Tag Archives: parenting

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.






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Recovered Memory: The Hunger for Mangoes

It’s late June 2017 and I’m standing at a kitchen sink in Antioch, California cutting mangoes. It’s dark and cool in our rented Airbnb, but outside it’s dry and bright and pushing 100 degrees. Much hotter and drier than our hometown of Portland, Oregon nearly ever gets. Our curtains are drawn, the AC is on, and my twin teenage sons are sweaty puddles on the floor, vegging out after 3 days and 900 miles on the road. Our family road trip – easily the best, happiest time we’ve ever spent together.

We’ve just settled into our new digs, having first checked in, unloaded, then run to the nearby grocery store for supplies. Fruit was on sale, so I bought as much as was reasonable, plus a little. An entire array of delicious, fresh fruits: mangoes, bananas, grapes, and oranges. A welcomed change from the heavy, nutrient-poor road food we’ve been eating. We got the groceries inside, then my sons tapped out, stripped down to their skivvies, and positioned themselves over AC vents on the floor. They’re not used to this heat. But I am.

I’m running a sharp knife over the soft green and yellow skin of the mango in my hand, gently peeling it away to reveal the bright orange meat underneath. The sticky juice runs slightly between my fingers as I peel. Suddenly, I’m hungry for this mango in a way that surprises me. Then, I remember. I remember the hunger for mangoes.

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A Meditation on Taking My Sons to See Swiss Army Man

I took my 14-year-old twin boys to see Swiss Army Man last night. Maybe you’ve never heard of the movie, but it’s kind of an art film (what designates a thing an art film?) and follows a narrative arc that is very much not found in a traditional Hollywood vehicle. It has Paul Dano (who I love – from Little Miss Sunshine to There Will Be Blood and beyond) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, yes, but also a fine actor in his own right – and in this film he plays a freakin’ corpse! How exciting!) as the two leads and it’s about a stranded castaway who saves his own life by utilizing a flatulent corpse as a human multi-tool.

Anyway, I took the boys.

Because Harry Potter. And because farts. And because I’ve paid to see dozens of first run movies, usually animated, that follow the hero’s journey narrative and everyone wins in the end and I’m BORED of it and by god, you’re going to see a mom movie with me! I was so excited to see a story that was brand new, and I was excited to observe the boys’ reactions to doing the same.

Because I am a hope-filled fool.

Because sometimes in wanting a thing bad enough, I can ignore certain warning signs. Continue reading

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Pondering Existence with Tolkien

Yesterday, I was walking into Trader Joe’s with my sons when Tolkien said to me, “Mom, how does it feel to be 38 years old and know that you used to be four?”

Missing this opportunity to marvel at my son’s brilliant existential curiosity, I went straight to the most important part of his question. “I’m not 38,” I said.

He looked at me. “Oh. Well, how old are you then?” he asked.

“I’m 36.”

“Okay, well how does it feel to be 36 years old and know that you used to be four?” Continue reading

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