I was raised to believe very strongly that Violence Is Not Okay; that physical attack or aggression is Very Bad and worthy of punishment…when it was me who was doing it, anyway. When it was someone else who was doing it, to me, somehow my remit became one of requirement to ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘try to talk to them about it’ or to ‘tell a teacher’…or just to accept, dumbly, that these things happen and there was nothing I could do about them.
I was raised a victim, and a victim I became at home and at school (and, arguably, remained) until such time as I learned to fight back, at which point grudging respect and always-too-short ceasefires were in order, though no relationships were ever healed because of it. Anger brewed beneath the surface and it simmers there still. It’s a side I’ve shown less frequently on the Blogosphere, but it exists, and increasingly (as life is somewhat ‘swirly and complicated’ at the moment) I find that my ‘bullshit-o-meter’ fills to the top rather rapidly.
Which is how, on Friday night, I ended up hitting some punk jackhole in the face. Twice.
I’d had a crappy day and a worse evening, and turned up at the cinema to meet my lovely friend SusieQ like a bear with a migraine. I did my best to laugh with her, but I was properly snarly and only began calming down once we were in the cinema, actually watching the movie (Guardians of the Galaxy, if you want to know – and yes, it was brilliant). By the time we came out, I was transformed. I was happy and laughing and felt heaps calmer and ready to face the weekend with a smile. However, that snarly mood must not have been altogether far below the surface, and it sure bubbled up again…
We were leaving the cinema, which is part of a big leisure complex with a multi-screen Odeon and several night-clubs. Lots of people were around and although it was dark out, it was well-lit and there didn’t appear to be any aggro going down. Until we were on our way out of the doors, walking side by side, when this jeering laughter made its way into our ears, along with very noisy, revolting ‘raspberry’ sounds (yes – the kind a toddler makes for fun) which came closer and closer and eventually a young man’s head appeared between us, looming over my friend (who is shorter than I am) and creating these vile sounds mere inches from her face.
She looked alarmed and laughed nervously. I was already a bit buzzy from the jeering, and was suddenly profoundly outraged that any person would do this to my friend. Rage descended and I turned around and delivered the biggest back-hander I could across his slimy, idiotic face, then stepped forward and slapped him again with my other hand. They weren’t very big slaps because the angles were all wrong.
He danced away and began shouting disgusting sexual insults and suggestions at us. She looked shocked but kind of pleased with my response. I was shaking with anger but very quickly decided that it was probably best not to try to catch him or engage with him. So we left. Quickly, but with forced nonchalance in our attitude to belie how shaken we both were.
On the way out, I noticed that there was a police van present (but nary a policeman in sight). I didn’t notice the jackass again, or I might have run him over with my car. I was also disgusted with myself at how ineffective my little, girly slaps had been, when really I wanted to beat the guy to a pulp.
Upon arriving home, I slammed in and announced VERYLOUDLY to Husby that I need to learn how to fight. I repeated this a few more times in a VERYLOUD voice as he tried to make sense of what had gone on. I expressed a lot of irritation at my lack of capability, posted a noisy rant on Facebook and didn’t know what to do with myself and all my pent-up nervous energy and adrenaline until TwinDaddy (thanks buddy) suggested that I might like to go and burn some of it off. So I asked Husby to accompany me to the playpark across the street, where I did some violent jumping on a trampoline, LOTS of pull-ups, a couple of turns on the zip-wire, hanging on with just my hands, and kicked the shit out of a clump of bamboo.
Then I came back home, had a cup of tea and simmered down a bit.
I only had one negative response to my Facebook rant – from an IRL friend, who was shocked and said that hitting people is never okay. Everyone else either checked that my friend and I were okay (we are, thanks), or offered advice about how to hit someone properly in that kind of situation (I should have it covered next time *winks*), or cheered me on for having defended my friend.
My response was to ping an email to the gym where I used to take boxing classes – I might take them up again.
I have NO idea what motivated this idiotic attack from the guy. It may have been race-related (my friend is of Sri-Lankan heritage). It may have been sex-related (my friend is female) or it may simply have been because he was bigger and he could (my friend is very tiny). But to my mind, none of these is an acceptable reason for accosting someone. Ever.
Added to which, what kind of thicko tries to attack and intimidate someone who’s very clearly with a friend?!
I can only assume that *I* wasn’t the subject of the attack because I am taller and whiter (though still female). But what an IDIOT! Who even DOES that? I don’t think there’s a way to understand his mindset. It baffles me that anyone would treat another human being in such a repugnant way. I can only assume it gave him some kind of kudos in front of his mates, who must all have been equally dumb-assed if this kind of behaviour is how they rate a person.
I didn’t then, nor do I now, think that anything would have been achieved by trying to talk to this chap, or engage him on a verbal level. Yes, we could have kept our heads down and kept walking, but why should we have to walk away, doing nothing, being followed and harangued? That’s not on. It needed stopping, and I’m glad I found a way.
However, with regard to the violence aspect, I’m rather divided in my thinking. On the one hand I’d always prefer violence not to have to be resorted to (especially as it could so easily get out of control), but on the other hand, if the need arises I’d like to be able to do a proper job of it.
In this instance, the guy backed off and (to all intents and purposes) left us alone after that. His mates didn’t step in, and I didn’t end up in a scrap. My friend and I walked away shaken but unscathed, so what I did was effective.
But yes, technically *I* assaulted someone and could be prosecuted under British law (as I understand it) because I am the one who laid hands on another person in aggression.
I think that in this situation, violence was the answer. I also think I’m incredibly lucky that he didn’t hit back or get his mates involved. I’m also (probably) lucky the police weren’t around and didn’t decide that once again, it was the retaliator who needed policing, allowing the aggressor to walk free (sorry, police – my confidence in your abilities (or the system) is not particularly high). I’m also utterly convinced that it is NOT okay for anyone to be treated in this manner, and if my actions give this guy even a *moments* pause before accosting another person in this way (better yet, that he might think twice about it and choose not to), then I shall consider myself vindicated.
I also know this: I have always been the kind of person to act first and think later (I’d make a terrible Buddhist!) and yes – whatever the consequences – if I am with a friend another time, and some low-life attacks them, I will do the same: I will defend them to. the. end.
Let me know – I’m listening and interested to hear your perspective. I’ve been called a hero and an idiot for this. I’ve been lectured about violence not being the answer, and I’ve been lauded for somehow handling the situation effectively. Do you think I was right to hit the guy? Do you think I should learn to think with my brain before my fists? Should I take up boxing or just thank my lucky stars?