My best friend is a self described rebel. It’s was cool in high school, noble in college, and sort of edgy but irritating in our late twenties. The dude is now thirty and he’s still all about the things he’s not about. Is there some age where rebellion stops being cool? Or have I just sold out and become part of the system?

Ex-Punk from Brampton

Here’s the thing XP, rebelling against The Man is always cool…but it only counts as rebelling if The Man gives a shit. When I was four years old, jamming a handful of rocks into my mouth was the act of a madman, and so against the social compact that strangers would bound from their houses to prevent it. When I was ten, I was suspended for farting into a pencil case and tricking my friend into smelling “these weird erasers I found”. I’m not sure what I was rebelling against there, but it was a great bit. High school was my peak rebellion window but I suspect The Man was more annoyed than outraged, past that everyone in my life was either too tolerant, indifferent, or wrapped up in their own shit to have strong reactions to my choices.

To clarify this sliding scale, I’ve made a helpful chart indicating the threshold for serious rebellion at a variety of ages.

0-1 year old: Any behaviour that is not sleeping, feeding, or burping

3 years old: Cutting own hair and refusing touch-ups

5 years old: Hiding jacket in bush so you can wear insufficiently warm Halloween costume in keeping with your original artistic vision

7 years old: Riding bike to other side of town to poke dead porcupine with stick

10 years old: Insist on addressing parents by proper first names at all times

13 years old: Climbing up onto neighbours roof so you can smoke cigarettes and and think free from the haze of hypocrisy in your house

16: Quit school to focus on developing your ska band’s sound

19: Live in abandoned church a few blocks away from your barista job

25: Re-enroll in highschool with fraudulent identification so your can sell weed and hand out Marxist literature

30: Crash zeppelin filled with bees into WTO meeting

40: Find and abscond with original golden plates Joseph Smith used to create Mormonism, tell no one.

50: Create perpetual motion machine and drive it mockingly around M.I.T’s faculty lounge

80: Not die in timely fashion, thus depriving offspring of tasty inheritance.


My sister is always bossing and yelling at me to do things the way she wants. Her friends always tell me my face is ugly with jam and that my fort will fall apart. And then they break my fort and say I couldn’t even be a Ninja because I am white from Canada. Why are girls so mean?

Jed, 6 years old

Let us address the elephant in the room first: while your pigment and geography are a non-issue, the fact that your response to your couch fort being dissembled was to write a letter to your parents’ weird friend forever precludes you from being a ninja. You ain’t ’bout that life. At least blow a handful of pepper into their faces on your way out of the room.

Now, in terms of the bossiness and the jam shaming, this the classic conflict between a meddling realist and a retreating idealist. Your sister sees the messiness of your situation as a failure of process, as opposed to a bohemian looseness that allows for personal definition. She can’t see the fort for the cushions, or a smile for the jam. She is not mean, she is blind. But still, maybe run a cloth over your face real quick, at some point you might want friends in that fort.