Category Archives: Snippets and Soundbites

Bits of words, unconnected.

Boxing Shadows

Tonight, I attended the first of a three-part, once-a-week self defense class for women. We learned the hammer fist, the alligator roll, and how to center our weight when kicking at someone’s knees. We learned the grab-smash-twist, a defensive action involving genitals. A man’s genitals, obviously. We learned how to shout No! and Stay back! and how to ask someone to stop touching us assertively.

“There’s no obligation to say please or thank you,” the instructor reminded us. “I know as women, we’re trained to be polite. But you don’t have to.”

It makes sense that a class like this would be for women alone. The implied perpetrator is men, and having men in class would likely be unnerving to some of the attendees, all of whom need all their nerve to square their shoulders, look another person in the eye, and say, “I don’t like your hand on me. Remove your hand. Don’t touch me.” The bashful, cherub-faced teenage girl I was paired with certainly did.

It makes sense that the imaginary perpetrator would be male, too. 90% of adult rape victims are female; females ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault; women ages 18-24 who are college students arethree times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. ¹ Women are much more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence with 85 percent of domestic abuse victims being women and 15 percent men.² The statistics are staggering and easily Google-able. And in most of the circumstances, the perpetrator of these crimes is a man.

But still, as I was mule-kicking an imaginary attacker and screaming No! Stop! at him, I suddenly remembered:

Cut to a mom and her adult-sized son walking along a neighborhood street lined with local businesses on an overcast but dry January day. Picture the boy – a long, lean fifteen-year-old white boy in a baggy sweater and a newsboy hat he just got for Christmas. He towers over his 5′ 5″ mom, who is admiring him quietly, marveling at her baby son all grown up, but like a great Dane puppy who doesn’t quite realize he’s big now.

As the boy and his mom cross a busy intersection, an attractive young woman, maybe in her 20s, drives by and honks at the boy, waving. The mom notices the interaction and notices, too, as the young woman suddenly realizes that the boy isn’t who she thought he was. Mistaken identity. The mom laughs.

“That woman thought you were one of her friends,” she says to the boy.

The boy blushes and laughs a little.

“She thought you were a grown up man!”

“I don’t really want people to think I’m a grown up man,” the boy says to his mom, casually.

“Why not?” she asks.

“Because then someone’s going to make me fight them,” he tells her, emotionless. Just a fact that he means earnestly. A foregone conclusion.

The mom loses her breath for a second. Is this what becoming a man means?

Is this imaginary man who is going to make this boy-who-looks-like-a-man fight him the same imaginary man who I’m learning to shout down or smash the nose of?

He is not my son. But maybe he looks like him. He’s a man in the shadows, just out of view, who looks like any man.

 


¹https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence

²https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/23/domestic-violence-statistics_n_5959776.html

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10:37 AM: Will This Day Ever End?

CHARACTERS

G-mom: a woman, four days from her 41st birthday, who is just finishing her work week and her week on as a single-parent of her 15-year-old twins she shares custody of. It’s been stressful, which is normal, but the amount of stress she faced in the last 7 days was extensive. Her period is imminent. She’s tired and has cleared all of her previously scheduled plans for the weekend, with the exception of the sleepover with her two oldest grandsons, the seven-year-old and the four-year-old. Today is the seven-year-old’s birthday, which is the primary reason she’s gone ahead with the sleepover. Her adrenals are pretty much fried, which she’s pretty sure is not an actual thing actually proven by evidence-based science, but she uses it anyway.

The seven-year-old: G-mom’s oldest of her three grandsons, who was born to his mom, G-mom’s daughter, when she was 17. The seven-year-old is a red-haired, blue-eyed, smart, headstrong first grader who lives with his dad, his dad’s girlfriend, his four-year-old brother, his dad’s girlfriend’s two school-age children, and two small dogs, Zelda and Marcy, in a two bedroom apartment. The seven-year-old has been struggling for quite sometime with toileting, and he often has a stomach ache. Today is his 7th birthday.

The four-year-old: G-mom’s middle grandson, but the youngest of the two born to G-mom’s daughter and the dad of the seven- and four-year-old. He’s also the youngest child in the household. He’ll be five in June, and so will start kindergarten in the fall. The four-year-old is a red-haired, blue-eyed, slight boy, who G-mom used to think was the cutest child to ever be born on the planet. Then he started whining – about everything – and crying when he doesn’t get his way. Now G-mom thinks he’s the cutest child on the planet only when he is sleeping. Continue reading

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Listening to the Sound of Silence

They went to school in the morning that Friday and wouldn’t be returning until the morning of the following Friday; my parenting week had come to an end. The moment I saw their backpacks disappear out the front door, I frenetically began organizing the crap on the tables in the living room. The pens, papers, books, remote controls, and graded school papers could all be tucked away for seven days. The empty glass that was kept in the refrigerator could be put in the sink and cleaned. The tiny, little spots of dried Ramen noodles could be plucked from the living room carpet. (How does dried Ramen even get into the carpet? And how come I was left to clean it?)

I sipped coffee and thought several times of putting on music, but each time I got distracted by another item, also out of place. “I haven’t been alone with my thoughts in days,” I thought. After two hours, four cigarettes and half a pot of coffee, I was satisfied.

The beds were made. The dishes were washed and drying on the side of the sink. The floors had all been vacuumed; the vacuum cleaner had been emptied of lint and dirt. The house was quiet and I, alone for the first time in a week, sat on my couch staring off into the middle distance.

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