Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lesson Learned.

People are stupid. I think that's something we can all agree on. Everyone needs to have their proverbial asses kicked from time to time to keep them in check. I know I do. In the best circumstances, people learn and grow.

I was thinking about this exact thing the other day. It brought to mind 8th grade. In Chico, Jr. High school is strictly 7th and 8th grade. I was 13 years old, and was "going out" with a nice guy whom I would later confirm was gay, we shall call him Greg. At 13 I was fully into the "exploring sexuality and feeling the power/vulnerability it gave me" stage. I wasn't what I would call promiscuous, but was just discovering that some males did find me attractive and was having fun with it.

Greg and I went out for a couple of weeks, then broke up, as always happens. I was fine with it, I wasn't very attached to him or anything. Greg had a friend whom we will call Paul. Paul was from a large Mormon family that was well known to me and my family. After Greg and I "broke up" Paul began a little "Coley's a slut" campaign. I never knew why he determined I was a slut (as opposed to anyone else) but that's not the point.

I took it for weeks and just shrunk into myself. I felt small and weak and full of rage. I finally told my mom what was going on. (My mother is a teeny woman. Maybe 5'4" and 120 pounds after having given birth to four children. I've never really heard her yell, she smiles quietly and destroys you from the inside, especially if you have hurt her children. I wouldn't mess with my mom for anything.) My Mother exploded with anger. She told me to slap the shit out of him if he ever did it again.

I was terrified. I had no idea what to think of my mother, who wouldn't let us have water guns for fear they taught violence, was telling me to hit someone. I told her I couldn't. Our school had a "Zero Tolerance" policy: if they found you near a fight, you were suspended, no questions asked. My mom told me to hit him hard, and if I got in trouble, she'd be proud to be called into the office for it.

So, I waited. Sure enough, 3rd period rolled around, the class I had with Paul. As I'm leaving the class, I'm trying to avoid and get out of there as quickly as possible. But, as always, Paul is waiting for me.


I turned, and backhanded him. Hard. He said it again and grabbed my hands so I couldn't hit him. I buried my knee so far into his crotch, his eyes bugged out. He let go of my hands and I ran. I was now terrified. But, the red mark stayed on his face for a couple of hours and I got a standing ovation from my next class, who had seen everything.

A few years go by. I see Paul, but he's not said a word to me since I slapped him. He ends up being in my Chemistry class. The first few days, I don't even notice him. It's a big class.

The teacher assigns seats on the third day of class. And sure enough, Paul sits kitty corner to me. After class that day, Paul pulled me aside.

And thanked me. I asked him why. "Because you slapped some sense into me. I was horribly disrespectful to women and didn't think much of you. You taught me some humility that was greatly needed. So, thank you."

It was one of the prouder moments of my life. Yes, I had resorted to violence, but controlled violence and at least it made an impact. Did Paul turn into a wonderful human being who never did anything wrong to a woman again? Probably not. But did he think twice before calling a girl a name?

I like to think so.

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