My favorite card in the popular college-aged card game, Cards Against Humanity, says quite simply "Licking things to claim them as your own."
I encountered this card during my freshman year at university, whilst playing a game with some of my floor mates and a number of visiting pre-frosh. I will admit, we were supposed to be on our best behavior - making a good impression and whatnot. What actually occurred may have been off-putting if looked upon with too serious of an eye.
To make a long story short, I drew this particular card and absolutely lost it. I was crying with laughter, which brought my curious suite mate Neena over. I read her the card, to which she showed no obvious reaction other than bending down so our heads were about level. Without warning she licked my shoulder, whispered "I claim you" or something to that effect, and walked nonchalantly away. A very confused pre-frosh nervously asked me whether that was "a normal college thing." Reflecting on it an hour or so later, licking people in front of pre-frosh was perhaps not the best of ideas. Then again, perhaps neither was Cards Against Humanity in the first place.
This memory only cropped up again recently. Over the summers I work as a youth sailing instructor. This past week, I had to physically stop a group of eight and ten year-old boys who had found a dead fish floating off of the dock and were daring each other to lick it. Being the responsible adult that I am, I confiscated said fish with a sigh and a simple request for the future: "Please don't lick that." Now, I must keep in mind that these were some of the same boys that I caught pelting people with blackberries during a game of capture-the-flag. They were shouting little war cries which amounted to "I'm gonna stain you!" I'd had to take them aside and explain with real annoyance that I really shouldn't have to tell them not to peg people with blackberries.
As I threw away the offending animal, I couldn't help but feel a little frustrated. Wasn't it, after all, simple common sense? Don't lick dead stuff. Take all the photos you want. If you're looking for an adventure, how about poking roadkill with a stick? Don't throw food at other children in an attempt to stain their clothes. Don't drink the lake water. And for goodness sake, no you cannot bring a hot dog in your boat with you to use as a sword. Let's just try and think a little before we act. Some decisions are simply so clearly bad ones. At least, that's what we would like to believe.
Really, let's acknowledge the truth. We've all made a lot of questionable youthful decisions. When I was 11 years old, my family sailed to Alaska. On the way up, we stopped in a small port in rural Canada. While playing with what seemed to be a million-year old rope swing, two hikers came up the small beaten path. Speaking in terribly cliche Canadian accents, they informed us to be careful, as "there's a bear down there, eh." They went on their ways. As soon as we were alone, I went down that trail, leaving my nine and seven-year old brothers behind. As I vanished around a corner, the last thing I heard was bets on whether I'd come back.
For those of you wondering, I found the bear. And to be more specific, it was three bears - a mother black bear and her two cubs. Once I found them, the exhilaration ended. I was quite certain I was about to be consumed, without even the necessary spices to aid my poor flavor. I backtracked around the corner as quickly as I could, and ran for it. I escaped and returned to my parents, eager to relate what by this time I considered a rather brave scientific expedition. My parents didn't agree. I received a stern talking-to which ended with a simple disappointed statement: "I shouldn't have to tell you not to chase a bear."
There are too many things that no one should have to tell us, but they tell us anyways. We put our mistakes down to any number of things - an undeveloped brain, poor decision-making skills, alcohol. We'd like to relegate such senseless decisions to our childhood, but if we're honest with ourselves - common sense is a lifelong struggle. No matter how old we get, how wise or successful, there will always be someone keeping an eye. Somewhere, lurking in the background, there will be someone throwing up their hands in exasperation, stunned at our poor logic, nudging us along with that ever-present plea - please don't lick that.