On the Color of Dinosaurs
One morning in the second grade, our assignment was to color dinosaurs. A girl in my class came over and asked me what color a diplodocus was. Suddenly, all of the things that usually made me an outsider – I was pale, weird, vacuously dreamy, and read a lot of books – made me appear to be an authority.
And I did know about dinosaurs. So I tried to explain to Shirley that really, no one knew what color dinosaurs were.
As I talked, I watched my fleeting authority evaporate in her cute button-eyes.
So I quickly amended, “But the diplodocus, yeah, he was gray with a brown head.”
“Okay,” she said. “Tyrannosaurus?”
I made something up.
One of her friends said to her, “You’re listening to something Tobey says?”
“Only about how the dinosaurs were colored,” said Shirley, confidently crayoning one of the most ferocious of the earth’s carnivores a stunning green and pink.
If only I had been man enough to realize it, here, laid bare before me, was the One Great Secret of Masculine Authority: If you don’t know the answer, bray about the subject loudly and confidently, and maybe no one will realize that you’re a complete idiot. People would rather hear a really stupid answer than believe there’s no answer at all.