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W. Bruce Cameron


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Conversation With the College Boy


Editor's Note: The following column was originally published in 2007.

My son graduated from high school and got accepted into college without, so far as I could see, ever getting out of bed in the daytime. By the time he managed to drag himself out the door and get to school, there couldn't have been anyone remaining in the building but the night janitor.

"Son," I would lecture him, "a man needs a goal in life besides eating all of his father's food."

He would nod. "Got any more drumsticks?"

"Are you learning anything at school that could help you with a career? Like, floor waxing?"

He would shrug. "Saw a good video in math today. Are you going to eat your potatoes?"

I called his high-school counselor with a desperate question. "Are there any colleges that take students without aptitude?"

He applied to the best college in the state, carefully choosing that school's academic program because he had friends there. As a backup, I sent off for some fliers from schools that were easier to get into, such as The International Institute for Spot-Welding and the American School of Bait.

But despite my dire predictions, he was accepted, which he incorrectly interprets to mean fathers can sometimes be wrong. He loves college, though he says it's "hard to get up for my morning classes."

His earliest class is at noon.

"I'm learning things I never knew before, like how to manage money," he says enthusiastically. "I need you to send me some."

"I thought you were learning to manage it."

"Right, so I need some to manage."

"What about your classes — have you been paying attention to your videos?"

"Dad," he snorts derisively, "that was high school. This is college. You don't watch videos — everything's on DVD."

"But are you learning, son?"

"Well, in nutrition I learned that your diet is terrible."

"I meant, are you learning something useful?"

"Dad. You eat way too much saturated fat. Plus, your carbon footprint is too big.

Your savings rate is way behind the rest of the industrialized nations, and you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies."

"So all you've learned in college is that your father is a big, fat idiot."

"Not at all! I already knew that."

"Son, I am investing a lot of money in your education so you can get a good job and pay me back."

"Yeah, we learned in economics class not to do that.

They said all you geezers expect our generation to pay for your retirement, but that we should repudiate that. Also, in psychology we learned it would be better for your mental health if you kept working until you dropped dead. So like, $100."


"A hundred would be good. You know, until my next allowance payment."

"A hundred that you would then repudiate?"

"Well, it's what they said to do in econ class. If you don't want me to learn all this stuff, you shouldn't have sent me to college. Oh, and hey, I read from some of your writings in my speech class. Got an A on it."

"Really? That's great! Sounds like your speech professor has excellent taste."

"Yeah, it was about the decline of the American newspaper column."

"I want you to come home."

"Dad, I'm kidding you. You know that a loss of a sense of humor is an early indicator of serious mental deterioration?"

"It's also an indicator that I have a smart-aleck son who is causing me financial deterioration."

"Wow, 'smart-aleck'; you are such what we call an 'anachronism.'"

"You're right, maybe I should stop sending you money — it's so old-fashioned, so anachronistic."

"Except that you said you would," he reminds me.

"Maybe I think it's best to repudiate that."

"Dad, I'm your youngest child, and obviously you're having trouble adjusting to the fact that I'm a mature adult. It's very psychological."

"Perhaps I'm having trouble adjusting to the fact that I'm sending you all this money just so they can teach you that everything your father tells you is wrong."

He tells me that on the contrary, he's finding out what a smart man his father is, and I agree to send him money. It's something else he's learning in college: How to Manipulate His Father.

To write Bruce Cameron, visit his website at To find out more about Bruce Cameron and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at



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