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What's Important This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


The guy on TV took a monster kick square on the chin. His head jerked back, blood spilling out of his mouth, all over the stark white mat, and he fell with a solid thud. My dad and I cringed. "Ouch," I said.

The guy sitting next to Van Damme turned to him and said, "That's why they call it bloodsport, man."

I groaned, disgusted. My dad twisted his face into a gruesome expression of mock agony, which he held momentarily before we both burst out in laughter. I hit him full force in the face with a couch pillow. "Ow!" he said, laughing. "What was that for?"

"Hey," I retorted, "that's why they call it bloodsport."

Watching bad movies with Dad is always great, because we both have the same sense of humor, so we both think the same things are funny. We never have too many problems because it seems like we're always laughing.

My parents are very good about avoiding problems, mostly because they remember what it was like to be seventeen. Sometimes. They rarely lecture on family values or tell me "this is right" or force me to do anything, really. They recognize what's going to get me ticked and usually find a good way to navigate a touchy issue. Usually.

Even if they don't lecture, they can impart their values clearly enough in our everyday conversations. Most of what they tell me I can figure out on my own, but I've found one pervading family value underneath everything they do or say: family. Being with family is what's important to them, and therefore to me. That's why we have big Thanksgiving dinners and Passover seders with the whole extended family every year. That's why my parents were so mad when my aunt and uncle and cousins moved to California, because they thought they were running out on the family. That's why we try to take at least one family vacation every year. Because you only have so much time with your family, and my time is starting to run out.

Which isn't to say that my parents don't have values, or that they don't lay them on me. Actually, they're quite good at it.

"You know what we need?" I asked.

We were sitting downstairs; my mom, my dad and I. My sister was upstairs studying for a mid-term. Studying is important.

We usually eat dinner together but tonight Mom had a post-graduate course, and with midterms this week, everyone is basically on their own schedule, so we called in for pizza. Good pizza is important. Now, after dinner, Mom and Dad were eating leftover Chinese food and I was drinking orange juice. Eating dinner together is important, but studying and post-graduate courses are important, too.

"You know what we need?" I repeated.

"His face looks great. Doesn't it look great?" Mom asked my dad, referring to my ongoing battle with acne in which I was recently starting to gain an upper hand. Acne is important. They remind me every day.

"It really does. You having sex with Amanda or something?" Amanda is my girlfriend. Girlfriends are important. Dad told me that. Many times.

Shock spread quickly across Mom's face. "What?! You better not be having sex with Amanda. You'll both be jailbait." No premarital sex. VERY important.

"I better stop then. You know what we need?" Finally I had their attention. "Shot glasses."

My dad laughed. "For orange juice?"

"Yeah. Shot glasses. I want to do juice shots."

"Okay," Mom said. "I'II find a shot glass for you." Orange juice. Important.

Van Damme wins another match of the kumite, and the movie yields in favor of a commercial. I hit Dad with another pillow. Chaos ensues.

After two minutes of a wrestling brawl, we slump on the couch, shaking with laughter, trying to catch our breath.

"Do you have a meet on Sunday?" he asks me.

"I don't know. Probably not."

He makes a face.

"Sorry. Why?"

"Mom wants me to go to the museum on Sunday," he says, frowning. Museums. Definitely not important.

I'm going to college next year, so there probably won't be too many more couch-pillow fights or talks about orange juice shots and sex with sixteen-year-old girls. I'll miss them, I think. That's family. Important. Yeah, I'll miss it. But that's life. That's why they call it bloodsport.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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