Risky Behavior

Shannon Kernaghan Social-Distance-Please-400 Risky Behavior Covid-19 Adventure Challenges Health Obsesive Behavior  taking risks

The expression of the day is “risky behavior” compliments of Covid-19 warnings on how to avoid transmission: don’t congregate, don’t shake hands and don’t expect coffee shops to touch your refillable cups. From quarantines and closed borders to canceled schools and supply shortages – the daily number of confirmed cases is alarming.

The meaning of risky behavior sure has altered since I was a teenager. As with previous generations, we had the usual collection of risks, but most referred to the perils of running with scissors and the prospect of having sex.

Fast forward to 2020. As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, I’m convinced that life for young people is becoming more restrictive by the hour. 

How easy I used to have it! When I went to a New Year’s Eve party as a teen, I brought along two invaluable things: taxi fare in case I couldn’t find a sober driver and a roll of mints for breath protection. Locking lips at the stroke of midnight was a given. I can’t recall every name or face, yet I do remember the kissing.

With the present-day virus risk, a few breath mints won’t cut it. Today, if people plan to kiss, they’ll need a hazmat suit as if handling radioactive isotopes. Add the caution of “spread the word, not the disease” – forget about sharing drinks or borrowing a friend’s lipstick. And make room, taxi fare (or Uber account): pack a supply of sanitizing gel, rubber gloves and face masks. If I were currently dating, I’d be a nervous wreck. I’d also need a larger purse for all the required items!

How do these findings translate to modern-day youth? If you’re brave enough to venture out on a date with someone you’ve been drooling over, even a brisk glove-covered handshake is going too far. Instead, blow a kiss from at least six feet apart.

Come to think of it, try not to drool. You might be contagious. I hope you two make a compatible duo because you might end up quarantined together.

Yikes! Dating never felt so risky.

audio song 
“Heartbreak”
by
Vibe Tracks

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Goldilocks Gets Lip Locked

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My friend said that her 15-year-old nephew is experiencing major exam tension. “Gawd, I’d hate to be 15 again!” she added.

“Really? I’d love to get a teenage do-over,” I said.

Sure, I remember being hypersensitive about everything. But I also recall many exciting memories. Accomplishments, discoveries and – best of all – crushes. Boys stopped having cooties and started looking good.

If only I could return with my present-day brain. Oh, the power I’d have over kissing. By fifteen I remained un-kissed, mainly from a lack of options. Namely, the boys who paid attention to me were either too boring or too intimidating. Okay, so maybe I was picky.

I didn’t long for the studious bookworm who brought me gifts from his family trip to Germany. How thoughtful. Nor did I crave the brawling bad boy with engine grease under his nails. I started to feel like Goldilocks who couldn’t find the right bed.

My mom might not like to hear that bed analogy.

Speaking of Mom, years later she sent me a newspaper clipping about the first boy who kissed me, reporting how he was sent to prison for something grand – grand theft auto? grand larceny? 

I forget his crime but thanks all the same, Mom, for rubbing in my superlative taste in dates. And if I had my present brain at age 15, I’d be smart enough NOT to tell my mom about my first kiss!

As for that kiss, it was a memorable moment largely because I never saw it coming. I was on a date with an older boy from my high school. After a party, we rode home with another couple. In the car’s back seat, suddenly – SLURP – he caught me in a serious lip lock. With eyes wide open, I watched the poor guy work so diligently, maneuvering his mouth over mine. 

Was it a good first kiss? I was in too much shock for any useful rating system. Of course I had to break up with him. I wasn’t ready for all that attention from males. 

The next boy I kissed at age sixteen (slow starter me) pulled away from our embrace and said, “Know what would make this feel way better?”

Here it comes, I thought, convinced he was about to expound on the comfort advantage of removing our clothing. I’d heard plenty of juicy stories by then.

“What?”

“If you closed your mouth a little.”

Huh…? I figured the object of necking was to open wide and say “ah.” Instead, I was a big-mouthed bass. I’ll forever be grateful for his kiss coaching, although I had to break up with him too. How could I stand the shame?

While a self-professed slow starter, I was an equally quick learner. Once I figured out how to lock lips without a negative critique, I quite liked everything about necking.

Dear 15-year-old nephew: may you survive the teen years with more laughter than tears. And if you haven’t already, have fun learning how to kiss. It only gets better!

