Many children are show-offs. Until they realize how exhausting showing off can be in the long run. Unfortunately, not all of them realize that.
"You should only brag on the way home" – Astrid Lindgren. Photo: Imago / Froodmat
There they sit now and boast. "I beat him, I just beat him." – "None of them had a chance against me." – "She was shaking when she saw me." – "He couldn’t even handle my opening."
I pick up three boys from the chess tournament and load them into the back seat of the car. One still needs a booster seat, the others squat in booster seats. In their self-perception, however, there are three thrones on which they have settled, because they have won most of their games. Now the common people must pay homage to their heroic sagas. And the common people are me.
It doesn’t matter whether the sport is called chess, soccer, field hockey, handball or tennis. And it doesn’t matter whether the boys are five, seven or nine years old. The bragging after a win is as sure as the lavish blaming of others in the event of a loss.
Quickly, during the ride, the bragging detaches itself from its specific occasion and tips over into the general. It seems as if a winner can’t tolerate other winners next to him: "If you think you can keep up in Minecraft’s survival mode, you’ll get slapped away too!"
The tone alternates back and forth between smug, unbearably loud, and shrill; Munchausen was a taciturn and reserved fellow by comparison. It can go on like this for years, but at some point something changes in the back seat. One of them brags as usual, but the other two get into the outdoing contest only half-heartedly or not at all.
Nine-year-olds in business suits
Munchhausen, on the other hand, was a taciturn and reserved fellow.
It has simply become too exhausting for them to constantly want to be better than the best of the best. Suddenly, they prefer to steer the conversation in a different direction, where shrill increases and brute bluster have to take a back seat to shared giggles or childish shop talk about computer games.
I wonder and rejoice. No longer having to turn down my ears on these sports pickup trips is a clear gain in quality of life. I decide to drink one more beer while watching soccer in the pub in the evening.
Four young men are sitting at the next table. It’s hard not to notice that they are "junior" and "senior managers" at a large Berlin Internet company. There they sit now, bragging. "I knocked him out on the contract draft, just knocked him out." – "None of them stood a chance against my performance." – "She was already shaking when she saw my portfolio." – "He couldn’t even handle my sales strategy."
Their tone alternates between smug, unbearably loud and shrill; Munchausen was a hermit and shy journeyman by comparison. They’re not coming from a chess tournament, but from a weekend meeting. They no longer have to be picked up by their parents, and they haven’t needed child seats and booster seats for a long time.
And yet they, these nine-year-olds in business suits, need common folk to pay homage to their heroic sagas. Only: I am not the common people in this case. I pay and move on to another pub.