And here’s why it never happened again
Photo by ramzi hashisho from FreeImages (cropped)
I heard that a lot my last two years of high school. Mostly from Dan.
We were in the same vocational class which meant three or four consecutive periods of togetherness.
He also liked to call me Wolfwoman, and he called a suspiciously gay friend of mine Tinkerbell or Tink for short.
Dan had some serious masculinity issues of his own. He was crazy about wrestling and his idol was Sergeant Slaughter. He was forever trying to get the other guys in headlocks. Make of that what you will.
He loved to walk around the classroom intoning, “He a MAN!” Especially if one of the other guys did something he thought was unmanly.
He was always pointing to his dick as though someone should give him a blowjob. As though he’d ever known what female lips felt like down there.
He almost got fired from his grocery store job when he made homophobic comments at my suspiciously gay friend while he was shopping with a neighbor. The neighbor insisted on reporting Dan to his boss who forced him to apologize and warned if it ever happened again he'd be fired.
Dan was my worst bully in high school. I was angry at him for years after.
For all his declarations that I was supremely hideous and no man would ever want me, I never knew Dan to have a girlfriend in high school.
One day Dan hit me. Our lockers were next to each other and that was always a prime opportunity for verbal abuse. I forget what our altercation was about, but he whacked me upside the head, and then skittered away, just like a five-year-old boy.
Yeah, right, he a MAN!!!
I was really pissed, but I let it go. What was I going to do, chase him down the hall? What a wuss, to hit a girl and then run like one. But, I already knew the school principal wouldn’t do anything about him and neither would the teacher. Back then, no one worried about bullied teens bringing guns to school.
Good thing, because Dan remains the only person to this day I ever felt like I could have murdered if I’d known I’d get away with it. That was kind of a scary thought at sixteen, thinking that if I was alone in a room with a knife and Dan and no one knew we were there, that I might kill him and do the world a favor by ridding it of one useless and (in my mind) irredeemable bully.
I was too young to realize he’d eventually outgrow it. It took him awhile, longer than the rest of us, but he’d finally become something resembling a man by our five-year reunion.
Now when he called me Ugly Dog or Wolfwoman I’d call him Yellow Belly and ask if he was still fighting girls.
One day, he hit me again. I knew he would. This time I was prepared for his hit-and-run.
We’d been outside the school working on a class project together, Dan and I and maybe one or two other classmates. He’d been his usual abusive self, and in the hallway he didn’t like that I wasn’t moving fast enough with something and he whacked me upside the head like the last time. And of course he ran away — he was taller than I — laughing.
Nicole and Dan prepare to meet on the field of battle. Ugly dog photo by Faithnow22 on Flickr and Yellow-Bellied Marmot by Alan Vernon (CC0)
I went back into the classroom. He came in a few minutes later, lugging something heavy and laughing. “Hey Nicole, is your ear ringing?”
“Is YOUR ear ringing, Dan?”
He dropped his heavy load and came at me. This time he wasn’t going to run away.
He also wasn’t going to get away with hitting girls without the entire school knowing about it.
I’d planned for this moment for nearly a year. I went for his face with my fingernails.
When he realized what I was going to do he turned around and kept his face away, so I clung to his back and scratched viciously at his neck. By the time our other classmates pulled us apart, Dan had ugly red streaks on both sides of his neck.
I kind of regret not taking the opportunity to take one last swipe at his face after the fight ended.
If you’re wondering where the teacher was, he was in his back office smoking up a storm as usual. By the time he came out it was all over.
Now Dan would have to explain to everyone the next day how he’d gotten those scratch marks on his neck, and admit to fighting with a girl.
I’ve always wondered what he told his father that night.
Was Daddy-o sympathetic, or was he ashamed of his son for being a big wuss?
I mean, who was teaching Dan to be such a pseudo-masculine wanker?
Although it’s possible that Dan was just a dick.
He never hit me again though. I knew he wouldn’t. We got along better, too, with only the occasional insult tossed at each other. Now I had a new one.
“Hey Dan, are you still fighting GIRLS?”
I guess it was the only way he was ever going to touch one unless he grew up. Until then he had to settle for touching guys under the pretense of pulling wrestling moves.
I often wondered over the years, and occasionally discussed with my gay friend, whether Dan was actually a closet homosexual. He was more homophobic than most teenage boys, many of whom outgrow it. Although he refused to call me Ugly Dog at the reunion, he hadn’t outgrown the
homophobia. I accepted his Facebook friend request many years later because I was dying to know if he’d finally come out of the closet. His profile indicated he was married, with a photo of his son. Congrats, Dan, you finally got laid!
No man has ever hit me since then. I would never allow it.
Obviously, you don’t always know it’s coming. And you can’t always fight back like I did with Dan. But you don’t have to tolerate it either. You especially don’t have to go back for more.
My mother taught me never to tolerate abuse from a man, and that’s how I grew up thinking about it. That getting hit sometimes happened, but that you always had a choice as to whether it would happen again.
Maybe not always, in some cases. Like if the abuser is in your family. Or you to go to a school where they’ll never address bullying until some kid blows away the ninth grade.
There are other ways to fight back than physically. Like leaving the guy after the first incident, when it’s far less dangerous than after getting whacked around several more times. Or filing a police report. The reasons why women don’t do this are complex, but we need to talk more about the importance of getting out early and not returning and giving tacit permission to do it again.
Because it is permission.
That’s not a popular idea with some who think we should keep the focus on telling men not to hit women.
I say that’s a feminist pipe dream and in the real world, women have to protect themselves. Because we have the power to decide how we’ll be treated.
Not all women understand that, and unfortunately, they’re not always going to learn that from feminists.
I want them to know they do have the power.
I want young girls like myself back in the Jurassic days to know this, very early. They’re not all going to grow up with a mother like mine, who taught me to never, ever, be a victim.
So we have to teach them NEVER to accept abuse.
The challenge starts with ourselves, and our friends.