Audio version song “Blue Sky Song”
  by
Quincas Moreira

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Happiness is an ‘A’

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I’m someone who strives for high scores and enjoys any that come my way. For example, I like getting an A on tests, even if I’m taking a class for my own pleasure or if it’s a course I don’t like.

Somewhere during my formative past, my parents must have impressed me with the benefits of good performance and honor rolls. As a result, receiving an A in anything still makes me feel all shiny and new.

While I haven’t been to school for the past few years, I did recently take an exam. An eye exam.

Luckily, I didn’t have to cram for this one although I did rest my peepers, keeping them closed in the waiting room. I wanted to hear three simple words: “Everything. Is. Fine.” A healthy diagnosis is like an A on a math test.

Now math I can live without, except when I’m scanning my bank account or taking inventory of the chicken nuggets in my Happy Meal, but I am concerned about my vision.

Before meeting with the optometrist, I badgered the assistant during my pretest: What does this machine do? Should I be seeing those squiggly lines? Has my prescription changed? Did I pass?

The woman smiled, trying to keep up: It checks for glaucoma, yes, no, and yes, with flying colors. 

Now give the girl a lollipop or better yet, a red pepper. I read that peppers are the stuff of good eye health.

And give that optometric assistant a raise, for being so patient.
When the doctor invited me into his office to conduct further tests, I immediately started babbling a nervous shtick as he went through the “better or worse?” drill.

Perhaps it was the physical closeness or the dimmed lighting but while he examined me, I felt the need to share self-deprecating anecdotes, as if fishing for a compliment or trying to get a laugh.

The doctor likely thought, Too much information, I’m only interested in your corneas!

By the time I finished my stand-up (in this case sit-down) routine and he completed the exam, I realized I hadn’t asked a single thing about him. I left the office knowing exactly what I already knew about myself – how boring.

I didn’t mind handing over my credit card to pay the bill, not only because of the efficient treatment and high-tech equipment that put my mind – and eyes – at ease, but because these friendly professionals were forced to spend 30 minutes with high score-seeking me.

For the record, I did get an A – no prescription change and no deterioration. Unless you include my nervous banter during the exam, which needs some improvement.

Next month, I’ll be shooting for an A with my family physician. That gives me a few weeks to brush up my routine. In a small room with stirrups and cold instruments, you know there’s going to be plenty of nervous chatter in the opening act.

At least from my end. 

Audio version song
“Elevator”
by
Fascinating Earth Objects 

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‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes

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It’s the late 1990s and I’m seated in a restaurant with two people. Before we’ve even ordered our meal, one says to me, “I hope you don’t mind if we smoke.” The other person smiles and reaches for her own cigarette pack.

By the time the appetizers arrive, my eyes are burning and my nose is plugged. I know that in less than an hour I’ll have a full-blown headache.

Now, if the two people were my friends, they’d be considerate enough to go outside, or I’d be brave enough to ask them not to smoke at the table. Since both are my employers, I say nothing. If only, I think, I live long enough to see smoking banned in restaurants.

To my surprise and delight, my wish is granted in the 2000s. Between the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Act, I don’t have to suffer the wrath of other people’s second hand smoke in a myriad public places. No more gasping over my glass of wine or arriving home in clothes that reek.

My wishing didn’t stop at cigarette smoke. Let’s be blunt: I’m not old enough to claim hippie status. Yet I am old enough to know that I’d be laughed out of a Pink Floyd-infused party with the prediction that pot will be legal in Canada by 2018.

No matter how clairvoyant (or high) the prognosticator, legalized marijuana was a dream until recently. It’s not that I smoke – see above allergies – it’s that I’m appalled at how people have been arrested for possession of a few joints.

If a criminal record isn’t enough, this black mark prevented people from crossing borders. They had no choice besides pony up money to apply for a legal pardon and be patient as the process takes years. If only, I think again, I live long enough to see pot decriminalized.

Again my wish is granted! But . . . is legal weed good or bad news for our communities?  I’ve read reams of logical argument and support. If I make one prediction, it’s that the jury will be out for a long while. Toggling the benefits of creating new opportunities in the marijuana market and the challenges of figuring out how to monitor drivers who toke (merely two of the issues), these early days will be interesting.

Until then, I’m happy to enjoy a smoke-free meal in public and to know that recreational pot smokers won’t be demonized and criminalized.

Thank you, Smoke Genie.

Audio music track
Cumulus Nimbus
by Quincas Moreira

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