righteous indignation

Bee's picture
Wed, 06/08/2011 - 02:35 -- Bee

Yesterday I was walking through a seedy part of East London talking to my fourteen year old son. Ahead, about half a block away, I noticed a cluster of ruffians obstructing the path.

Specifically, one man stepped out in front of us, planting himself solidly in my way. He was what in the UK we would call a hard-man; the shorthand from home would be skinhead, though that term means something entirely different here than it did where I grew up. In short, his tattooed muscular form did not convey "cute hipster bartender."

Without any conscious thought whatsoever I sailed straight at him, filled with a serene and righteous indignation.

He didn't move. I did not slacken pace.

There was aggressive eye contact. There was bristling. Then I was literally in his face and fully prepared to break his fingers if necessary and … he stepped aside.

I stomped along, still not thinking about much of anything at all, until we had travelled another block and I remembered that I am a parent.

I turned to my kid and said "Never, ever do what I just did."

He rolled his eyes. "As if."


dahlia's picture
Submitted by dahlia on

Ha! Well, what was the alternative in this situation? I do as you do, even though I'm a parent, no bad has come to us. I guess perhaps the lady leading the autistic kid around gets a little protective bubble but that bubble isn't real. Something could happen...

I've found that being meek and running like a mouse causes me to be victimized while standing tall and looking the aggressor in the eye tends to make them back down.

Bee's picture
Submitted by Bee on

Yes, exactly!

I've been a parent for twenty years and never really noticed this kind of thing when it happened, because my eldest is a girl and I have an unexamined and fervent belief that girls need to be tough. If I thought about it at all, I believed my aggressive public behaviour set a positive example.

Now I am surprised to feel so very different walking around with my son, who at fourteen is 6ft 2in and hardly looks like someone to pick on. But my finely calibrated nerves inform that boys in his age group (especially here in the UK, where knife crime is common) should avoid trouble whenever possible.

This is instinct, not intellect: my "beliefs" about violence, self-defense, and gender roles have very little to do with how I act on the street. Or how much I worry when my teenage offspring wander around in the world! But wander they do....

bitch-face's picture
Submitted by bitch-face on

my whole life I knew my mom was the toughest member of my family. I was always scared to go to sleep & she used to tell me, mothers are fierce, they will do anything to protect their family.

turtle's picture
Submitted by turtle on

You know, I would probably do the same thing. Especially, as you & dahlia say, as the mother of a daughter.

Yesterday I was driving down the street around the corner of my house, I saw a bunch of late teenage boys clustered around a sidewalk, some on their bikes, some just hanging about. I know the kid that lives there and he & his friends are generally fairly harmless. But then I saw a young girl-- 15? maybe 14?-- walking towards them. She was walking with her eyes lowered, her shoulders hunched over, one arm crossed in front of her chest. And I wanted to stop the car and say, "honey, you cannot walk into a group of guys with that kind of body language!!!! You gotta look like you could take them on single-handedly if they started something..." I settled for pulling my car over and watching to make sure nothing went down (why don't I trust a group of guys? even though I know one of them?). And sure enough as she got to about a 1/4 of block of them she straightened up and walked with her head high and nothing more than "heys" were exchanged. But I felt my fierce mama-ing come out in that second. And that sense that a woman/girl can never truly expect to walk down the damn sidewalk un-harrassed. That's fucked up, huh? Sometimes I get tired of the idea that it's girls and women who always have to do all the work, all the responsibility for keeping ourselves safe. It isn't fair or just or right.

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough. -- Emily Dickinson

You want to do what you think is right and what matters to you, and if other people don't like it, as my father would have said, they can go fuck themselves. -- Amy Bloom