Parents are continually influencing various aspects of their child's character development. You know, important things, like the growth of social competence and self-esteem, as well as how frequently a kid says "please" and "thank you," and doesn't hang up on telemarketers. Then there's the slightly less vital stuff they mold: favorite foods, mannerisms, the degree of intensity at which to loathe the New York Yankees.
However -- and much to a parent's chagrin -- the lion's share of a child's character-shaping was completed way back when sperm and egg first met and mingled. From English author Ian McEwan: "Cheerful or neurotic, kind or greedy, curious or dull, expansive or shy and anywhere in between; it can be quite an affront to parental self-regard, just how much of the work has already been done."
I'm not quite ready to chalk up my 12-year-old's perpetual disinterest to basic genetics, since doing so means hoisting the ole white flag, but I am beginning to fret, for despite rounds of intensive, grease-painted, flame-spewing persuasion, my son refuses to enlist in the Kiss Army.
I've tried everything. I introduced him to the vibrant romanticism and unfulfilled yearning inherent in much of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons' oftentimes transcendent lyrics. (Behold: "Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight / We can rock all day, we can roll all night / Tomorrow and tonight, tomorrow and tonight / Oh yeah! Uh-huh! Alright!") I acquainted him with the mellifluous world of Paulspeak. Raised in the digital age, I let him handle a Kiss relic from a time long past: My beaten-up vinyl copy of Crazy Nights. I cited writer Victoria Moran, who described in her book Younger by the Day the benefit of listening to your parents' music, how it can be a "flexibility exercise" allowing you to "gain a commonality with generations outside your own." (Quick aside: For Paul and Gene, "gaining a commonality with generations outside your own" is code for scoring with not-old-enough-to-vote groupies -- subject matter so elegantly explored in "Christine Sixteen." Of course, I didn't explain this to my son.)
When every maneuver failed, I was left to wonder if someone got to my 12-year-old first. Was his indifference the result of others telling him that worshipping Kiss means greatly compromising your principles? "Circus clown sell-outs!" was the epithet I imagined his contemporaries shouting in the schoolyard. So I decided to set the record straight: Loving Kiss isn't about surrendering one's self to consumer fatigue, I told him. And it isn't about buying into an album release strategy that's the equivalent of holding your nose and swallowing your own vomit. When Kiss re-issues an already re-issued greatest hits comp with an all new moniker, track listing, cover, and fold-out poster of a shirtless Paul, it's because the band believes that creating and maintaining strong relationships with fans is just as fulfilling as the creative process itself. Or something like that.