My wonderful son, Trilby, only takes sides to support the underdog. We are not a sports-oriented family, so side-taking in a physical sense doesn't come up very often.
Last evening it was past five and he hadn't turned up from school. I called around to his friends' houses, and eventually it came out that he had joined a group of other middle schoolers preparing for the big Friday night football game. The lads were painting themselves blue and white for the game pitting the Danville Admirals against our cross-town rival, the Boyle County Rebels. To his own surprise, Trilby was going to join in the revelry. When I eventually got him on the phone, he asked that we bring his eponymous trilby hat to complete his ensemble. Endub (daughter #2) and I went to the game ourselves, in part to engage in the charming small-town ritual, and in part to enjoy the spectacle of The Boy Who Does Not Take Sides with his face painted.
He conducted himself with suitable decorum through the game, and enjoyed himself with his friends. Endub says she observed some mild flirtation: a girl stole his hat, obviously wishing to be pursued; he caught up with her, rested his hand on her head, and said in a low voice, "I am inflicting massive pain." I believe she giggled.
We won a close game. At the end of the evening, Trilby, the sociologist's son, said that painting himself with the guys did create a bond among them. He added, "I still don't take sides, but just for this hour ADMIRALS RULE!"
A wonderful insight into a fine developing character.