Although rarely used, “twitterpated” is one of my favorite words. It is evocative of the commonly recognized cartoonish image of a concussed individual with his head being circled by twittering birds. Pate refers to the head while twitter refers to the excited, confused sounds made by a flock of little birds, – or a shrinkage of the intellect to a level comparable to that of a bird – becoming bird-brained.
Flower: [about two birds fluttering around] Well! What’s the matter with them?
Thumper: Why are they acting that way?
Friend Owl: Why, don’t you know? They’re twitterpated.
Flower, Bambi, Thumper: Twitterpated?
Friend Owl: Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You’re walking along, minding your own business. You’re looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head’s in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you’re walking on air. And then you know what? You’re knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!
Thumper: Gosh, that’s awful.
Flower: Gee whiz.
Friend Owl: And that ain’t all. It could happen to anyone, so you’d better be careful.
[points at Bambi]
Friend Owl: It could happen to you…
[points at Thumper]
Friend Owl: … or you, or even…
[Flower looks at Owl shyly]
Friend Owl: Yes, it could even happen to you!
Thumper: Well, it’s not gonna happen to me.
Bambi: Me neither.
Flower: Me neither.
Having watched the Walt Disney movie Bambi with my young son I discovered the concept of becoming twitterpated to be an excellent lead-in to an age appropriate discussion of sex in nature and the idea of adult human beings comparably falling in love. They call it “falling” for a good reason; and falling “madly” in love is evocative of a temporary form of insanity. Love is blind, as they say, not in the visual sense, but in the intellectual or moral sense. While twitterpated we lose our inhibitions and sometimes our moral compass, sound judgement is lost and common sense ignored. We throw caution to the wind. When humans become twitterpated they engage in seemingly abnormal behavior that goes far beyond the struggle for daily survival. Just as the lower animals display peculiar behavior in courtship and mating, so too, do humans.
When boy meets girl in nature, they sing – they dance; and so too, do humans like you.
As children we had a commonplace toy, a tiny pair of figurines, of Scottie dogs (Scottish Terriers), one was painted black and the other white; and each was mounted on its own magnetic base. When brought into close proximity they would be suddenly drawn to each other. In playing with magnets even a very young child can easily grasp the somewhat mysterious and invisible force we call magnetism – and relate that back to human behavior.
From whence did you fall when you fell in love? What was it you did not see while you were blind? For all your claims of genius; for all your claims of self-control; when it comes to sex you become utterly stupid. Sexual desire is an overpowering force of nature.
Without going into the intimate details of human intercourse one can still have a highly productive conversation about sex and human sexuality even with a very young child. What draws a bee to a flower? How do butterflies find each other? What is it about a girl that makes her attractive to boys? What is it about a boy that makes him attractive to girls? Why do boys act differently when girls are around then when they are just out with their friends? Why do girls start to act silly when a special boy is around? What does it mean to like or not like someone, and why? Why do people dance like silly geese? Why do people sing like birds? Is the song of a robin always a serenade?
Hardly touching upon gross anatomy, one can discuss human sensuality; that is to say, the role of the senses of sight, sound, and smell, that brings two individuals together. Feelings of attraction flow from the body but also exist in others. One may discuss how children feel about others but also how others feel about them. Touching the social aspect, one can discuss courtship, courtship display, rejection, pairing, bonding, and mating – even for life.
A child can be made more acutely observant of others’ behavior and better aware of his or her own.
Broadening and deepening the child’s understanding of the true meaning of twitterpation one must leap over and go beyond the physical attraction to point out that, just because a person is overwhelmingly attractive to you does not mean they will be good for you or even good to you. Twitterpation is, more often than not, troublesome.
Being twitterpated then is to be attracted to someone of the opposite sex; but attracted in the absence of good or even common sense or long-term reasoning.
There is a very dark side to being twitterpated, not touched upon in Bambi. In nature, mating is competitive, but, more often then not, the loser of the contest just walks, crawls, swims, or flies away. Among humans we have domestic violence, a love triangle, a crime of passion. While deer may butt heads (lock antlers) in a contest or show of strength and vitality, men, being vain, often go too far in competition with others and commit acts of homicide.
They say “forewarned is forearmed.” But that is never truly the case with twitterpation. No matter how carefully you admonish or preach to your children they’ll always come home one day, all moon-eyed and twitterpated.
Virtually everyone can recount enduring a disastrous relationship. A broken heart, a bad breakup or even a bitter divorce. We look back on these things and try to learn something from the experience. In explaining the ins and outs of complex human relationships to a child twitterpation explains practically the whole of it. Mommy and Daddy are getting divorced – they don’t love each other anymore. They were once twitterpated but now it’s worn off.
No matter how level-headed you might think yourself to be; and no matter how cultured, rational or intelligent you may be; when it comes to relationships you would be well justified in entering a plea of ‘temporary insanity’. You look back on these unhappy relationships and say to yourself: “What the hell was I thinking?” – Fact is, you weren’t; you were twitterpated.