And I am sorry. I really, truly am. And so I dedicate this post to JudgyBitch, Paul Elam, and all the boys I've ever hit (slapped, kicked, bitten, etc.):
If it helps you to forgive me, let me assure you I have carried a burden of shame over these incidents to this day. I hope today's post will serve to acknowledge and make amends for the pain, suffering, and humiliation I may have caused.
First, I call out to Randy Richards, the first boy I ever hit. I think we were in third or fourth grade. Randy was a boisterous sort, high in energy and low on impulse control. His most distinguishing physical feature, from my point of view, were two missing fingers (the result of lighting a firecracker while holding it in his hand). This deformity was so repellant to me as a child that it was hard to hold Randy's hand during square dances, even though I cannot deny the tingles I experienced when he would swing me around in his strong, muscular arms. Do-see-do indeed!
Randy was one of those boys who roamed the playground in feral packs, deliberately ramming into the smaller kids or otherwise wreaking havoc on the social order. He was, in other words, "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." One day Randy sneaked up behind me and, as was his wont, pulled up my skirt. I turned around and punched him as hard as I could in the stomach. As Randy sank to the ground, clutching his abdomen, his mouth quivering and eyelids fluttering, my heart also sank. Having been (falsely) accused of pushing another boy down a slide only the week before, I knew I was in big trouble. I dashed back to class, slunk into my seat, and awaited my certain punishment.
But to my relief and surprise, Randy never told on me. Maybe he was embarrassed to admit a girl had hit him? Reporting it to authorities would have compromised his tough guy image. In fact, as I recall, he was pretty darn nice to me after that incident. That's when I knew Randy was a mensch, a real man, a worthy recipient of my admiration and affection. I began dreaming about the future (middle school perhaps) when Randy Richards would become my first boyfriend. He had certainly earned the honor! Unfortunately, Randy and I were parted by fate before I could realize my fantasy. A foster child, he disappeared back into that labyrinth of institutionalized cruelty, gone yet never forgotten by me. I hope he's had a good life, despite the odds stacked against him.
The next boy I hit was my first boyfriend in college. I was eighteen, and he was a twenty-seven year old grad student, a man of the world in my freshman eyes. I was ridiculously flattered by his attentions. Unfortunately, he was an incorrigible player. His constant infidelities -- interspersed with his reassurances that I was still his No. 1 girl -- drove me mad with jealousy and humiliation. Returning to the dorm after a weekend away, I caught him in flagrante delicto with a simpering, mousy girl I already detested. I didn't hit him: I kicked him in the shin. I didn't kick him very hard, but this being the mid seventies, I happened to be wearing three inch wooden platform sandals, so inadvertently inflicted more damage than intended. Two years later, as he traced the faint white scar along his tibia, I shuddered with shame and remorse.
Truth be told, I was more of a thrower than a hitter or a kicker. I threw whatever was at hand (books, naturally). Once I threw a hair brush hard enough to dent the cinder block wall. Fortunately, it sailed past my boyfriend's head. I have always had lousy aim.
In Teheran, a man goosed me in the street. This was not an unusual occurrence, but for some reason on that occasion I determined to "fight back." I turned around and walloped him as I'd seen many Iranian women do in similar circumstances. Since he was wearing about three layers of tweed, it was like slugging a couch. However, unlike Randy Richards, he did not "take it like a man." Angered by my impertinence, he slapped me across the face; a group of men quickly gathered to egg him on. Outnumbered and overpowered, I ran away to live and fight another day.
The last man I was physically violent with was the military attache of the U.S. Consulate in Yemen. Maybe it was just my female narcissism, but I always felt we had a kind of "thing going on." We'd meet up at various functions, consular picnics or "dances" with the Marine guards, and it was evident he knew an awful lot about me, which made me suspect he'd been reading (or compiling) a file on me. It was weird, but again, sort of flattering, even though I knew perfectly well the guy was a complete and utter asshole.
Spying me in a restaurant one evening, he drunkenly bawled out across the floor, imploring me not to eat the bowl of ice cream I had just been served. Instead of ignoring him like the lady I aspire to be, I took the bowl, walked over to his table, and upended it on his head. Worse yet, when the bowl refused to release its frozen contents, I proceeded to rap it sharply against his balding pate -- adding injury to insult. A dozen Yemeni men leaped to their feet and drew their daggers -- in defense of whose honor I will never know -- as my mortified dinner companions swept me out to the car. Yes, my propensity for violence against men nearly triggered an international incident...
It's been many years since I've struck another living being. I rarely throw objects either, since I am too lazy to bend over and pick them up (although I did, in a fit of pique, throw a pen on the floor at work last week, and no, I did NOT pick it up either).
There are many reasons that indulging in physical violence is never the best option, whether we are women or men, no matter how good it feels to give in to the impulse to lash out, or how "deserving" some people may be of being pummeled within an inch of their lives. Not least of these reasons is that it mainly telegraphs how weak, impotent, and out of control the perpetrator is.