CHILIBAH!

You know, folks, modern technology has transformed the nature of human communication, enriching beyond all measure our knowledge, our culture, our very lives. Truly, we live in a global village of the '90s wherein we are all created equal as part of the worldwide community of love. And though our cherished information infrastructure should remain a haven of expression unfettered by arbitrary or malevolent constrictions from without, at times like these we should stop and reflect that there once was a day when we didn't need computers and modems and internets to achieve a widespread community spirit where all peoples of the world speak a common language.

As evidence, I say to you this: "Chilibah!"

The answer lies with our children. Somehow, kids from age 7 to 14 are able to disseminate ideas and idiosyncrasies throughout their cohort by purely organic means, like they've all got "alt.asshole.pubescent" hardwired into their fucking skulls. I'm not talking about the obvious biological shit that's caused by hormones, but the more subtle things, the pronouncements of a Jungian collective kiddie subconscious. For instance: that Power Rangers shall be termed cool, and that they shall later be termed sucky, or urban legends like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials eating Pop Rocks and Coke until he exploded. I, of course, am responsible for generating a small but important ripple in the global adolescent psyche, when in the first grade I contributed to the English language the word "wedgie." But right now I wanna talk about mah-ing, bah-ing, and chilibah-ing.

When my friend Ruffin and I attended Waynesville Junior High School in the mid-'80s, a favored pastime among the male student body was to play an elaborate and silly game generally referred to as "feeding" one another. It was most prevalent among the rednecks, but its popularity touched the jocks and freaks and punks and, hell, probably even some of the more adventuresome girls. Deeply loaded with sexual semiotic content, the game involved holding one's thumb and forefinger as in an "OK" gesture, as if holding one's own penis, although the hand might be so far distant from the crotch as to defy all but the most fanciful concepts of human physiology. If one's "victim" happened to look at the proffered hand, then disgrace fell upon the victim, for by his gazing upon the representation of another male's genitals, it has now been determined that he is "queer."

Sounds like loads of fun, don't it?

That's the basic premise, which was endlessly embellished upon, usually in agreed-upon sets of rules, like variations on poker or billiards. One common proviso was that the hand could not be forced in front of the victim's line of sight; you had to make the victim turn and look at your hand for him to really be gay. Also de rigeur was the victim's punishment for looking; the feeder was entitled to punch him in the arm. But if the feeder didn't then "wipe it off" (rub the struck area of the arm), then the victim got to hit the feeder back. Plus, if the feeder held his hand "above the belt" at the moment of eye contact, then the power of arm-hitting immediately reverted to the victim.

Some feeding enthusiasts required that the hand be in close proximity to the victim's face and mouth, the better to simulate fellatio. In hardcore circles, the feeder, once successful in snaring his fag, would physically press his hand against the victim's mouth, while chortling with victory or making guttural caveman noises like "MAH!" or "BAH!"

Now, me and Ruffin knew a guy named Jack Chambers who was one of the grandmasters of feeding. Jack was a good ol' boy, but he was a smart guy, and all too aware of how ridiculous the whole feeding thing was. He trailblazed his own cool, satirical variety that became the new standard. If feeding was the Internet, Jack Chambers would have been Netscape. Jack's greatest innovation was to exaggerate the facial contact and accompanying vocalizations, smearing his pretend dick across his poor victim's face and ripping forth with a loud, hearty "M-M-M-MAMAMAMAH!" or "B-B-BBBABMAMABAMAH!" Or, most famously, "CHILI-BAHHHH!"

There must have been some magic in putting the simple word "chili" in there, for the "chilibah" became an essential part of the process. That's what our clique came to christen the sport: no longer feeding, but forevermore chilibah-ing.

Alas, as with all great cultural phenomena, there came the chilibah backlash. We got so out of control that a lot of the teachers started to literally ban chilibahing from their classrooms; some of the younger, hipper teachers even figured out what it meant. In classes like Mrs. Brookshire's algebra class, we needed a code word to replace "chilibah," and the ever-reliable Jack Chambers came through: we began using the inexplicably perfect phrase "MUSTARD GREENS!" Valiant conservationist measures like these aside, lot of us just got sick of being constantly on guard for wayward imaginary penises, and refused to play anymore. There was one dumbass named Brian Green whom me and Ruffin used to chilibah into oblivion, until he couldn't take it anymore. He took himself out of the game by responding to us in his moronic drawl: "He who holds none, has none!" Although this Green guy was unspeakably lame, he did have a point there, in a Zen kind of way.

Anyhow, all of this would remain a silly little footnote among the memories of me and Ruffin's silly little school days, but for the fact that Shea experienced the chilibah as well, while attending school in Hendersonville, some sixty miles east! Damn!

Well, the Hendersonville boys didn't say "chilibah," of course, but Shea's account is virtually identical to feeding as it existed in Waynesville pre-Jack Chambers. Shea says they didn't do much of the facial stuff or speaking-in-tongues exhortations, but they did make "NNNNNEEEEYONG!" sounds, like a pretend airplane. The punching and wiping shit was more or less consistent.

And learning of things like this, my friends, is what gives me hope for the human race: the undeniable assurance that the young people of the world will somehow, come hell or high water, find a means to produce and transmit and enjoy materials and concepts that may be of an indecent or obscene nature, though the kids may be endowed with nothing more than word of mouth, force of fist, and power of spirit. And to any government, organization or individual who would have it otherwise, I have only this to say:

CHILI-BBBBBAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! Made you look, cocksuckers.


(Originally published in The Lard Letter, February 1996.)

D. Trull