Thursday, February 7, 2013

Have you ever been punched in the face?

The thing I have been thinking about this week is that I have never been punched in the face. I have been kicked, pushed, spat upon, physically restrained, cut off in traffic, groped, beaned in the head in dodgeball, shoved, followed menacingly down a dark sidewalk, pulled by my wrists and subjected to other victimizing physical assaults, but in 36 years I’ve never been punched in the face.

It’s very personal, a punch to your face. It’s very aggressive.

Catalog your physical assaults, please. (Let’s leave our emotional and sexual assaults to the side for this exercise, because whoa nelly, let’s not overwhelm ourselves and also I’m about to relate this to children.) Look down your list. How did those moments, individually and collectively, affect your world view? Are they notches in a belt, toughen up, this is the world? Are they scars that mark you as a survivor? Do they ever still itch? Do you still pick at them, wondering, maybe, if only this..or what if that?

Do you think of the world as a safe place with momentary exceptions? Or do you think of the world as an unsafe place in which you are mostly blessed with good fortune?

What is your first memory of targeted personal violence? Did it alter you? Did it become another fact among millions in your landscape or did it tweak the tilt of your axis?

Earlier this week my sweet non-violent E was punched in the face at school by another child who did so purposefully with spoken intention. That’s my baby, y’all. That kid punched my baby in her blush-and-alabaster face, the face I kiss each night, the one still plumped with the last tender morsels of baby fat.

(She did not sustain physical injuries. The child who threw the punch was bothered by a sentence E had just spoken, though E had spoken it to an entirely different audience and in a context that should have had no bearing on the child who threw the punch. And the school did what the school should do.)

On the first night after it happened, she was weepy and woebegotten. The world didn't feel safe. On the second night after it happened, with the help of a lot of blowing off steam and "if you could say anything to ___ without recrimination"-type conversations, she became defiant and warrior-like, almost joyful in her grim new gritty understanding that life throws punches sometimes, and she's a girl who's had her first taste at rolling with them.

And though the incident has been the sole topic of conversation for days, she's now allllllmost at the point of shrugging it off. It's a thing. It happened. That kid is not our favorite person right now.

She's almost over it. So I act like I am, too. But I'm not.

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