A good chum, who blogs as Uncle at Scratches, wonders on occasion on such as physical and sexual abuse. His latest was on bullying, rather on who does or does not become targets.
He wondered about the markers, perhaps brain, and other criteria that might lead to being the victim of others. I confessed on his site something he and I have discussed when bar-stool lubricated that I was pretty much out of these common cycles. Much like not overly regretting not having fought in Viet Nam, after hearing many decades of browbeating, bloody-faced, and unwanted sexual contact vignettes, I can’t say I would rather have experience those.
Working backwards from my own life, I wondered how it was that I escaped and was not targeted.
Today I’m fairly large, with absurdly big shoulders and chest, and considerable muscularity. I wasn’t that way as a kid though. I was a bit shorter than others. While my Granddad nicknamed me Horse because I was strong, I was not the big, intimidating kid either in body or personality. I grew slowly and behind most other boys. Only at 15 and beyond when I was on the wrestling and then swimming team, did I bulk up.
I was also a scholarly, literary sort. Not only did I read everything and get good grades, I was out of sync with many classic boy pastimes, like stomping, stabbing and shooting small or large animals.
Seems to me that I ought to have been the target of the bad boys and men.
From another angle though, my family life was rather pacific. I have a single sibling, a sister 18 months my senior. She was as close as I came to being bullied, and that was in kindergarten and elementary ages. She’d take my stuff and hit me…what’s a sister for, eh? Our mother who had two younger siblings of her own kept telling her to cool it. The refrain was, “One day, he’ll be bigger and stronger than you.” As almost always she was both terse and correct. When we reached physical equilibrium we quickly came to peace and have remained so since.
That very same mother did not beat us either. We came from a threesome that did not experience regular violence. My sister and I used to joke with each other as well as as friends who were regularly hit with hands, paddles, belt and sticks that we’d just as soon our mother was violent. Instead, she demanded to know why we had done something destructive or dumb or mean. We had to deal, actually deal, with our shortcomings. There was no catharsis of confession and penance that came with getting smacked around. It was a cerebral, emotional and moral experience.
Likewise, there was no sexual abuse in our home or our maternal grandparents’ where we spent our summers and vacations. Our deadbeat dad who remarried and disappeared was not a factor. Granddad and a set of great uncles delighted in playing the father role, particular to me. I had a gang of stable, long-term married men to mentor and watch out for me. None abused me in any way.
Thinking of my youth though, I do have a triple-sided theory of how I rolled to adulthood without the traumas it seems the bulk have endured.
- Always moving. With my absent father who did not keep up his child support (military out of country and irresponsible), my mother took work running Red Cross chapters. The pay was only OK for women (by policy half of what a man would make running the same chapter), but she made it work. The deal though was that we moved every few years to the next chapter a man had hosed that my mother would come in and turn around…at half pay. That meant we were never in a school system long enough to become part of the native cliques. We weren’t stereotyped and thus were not relegated to some out-group that “deserved” ridicule, ostracizing or punishment. We floated until we left. In fact, I was better at that than my sister. I hated not knowing people and had great anxiety, but unlike she, I’d suck it up and pick the people I wanted for friends…and make that work. It did work.
- Standing firm. Our mother was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which was teaching simple WWII-era virtues. She taught us to be honest and candid and responsible, without fail. If we goofed up, we admitted it and took our lumps. That also meant when someone confronted us or tried peer pressure to get us to behave in their bad ways, we said, “No!” That was always tough, but standing firm always paid off for me. (It still does.) In retrospect, I am surprised that the overbearing, bullying sorts took that from the shorter kid, with the glasses and armload of books. They did though. Resolve intimidates in its own way.
- Glibness. I am not an astrology/sign guy. I was always amused though to read that my Gemini house supposedly is a tricksy sign, quick with words and skilled at getting our way. Actually that fits. I had a double talent when I was around folk who might do bad things to me. I was skilled at reading intent and I could almost always verbally defuse situations. When someone was turning one me, I didn’t ignore it, rather if I could not remove myself, I’d whip out my considerable joking and nice-guy skills to get the bully and ideally any hangers-on jolly and harmless.
I’ll kick it around with Uncle some more. The topic is intriguing, particularly as those types of abuse seem to be the norm for so many. Why is always a good question. Sometimes meaningful possibilities appear.