I normally don’t post anything here over the weekend. I just decided early on that I needed some time to unplug and rest up before Monday morning rolled around again. Sometimes, though, things happen over the weekend that simply can’t be ignored. I experienced something like that Saturday, so I feel as if I need to get this out before the emotion of it fades from memory.
You couldn’t have been more than 13. I doubt you were even that old. I’m always a terrible estimator of age, so forgive me if you are significantly older or younger than that. The point is, you didn’t look very old to me. You were also receiving a verbal dressing down from your mother (I suppose she was your mother?) as I passed you in the aisle, so I tried not to make any kind of eye contact. I moved past quickly, but I couldn’t help but hear those awful, awful words she said to you…
“If you don’t quit acting like that, you won’t get ****.”
That may not have been precisely what she said. I do distinctly remember the word “****” being used, though. I have a daughter who just turned 13 and another who is about to be 11. I have two sons. In a flash, I thought of all of them. I think I may have even broken stride a little bit. “Someone should do something,” I thought to myself. I’m not sure what your reaction was. I don’t remember you saying anything. You weren’t yelling or pitching a fit or anything, though. And, presumably, a woman who gave birth to you just used the “s” word on you right in the middle of a crowded clothing store.
I’ve never really understood the complex relationship between parents and children and profanity. My dad could curse a blue streak in a heartbeat. In fact, after he had his first stroke, profanity became sort of a comfort, as those words were the ones he said most clearly. He never cursed at me, though, at least not that I remember. I don’t recall my mother ever cursing at me either. They definitely got mad at me, no doubt about that, but those words were never thrown into my face. And, even as an adult, I never wanted to curse in front of them. It just wasn’t right.
Some children and adults – especially males – respond to tough talk and tough love. They develop fearsome admiration for the drill sergeant who whips them into shape through whatever means necessary, even if it means totally breaking them down into quivering heaps before beginning to rebuild them again. There are a great many of us, though, who do not respond to that version of “love” at all. We bruise easily. We wind up recounting the painful moments of our lives to someone on the other side of a notepad eventually, not because we’re weak necessarily, but rather because we just weren’t equipped for what life threw at us.
I’m not sure which camp you fall into, although I could easily see you filing that moment Saturday somewhere no one would see it for a very long time. I wanted to say something. I wanted to try to defend you somehow. What good could those words have done for you? Even if they harmed you, though, what could I or anyone else have done for you in that moment? People who deliver public beratings of that nature are not usually people who can be reasoned with. Any communication would have probably would have just resulted in another fight, this one more vicious than the first.
Still, I feel like I let you down somehow.
You didn’t deserve that.