In Boys will be Boys, I wrote about an important life lesson for males – when, and when not to fight. The big fight in the park did not have to end the way that it did. The one antagonizing could have simply backed off a bit and everything would have gone just fine that day. There wouldn’t have been blood or embarrassment for anyone and we would all have just enjoyed our football game.
I’ve written this before, but I just hate to fight. I’m a peace loving, live and let live kind of guy. I have a really good friend, an expert in karate, who once told me that “it’s not the man in the fight, but the fight in the man” that determines who will come out victorious in a skirmish. Personally speaking, I don’t expect that I will ever have to fight. If I do however, I expect it to be life threatening and if that happens, my intent is to make the fight very short and with a serious consequence for my opponent.
I know this will sound silly but my thoughts are always crowded with mental risk assessments – what to do if X happens? I have a plan for just about everything. When I get onto a plane, I not only take note of where the exits are; I also look at the ceiling to make mental note of which way to crawl should our plane go down and land upside down. What if I get attacked by a large and dangerous dog or coyote? I figure the weakest part of a dog is its front ‘forearm’. I will try to grab that and twist very quickly with the intent to break it, sort of an alligator death roll for Fido.
What if I have to fight a man, someone without a weapon, someone offering me no other choice? Again, I have a plan, one of two actions, depending on which I think I can execute – either a very quick jab to the throat, hopefully incapacitating him or a drop to one knee, allowing me to give a couple quick jabs to the groin area. Trust me, if you’re hit in the groin, the party’s over. I doubt I’ll ever have to do either of these. I avoid shady areas and I love my life too much to go out looking for reasons to give someone cause for attacking me. And if all else fails, I figure I’ll do just about anything – you better not fall in love with your ears because I just might make a snack out of them. 🙂
Even when I was young, I tried to not let my emotions guide me when confronted in situations with other boys. Remember how I wrote about pecking order in this story? (Read Me) Well, in that story I talked about how there was a natural pecking order in our neighborhood, a pecking order determined by age alone. Sex wasn’t even a factor. For the two girls who played ball with us, they were right there in the pack, in order of birth.
Randy was the alpha male in our specific part of the neighborhood cluster. I’d never really given it previous thought until now, but I guess I was second in line (well, that is when I finally got physically stronger than Diane – she was pretty strong as a kid….and besides, I loved Diane). Jeff was likely thought to be next in line by most of us since we were the same age, but Jeff and I privately both knew he wasn’t. I however, even today, will let chest-thumpers do their thing. What do I care if a guy has a need to sound cool or tough? Let them have their fun if they’re not hurting anyone, I say.
One day after a big rain, we were all up in the park playing a little football. There were a few spots in our ‘field’ that were a little sloppy and then outside the imaginary boundary, there was a huge mud pit that had been formed by the rains combined with the remnants of a makeshift home plate. A home plate for us was typically a giant dirt spot that had been slid into a thousand times, ultimately looking like one of those dust bowls thrown up by Pigpen anytime anyone even sneezed around it. We loved our home plates!
Sometimes when it was a little slippery up in the park, we liked to go up there to play football. It was fun trying to catch turf with our slippery Converse tennis shoes and because we couldn’t build up big speeds, no one really got hit hard enough to get hurt. After the game, one of our gang, (I think it was Nick Maus), thought it would be fun to do a Pete Rose belly slide into the giant mud pit. For whatever reason that day, our leader, our alpha male decided that he was going to demonstrate his superiority on “me”.
Now, for a long time I kinda’ had my suspicions that if push ever came to shove, I could probably handle myself pretty well against Randy. My suspicions were confirmed when he grabbed me and tried to make me fall into the mud pit. I could see that he was using his full strength in his efforts and that I was not. Nick started to help the effort but with a quick ‘you better not’ look from me, he laughed and backed away. (I was number two and Nick was respecting the ranks). I remember thinking ever so quickly that I had a couple of options:
1) I could resist. There would be a few possible results; I would come out on top, throwing our natural pecking order off balance or I would lose, only reinforcing our pecking order.
2) I could submit.
I decided that by submitting and laughing about it, no one would get hurt and I wouldn’t even lose any face because it would just look like I was having fun. I felt like I was eating a little crow, but I did it – I simply plopped myself down in the pit, getting mud all over myself. Randy, not too happy with my action had decided it wasn’t enough so he grabbed some mud and plopped it on my head. I simply laughed. What was the harm?
Immediately after that and after everyone had had a turn at getting muddy, we all walked home. I looked the worst in the bunch and I remember my mom looking at me in disgust, telling me I’d better not step into the house until hosing myself down on the side of the house. Joe, (my stepfather), simply laughed out loud. So I hosed off and let myself dry most of the way before going inside to finish cleaning up.
Things were always decent between me and most of the alley gang. I never started any fights or tried to take advantage of anyone. Hurting others or feeling a need to demonstrate my superiority was never anything I ever had a desire for.
We all had a good laugh and let off a little steam that day. It’s funny but after that day, Pic (Randy) treated me ever so slightly different after that, in a good way I mean. Maybe he sensed that I was a physical equal to him and he subconsciously appreciated that I did not want to disturb our relationship? In Randy’s senior year of high school, he, Joe and I were best of friends, almost always together. We played a lot of ball (read me), a lot of Pitch (read me) and a lot of fun summer fishing trips in the Corvair (read me). None of us really had much money to speak of, but as I now look back on those days, I can appreciate that we really were rich having the benefit of growing up on Prytania.