring out a police SWAT team, a school lockdown, robots, a media frenzy, the whole shebang.
What can I say, I loved explosives. In fifth grade, I built a rocket for the science fair. In sixth grade, I made gunpowder out of charcoal briquettes and dog shit. It was a simpler time.
So aside from the occasional bomb threat, I was a poster boy for childhood innocence. That is until the biggest pack of lies to ever curse the United States gurgled up from the bowels of the infernal pit from where all advertising oozes.
I’m talking, of course, of the advertising campaign for the 1991 motion picture “My Girl.”
The trailer promised a fun coming-of-age movie about a cute white girl and, yes, I’m talking about Macaulay Culkin, fresh off his mega star-making role in “Home Alone.” The familiar ascending guitar line from “My Girl” by The Temptations played in the background.
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day,” David Ruffin sang. “When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May.”
“I love The Temptations,” I said to the TV. “And this movie promises a cute coming-of-age story. There are girls on bicycles and it all looks so sunny and bright.”
“Who the hell are you talking to, boy,” inquired my dad, who had affected a west Texas accent when he’d married my stepmother the year before.
“Let’s go see this movie,” I said, pointing to the TV.
Fast forward a few days. We stuffed our pockets with sodas and candy, because my cheap ass dad wouldn’t spring for popcorn, and headed to the movie theater at the mall to catch the cute coming-of-age comedy that was “My Girl.”
Except it wasn’t. The entire movie is about death. Death, death and more death. It’s also weird. A weird girl whose weird dad owns a funeral parlor and hires a weird make-up artist. Her friend, played by Culkin, is also weird. He gets murdered by bees at the beginning of the third act. The entire theater was sobbing. Then I started crying. I’m pretty sure my dad was, too.
We left the theater in silence. I’m pretty sure my dad said something along the lines of “Fuck that movie.” At least, for once, he didn’t announce it to the theater, I thought.
My innocence died alongside Macaulay Culkin that day. Since then, I’ve developed a healthy mistrust of advertising. I’m not sure what happened to the dummy hand grenade. It’s probably for the best.