When I was a kid, I lived in constant fear of getting beat up. I don’t worry about it now, and not because I’ve magically acquired UFC fighting skills. I’m just focused on adult concerns, like remembering which stores give 5¢ for reusing bags, or why no one’s replying to my OK Cupid profile. (But I look so cute in my little sailor suit!)
My physical and mental weakness, oversized glasses, and cluelessness about team sports were catnip to suburban thugs ages 8 to 18. Plus with my duck feet and fat-ass cardio, I was almost as fun to watch run away as I was to hunt down. From the time I trudged onto the school bus to the moment I closed my bedroom door, there were bullies eager to ask “Why do you keep hitting yourself? Why do you keep hitting yourself?”
Ah, the curiosity of youth!
If you’ve never been tuned up by your peers, know this: it’s not the actual beating that hurts. Skin and bones heal, blood stops flowing, and bruises fade – even a punch that sits you on your butt arrives with merciful speed. If you’re a savvy beat-ee, you’ll learn to take it quietly or flail around enough that the beater decides you’re not worth the effort.
What lasts is the terror before, the helplessness during, and the humiliation after.
Listen up, childrens: if you’re asked to plead for mercy (particularly while a pre-teen twice your size rains down punches), the correct answer is silence or a muttered “fuck you.” You can get that tooth repaired later when you’re an adult and your attacker works at the Shell station. Take the L, and hold on to your dignity. Otherwise, the whole school knows you’re easy pickin’s and The Stink of the Beat-up-able® is forever upon you. The herd announces, “Hey lions – have we got an antelope for you!” That’s life on the savanna and in the suburbs, too.
Once I survived junior high, the savagery slowed but not because anyone got nicer. By then, the bully ranks were depleted by drop outs, drug and legal problems, and teenage pregnancies. The “smart ones” got left back so many times they drove THEMSELVES to Schaghticoke Middle School. They spent their glory days in the school parking lot, impressing 13-year-old skanks in Jordache jeans with their molester mustaches thin as prison gruel.