My father would have been eighty years old today, and I’m pretty sure he would have liked to have made it that far, if only to cock a further snook at the physician who shrugged and said “We can keep him alive one more year” — back around 1999.
An ornery cuss, you might think, and you’d be right. And tasked with raising five children from the very core of boomerdom, he worked diligently at being a hardass.
Today the hardass is derided as some sort of atavistic throwback to the Cro-Magnon, superfluous in the age of Shiny Happy People — until something needs to be done in a hurry. (There are those who believe that nothing should be done in a hurry; their moral center is the United Nations, which by design is incapable of anything resembling speed.)
But let’s say you’re faced with something like this:
Say you had a problem with bugs in your kitchen. You had a big pile of spilled sugar in the middle of the kitchen floor, and it just kept attracting bugs. You complain to me that you’ve tried everything: roach motels, bait traps, hermetically sealing your house, but all to no avail since the sugar keeps attracting bugs.
I’m just going to stand there and blink in goggle-eyed amazement, wondering “Why don’t you try getting rid of the sugar in the middle of the floor?”
Because that would be a hardass response, and that sort of thing is simply not done. Besides, some entities not officially classified as bugs might come along and lay claim to a few crystals here and there, and it would be so wrong to deny them. (I speak as someone who scraped a few off the side back in the day; it pretty much killed my sweet tooth.)
The essence of hardassery is that stopping the unwanted behavior comes first; if you’re lucky, you might be shown the error of your ways later on, but right now you’re getting a dose of aversion therapy. (If you’re an errant child, said dose might be applied directly to your backside.) This is simply a recognition of the well-established principle that anyone able to feel pain is at least somewhat trainable. There’s a significant the-buck-stops-here component as well, anathema to those whose modus operandi relies on appeals of unfavorable judgments.
In an era distinguished by endless wails of “You’re not the boss of me!” the hardass reminds you, well, we’ll just see about that. And every time we lose one, we sink a little bit farther into the muck.