Ever get the feeling that they don't make them like they used to, that for some reason or other, we Americans _ at least the younger ones _ seem to be turning into a bunch of wimps and crybabies?
I mention this because like millions of my fellow citizens, I trooped off the other evening to see Jurassic Park, the movie about dinosaurs recreated on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. Next morning, I'm eating my cornflakes and listening to the radio news and this child psychologist comes on and says Jurassic Park is too scary for kids _ its intended audience _ and maybe for a lot of adults too.
According to this psychologist, a kid could be traumatized for life, possibly rendered abnormal, by watching pictures of dinosaurs eating people.
Maybe it was different in your movie theater, but where I saw Jurassic Park, when the tyrannosaurus ate the guy sitting on the toilet, all the kids in the audience cheered. Most of the adults too. Maybe it was because he was a lawyer.
Anyway, the point the child psychologist was going on about was that today's kids can't handle this kind of stuff and that really scary things will scar their psyche. And Jurassic Park, he said, was the scariest thing to come along in a long time.
To all of which I say, triceratops droppings.
First of all, you remember when you were a kid and saw movies like Night of the Living Dead, Dracula, The Mummy, or King Kong. Were you traumatized for life or otherwise rendered abnormal?
Most likely, you saw them at a Saturday matinee and stuck around to watch them four or five times, got together with your friends or played pranks on the ushers. That's what we did when I was a kid.
And remember the comic books we used to read? One of my favorites was something called Tales from the Crypt. These things were filled with monsters and zombies, people being eaten alive, burned at the stake or having their brains sucked out _ really great stuff.
Did all of this traumatize us for life, turn us into homicidal maniacs or leave us dysfunctional?
Okay, you don't have to answer that.
All I know is that most of us somehow survived our childhood without a psychologist telling us what movies to watch or comics books to read. When you did something bad, your mom or your dad gave you a switching and you tried not to do it again, or at least not get caught doing it again.
And when the kid down the block punched you in the nose, it wasn't your psyche that got scarred, it was your nose. And you knew exactly what to do about that, didn't you?
Nowadays, a kid gets switched or punched in the nose and he calls 911 or goes on Oprah to talk about his self-esteem.
They just don't make them like they used to. That's for sure.
Oh, I know. We've all heard that one before. Our parents said it about our generation and their parents probably said it about them. Everybody thinks the generation coming up has it a lot easier than they did.
I have two younger sisters and know for a fact they had it a lot easier than I did. Maybe it's because they didn't get punched in the nose and didn't go after the perpetrator with a two-by-four.
But if today's kids seem a little less tough and self-sufficient, maybe there's a good reason for it _ other than the fact that there are more child psychologists around now.
If you read the paper or watch the TV news, you know that kids have a lot of scary things to worry about now, real things that many of their parents never heard of, much less obsessed about.
Things like drugs, AIDS or sex offenders. Kids are even packing guns and knives in the elementary schools.
But one thing today's kids don't have to worry about, not even for a second, is being eaten by a velociraptor.
Which, of course, brings me back to Jurassic Park. I have to tell you that I didn't think the movie was that scary. Alien was a scary movie. So was the sequel, Aliens.
Jurassic Park made you squirm in your seat a few times, but it wasn't flat out terrifying like, say, Night of the Living Dead.
Which only proves that getting eaten by a tyrannosaurus or a velociraptor is one thing, but getting eaten by your next-door neighbor is something else.
Those child psychologists should chew on that one for a while.