What Do You Do If Your Kid Doesn't Like Kiss?
Parents are continually influencing various aspects of their child's character development. You know, important things, like the growth of social competence and self-esteem, as well as how frequently a kid says "please" and "thank you," and doesn't hang up on telemarketers. Then there's the slightly less vital stuff they mold: favorite foods, mannerisms, the degree of intensity at which to loathe the New York Yankees.
However -- and much to a parent's chagrin -- the lion's share of a child's character-shaping was completed way back when sperm and egg first met and mingled. From English author Ian McEwan: "Cheerful or neurotic, kind or greedy, curious or dull, expansive or shy and anywhere in between; it can be quite an affront to parental self-regard, just how much of the work has already been done."
I'm not quite ready to chalk up my 12-year-old's perpetual disinterest to basic genetics, since doing so means hoisting the ole white flag, but I am beginning to fret, for despite rounds of intensive, grease-painted, flame-spewing persuasion, my son refuses to enlist in the Kiss Army.
I've tried everything. I introduced him to the vibrant romanticism and unfulfilled yearning inherent in much of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons' oftentimes transcendent lyrics. (Behold: "Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight / We can rock all day, we can roll all night / Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight / Oh yeah! Uh-huh! Alright!") I acquainted him with the mellifluous world of Paulspeak. Raised in the digital age, I let him handle a Kiss relic from a time long past: My beaten-up vinyl copy of Crazy Nights. I cited writer Victoria Moran, who described in her book Younger by the Day the benefit of listening to your parents' music, how it can be a "flexibility exercise" allowing you to "gain a commonality with generations outside your own." (Quick aside: For Paul and Gene, "gaining a commonality with generations outside your own" is code for scoring with not-old-enough-to-vote groupies -- subject matter so elegantly explored in "Christine Sixteen." Of course, I didn't explain this to my son.)
When every maneuver failed, I was left to wonder if someone got to my 12-year-old first. Was his indifference the result of others telling him that worshipping Kiss means greatly compromising your principles? "Circus clown sell-outs!" was the epithet I imagined his contemporaries shouting in the schoolyard. So I decided to set the record straight: Loving Kiss isn't about surrendering one's self to consumer fatigue, I told him. And it isn't about buying into an album release strategy that's the equivalent of holding your nose and swallowing your own vomit. When Kiss re-issues an already re-issued greatest hits comp with an all new moniker, track listing, cover, and fold-out poster of a shirtless Paul, it's because the band believes that creating and maintaining strong relationships with fans is just as fulfilling as the creative process itself. Or something like that.