Saturday, October 18, 2008

Phases of the Moon

I was mooned for the very first time in my life this week. That might come as a shock, but it's true. The mooning took place in our den. It's not a den of iniquity or a den of ill repute. It's a respectable place with books and a computer and a globe. Now, I'll describe the incident and you can decide if what occurred constitutes a full moon or some other phase of the moon.

Lyle was sitting at the computer and I was standing behind him glancing over his shoulder at news of the day. A three year-old ran in with a mischievous look on her face. She was wearing a yellow and orange striped Halloween-themed shirt and nothing else. She turned, bent her knees, stuck her derriere out in an exaggerated stance and wagged. While wagging and pumping her arms she yelled out in rhythm with the wag, "HINEY, HINEY, HINEY.." and then she ran.

I think that constitutes a mooning. One might argue that since she already was without pants, a public pulling down of the pants is a required element of the moon. But I think it's all about the attitude and the attitude was most definitely there. As her parent, I feel it's important to stress that this behavior has not been taught and was completely shocking to us. She's never witnessed a mooning. The only moon she knows is in the night sky. So this got me thinking that something about the "moon" must be innate. When did it start? Where did it originate? Why is my toddler doing it? And because of my need to get to the bottom of things, I did some research.

The first recorded mooning (although the term hadn't yet been coined) took place during the Hundred Years War. The year was 1346 and in the Battle of Crecy several hundred Normandy soldiers "exposed their backsides" to the British archers. One can only imagine the officer in charge shouting out the order, "Hear Ye! In honor of our noble King, I have a plan....." Now I am not a soldier and I don't have a mind for military maneuvers, but to me, this seems ill-advised. Because while the Normandy soldiers felt they were presenting something akin to this:

The archers saw only this:

The record is scant but says that when the soldiers dropped their pants and their defenses, "many of them paid a high price for doing so."

For over 400 years the verb "moon" has meant "to expose something to light". Since the mid-1700's the moon has been the shape metaphor for the buttocks. Surprisingly, it took college students over two hundred years to put these two thoughts together and it wasn't until 1968 that the modern day usage of the term "mooning" was coined. Before that, mooning was a perfectly respectable word. Besides shedding light on something, it also meant "wandering idly" or "romantically pining". The "mooning young boy" described in classic literature is of a bygone era. The modern-day mooning young boy is not nearly so endearing.

In the news recently there was a headline which may have caught your attention. I know it caught mine: "College Debate Coach Fired After Mooning Opposing Team". Apparently Dr. Bill Shanahan, an assistant professor of communications at Fort Hays State in Kansas, just ran out of things to say. Yet, as with our incident in the den, it's all about phases of the moon. Unlike our mooner, this coach was initially wearing pants which he did very flagrantly pull down. However, in his defense, only the khakis came down and not the boxers. No skin was involved but by all accounts the attitude was there. Some feel that with this more subtle phase of the moon, firing was a harsh punishment. I disagree solely on the grounds that a debate coach should have more verbal skills at his disposal. He said that his actions "must be judged in the unique context of college debate, marked by its passion and rigorous intellectual engagement." And ability to unbutton your pants faster than the opponent.

In 2006, a Maryland court of appeals ruled that mooning is a form of artistic expression protected by the United States Constitution, which I'm sure would please the founding fathers. Furthermore, although the court considered mooning "disgusting" they also considered it a form of free speech and not indecent exposure. So, legally, our mooner has a leg to stand on. She has two legs to stand on as a matter of fact. Two legs to stand on and wag her rear end at us.

And while the U.S. legally allows it, the NFL frowns upon it. In 2005, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss celebrated a touchdown by pretending to pull down his pants and moon the Green Bay fans. The papers dubbed it a faux moon. And as we all know, this is not in keeping with the morals and values of the NFL and he was fined $10,000.

The African country of Senegal takes an even firmer stance. Nineteen-year-old Patrick Devine from Ireland was acting on a dare when he dropped his pants and mooned the home of the Senegalese Governor. Patrick was spotted by a local man who tackled and detained him until authorities arrived. Normally, Patty sounds like he was a good boy. He was an engineering student at Queen's University and was there in Senegal teaching English to children. But there's a time and place for all things and Senegal is not the place for mooning and while the neighbors are watching is not the time. For a month, with diplomats frantically working in his behalf, Patty lived in La Maison de la Correction where he reportedly shared a cell with 40 other prisoners and pulled not a single mooner.

So what do we do with our cheeky toddler? How do we keep her from a life of NFL fines and incarceration in foreign prisons? Maybe if she'd been wearing pants at the time, the urge to moon wouldn't have struck her. Maybe she knows a three-year-old hiney is still pretty cute. Maybe it was a form of protest in response to naptime. It's hard to say, but to be safe we may take away all of her pull-on (and off) pants. And to be doubly safe, maybe today I'll go buy her a belt. A complicated belt.


Kelly said...

My Friend Sarah V and I used to moon cars passing in front of the house when we were about 6. That is until the bishop's son stopped and gave us a little lecture. He must have been about 17. I still remember thinking that he was out of line to think he could tell us what to do. So as he drove off. We did it again! That'll teach him to be so high and mighty.

Jen Bay said...

I personally never felt the need, nor saw the draw in a "full" moon - when it comes to human mooning, I will always prefer a "new" moon. (you know, the one you can't see...)

Lisa said...

Funny, funny, funny!!! Should be turned into a book. Not too long at all!!!! Funny. Personally, I like hineys. Just little ones though. After the age of four, it's just not as sweet.