I was a short kid, with a looming forehead, two robust front teeth and a gap you could kick a goal through. My trifecta of kid imperfections required an ability to verbally shimmy out of taunting situations before I literally needed to shimmy out of the grasp of bullies.
But I had no quick wit. As it happened, my tongue-tied silence often served as feast enough for their laughter. I got teased to hell and back, but somehow managed to escape childhood without one physical fight. Not one punch thrown or open-handed slap landed, no kidney body blows or throat jabs, no Vaseline necessary and I never lost any earrings. Nobody ever had to “hold me back, girl.” I did that fine on my own.
Part of my revulsion for fighting was just common sense odds gaming; I have been 4’10” since age 12. That’s a long time to be shorter than the majority of middle school and high school kids. I never popped off at the mouth because I didn’t have the inches to back it. Granted, there are scrappy short girls and women who will whip a tail easy; but the fight was never in this dog to begin with, so my size became obstacle rather than pride point.
Curiously, my mother, a legendary stomper from Detroit, never taught me to fight. She insisted that I defend myself, if it came to that–but she taught me words before fists. Words on paper have been my weapons since.
Never scrapping, save the odd pushing match with my younger brother, is an uncomfortable streak to have as a grown woman. Black eyes are best relegated to peas, no longer the visceral trophies of heroism they would’ve been in grade school. Showing up to work with a shiner conjures fables of falling down stairs and whispered Chris Brown jokes. Not a good look. Plus, I’m unlikely to engage in a fracas in my most frequented arenas: the farmer’s market, Target, church, or poetry venues. I can’t imagine throwing down over the last zucchini. I. Just. Can’t.
This, chiefly, is why I can’t watch Real Housewives of anything. There are no glory days for me to hearken back to, no gum-popping, sandal-wielding, spit-tossing, drink-splashing, hair-ripping events to call upon when some brute crosses me in public. I do what I have always done; save the fight for a thick black pen and some notebook papers. I have eviscerated, tongue lashed, lambasted, demoralized, upbraided and straight excoriated violators in verse and in prose.
My husband worries that if the time comes, I won’t have his physical back. My dad taught me a clean throat chop, groin smash and instep stomp if I need it. But I’m hoping to stay fracas-free forever, living to tell about the glory of having no guts.