Monday, March 26, 2012


There's a daycare facility on the first floor of my town's fancy new YMCA. Each day, on my way to and from my workout, I see the preschoolers running around in the center's outside park.

As I walk by, I play a little game with myself. I try to spot my daughter and her friends. Well, not them of course, they're in middle school now where recess is but a fond memory. Instead, I look for the closest thing I can find to their adorable 4-year old selves. There's the petite but energetic brunette with a riot of curls, the taller blonde with brilliant pale blue eyes. And there she is! The one with bangs and pigtails, dressed in pink. All pink, all the time. That was my daughter.

This morning as I left my yoga class, I heard one of these girls say "Let's play unicorn!" Her friends were about to comply — and "Why not?" one might ask, unicorns are very cool — when another girl countered with ...

"Let's play ninjas!"

"NINJAS!!!!" the park erupted in joyful consent.

You see, unicorns may be cool, but ninjas are ... well ... NINJAS!!!

According to Wikipedia, the modern equivalent of Encyclopedia Britannica (although nowhere near as exacting), ninjas were mercenary spies or warriors in feudal Japan. Today, the word "ninja" can be used as a noun or a verb or an adjective. So, in theory, a person who is a ninja could be a really ninja ninja and that ninja ninja could go ninja something. From what I gather, this last usage often means procure, as in "Let's go ninja us some free ice cream." But, it can also connote sneaking about. "Let's ninja around and find out what's going on." And, sometimes it means to beat or win. "I totally ninja'd that video game!"

My daughter and some of her friends use the word ninja frequently. It appears as graffiti on their notebooks, in their digital texts and in their analog conversations.

If you Google "ninja," you'll have to use all your ninja skills to get through the hits — more than 500 million of them. There are more than half a million "ninja" videos on YouTube. There are thousands of "ninja apps" for the iPhone (and despite trying to ninja the iTunes password out of her dad, my daughter is still unable to buy any of them without our permission).

I just saw a story about a medical marijuana delivery guy in California who was robbed by ... you guessed it, ninjas. Really.

So, in my never-ending quest to be the cool mom, I looked into how to be a ninja. According to some ninja teens from Nickelodeon's show Supah Ninjas, in order to be ninja, you have to:

1. Have a signature ear-splitting ninja cry
(Somehow, I don't think "Clean up this room!!!!" qualifies.)

2. Develop a signature ninja move, like an awesome sidekick or flying triple salchow without skates
(Right, I'll work on that. Right after I win the gold medal for the parallel bars.)

3. Dress in a lot of black
(Now, this one, I've got covered. I'm a 50-year old woman who majored in drama and grew up in New York City. I'm all about black.)

4. Own a stealthy ninja weapon — something that looks like an ordinary stick, but ... Watch out!
(Now where did I put those nunchucks? Would wooden spoons work instead?)

5. Collect a ninja posse of ninja friends
(Given that all my peers are as overtired as I am, this might be difficult. Maybe the rest of the PTO moms would like to participate. At the next meeting, I'll have to ninja around and see which ones are most ninja.)

In the car the other day, trying to make conversation in my usual lame way, I asked my daughter "What's cooler? A vampire or a ninja?" Her response made it perfectly clear that there was no response necessary.

"Ninja. Duh."

All right, I give up. (I'll bet a ninja would never give up, right?) As a middle-aged mom, I cannot possibly understand ninja. Or, more to the point, my ninja days (assuming I ever had any) are over. So, I'll hang up my ninja mask and end my ninja post with a "ninja joke" (27.6 million hits on Google):

Q. How many ninjas does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. 101. 1 to hold the lightbulb and 100 more to turn the house.

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