Poor little rich boy;Parting shots

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Reva Klein on the lonely braggart.

Harry thinks he's pretty hot. Or cool. Whatever his temperature, he's always pointing out to envious admirers that he's got everything any 13-year-old could ever want.

Kids love to come to his house, where the sheer scale of things - space, quality, freedom - is intoxicating. He's even got his own bathroom!

On the surface, this is a boy with everything. As everyone who has anything to do with him knows, his dad makes loadsa money and drives a state-of-the-art turbo. His mum is friends with the rich and famous. They take expensive holidays a couple of times a year. His sister is a model. His uncle has a yacht.

As for tales of his exploits, they are never short of breathtaking. Whether it's playing tennis or meeting all the Arsenal players after the championship, his life is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Because of his articulacy, his social finesse and his confidence, teachers have high expectations of him but low tolerance of his gloating. It's one thing to have it all. It's another thing to know it, revel in it and expect everyone else to appreciate it. So, despite his poise and proficiency, teachers find his self-aggrandisement hard to take.

But like all really interesting things in life, Harry is not all that he appears to be. Beneath the Gatsbyesque exterior, there exists a boy who is quaking with insecurities. His parents are constantly in orbit and he sometimes doesn't see them for days on end. Family dinner times are events that happen at other people's houses and on telly - not at his house. Weekends are a whirl of sports and social activities and invariably involve other people who take centre stage. Just about the only time he has with his mum and dad is during the holidays - if it rains.

So poor little rich boy has to find some way of making himself feel loved and valued. Seeing that he has just about everything money can buy, he uses his material wealth as a way to draw attention to himself, if not affection from his peers.

He's hungry, this golden boy, whose monthly bill for tennis lessons costs more than what some of his classmates' families spend on clothing. But the very thing he craves is the one thing that money can't buy.

The bitter irony is that his behaviour is in danger of repelling the peers and teachers who could be giving him some measure of what he needs, or at the very least mitigating some of his feelings of emptiness. If he can't find someone soon who can cut through the surface and communicate with the real Harry, he's on course for getting stuck in a rut and alienating the people he needs for support and understanding. He needs to be made to feel appreciated for who he is, not what he owns.

Nobody likes a braggart, although they might be envious as hell of him. But until he finds people with whom he feels safe enough to shed his public persona, he's going to carry on being a very lonely boy.

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