Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Need a Hero

I was talking to my son on the phone tonight and he offered to beat somebody up for me. Of course my response was "Yes, please. Hurt that fucker bad and make sure there's blood....but only if I can watch." "That's not the way I raised you. Of course I don't want you to beat anybody up."

"No," he insisted, "I really think this is one of those times when grabbing somebody in a dark alley and kicking some ass is the right thing to do."

And I, of course. replied, "Yes! My life story needs an ass-kicking in a dark alley right now. Go forth and be my hero, Son. And then run away fast so you don't get caught!"  "No dark alleys. That's not the way to solve anything. Do you really think it's worth getting arrested for? Do you really think this person is worth getting arrested for?"

"Maybe it is," he said. "I would do it for you."

Awwww. I smiled on the other end of the phone. He would do it for me. That's my boy. Well, that's not really my boy. He's a grown man in the prime of his life and he can take care of himself if he needs to and, more likely, other people too. He's always had the heart of a superhero. Yet he's tactful, good with words, and it's not his nature to solve problems with violence. And I've always been glad it wasn't. I've always been glad he wasn't one of those violent little boys who bullied other kids and got in fights all the time. I hate bullies.

Sure, he went through a phase where everything he put his hands on became a gun, in spite of the fact that his hippie mom wouldn't let him play with toy guns for the first few years of his life. (I despised the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All that kicking.) Lacking any actual facsimile of a gun, he would chew a piece of bread into the shape of a one. Or cut pieces of paper. A banana could become a gun or a special stick. Even his shoe.

I couldn't seem to quell his fascination with weapons no matter what I did, and yet he was never one of those violent boys. If anything, he was on the more sensitive side, more likely to be bullied when he was little. He didn't understand bullying, so he had a hard time seeing it coming and dealing with it. (Something I struggle with myself to this day. I really hate bullies.)

His violent nature, if it could even be called that, rose up when somebody else was being bullied. He could be fearless when he was protecting someone else, but he never instigated fights. And yet the damn guns! What the hell was it with the damn guns? He puzzled the hell out of me until I did some research on little boys and their innate need to know they could control their world using physical force if necessary. Turns out even hippie moms can change their minds.

But a hippie feminist mom shouldn't feel any sort of pleasure when her son offers to beat the shit out of somebody for her.....right? We don't solve problems that way. First, women don't need a man to go all crazy and start hitting people. We can solve our own problems and we don't need violence to do it. And second, there's never any reason to use physical violence unless you need to defend yourself. And even then, WWJD? Or Gandhi? Or MLK? Right? Right?

I try. I really do try to live the principles my brain says are right, true, ethical. I talk and compromise and work things out and I'm patient and kind and understanding and I listen and I forgive too  easily and my heart breaks and breaks and most of my rage is delivered to other drivers from the safety of my van and they never even know how pissed off I am so nobody is hurt. I would never condone my son giving somebody an asskicking in a dark alley....Yeah. Whatthefuckever.

There's still some part of me that felt proud and supported and...I don't know....protected when he said that. There's a part of me that's evidently neither a feminist nor a hippie that whispers that sometimes a woman has given enough of her fragile, sensitive, compromising, taking-care-of-everybody-else's-fucking-feelings self to a situation, and she would like one of the men in her life to step up and say, "It's time for somebody to get an ass-kickin' because in my world that's not the way you treat a woman." There is a part of me --a seditious, perverse part of me--that says if men are going to act like assholes, then sometimes another man has to deal with him man to man, because much as I have a wicked tongue and an even more wicked pen, I really can't deliver the same sort of message as an asskicking in a dark alley. And sometimes I just want one of the men in my life to step up and say, "This stops here because men don't behave this way. And since you don't respect that woman over there, I'm going to deal with it like a caveman. That seems to be what you understand." And then let the asskicking commence.

I'm not saying I really want my son to hurt somebody on my behalf. I really do don't do don't. I don't! But I am confessing that I kind of like the idea that he's willing to. Maybe, in spite of my feminist, hippie ways, I really do want men to be heroes, to stand up with courage to right wrongs, to defend the women in their lives, to keep alive that special masculine mythology of physical courage and protectiveness that...well, that some men do so well, even if most of those are fictional characters in movies and on TV.

Sometimes, I just need a real, live hero. But I'm not going to let my son give anybody an ass-kicking in a dark alley in my defense. At least not tonight.


  1. I think every woman needs a man who will protect her in whatever way is necessary. if that involves kicking some ass in an alley, so be it. i never professed to be non-violent, although i was called a hippie more then once back in the day.

  2. Yeah, I'm too much a mama bear to claim to be non-violent. I've had my moments.....There was that time in New Hampshire when I tried to run over a guy with my station wagon. He had to dive onto the concrete. I think he probably had some scabs for a while. Nobody should fuck with my family. But that's another story.

  3. What a great post!...I can understand the dilemma and definitely relate

  4. You articulated this dilemma so well. I hear you. I don't exactly want to be like Guinevere from "Camelot" singing about knights letting their "blood be spilt for me" and other simple joys of maidenhood, but some days, a hero wouldn't be a bad idea. <3

  5. Thanks, and thanks for stopping by, Jo. :-)

    Laura, I'm resistant to that whole "taking care of" thing....except when I'm not. ;-)