Just a Little Friendly, Old-Fashioned, Good-Natured Physical Abuse

Yesterday, as you know, was St. Patrick’s Day. I know you know this, because you either planned ahead and wore green, or you did not wear any green and then were mercilessly pinched all day by all the other festive jackholes who did. Yes, a little pinching for the non-begreeners has long been a tradition in many parts of the country. For one day a year we are allowed to forget the discrimination and racial profiling that were heaped upon Irish immigrants those many decades ago, and instead we chastise people for not being Irish. Nobody much cares about discriminating against the Irish, or Italians, or Germans anymore, because we have new people to say nasty things about who are far more different from us (“us” being white male protestants) than those other folk. But take heart, my middle-eastern Muslim friends. Someday we may encounter alien species with blue skin and four arms, and there may be a holiday on which we kick anyone not wearing a burqa. The point is, we like to be mean to people who are different.

Of course we don’t even need someone to be different in order to attack them a little bit, all in good fun of course. All we need is for them to have been born. Birthdays are a traditional time for some friendly hitting, spanking, paddling, and other violent signs of affection. If they didn’t hit us, how would we know that they loved us? Seems reasonable. I mean, we’re not really hurting them. It’s just for fun.

Boy do I hate VW Bugs. Not to get sidetracked here or anything, but I get nervous whenever I see one. It’s like I have some sort of PTSD, because all you have to do is mention that car to me and I suddenly get a little nervous and start looking around for whomever is about to punch me. And actually, I like those cars. My wife had one in high school that she shared with her sisters and I have many fond memories of doing things in that car that I will never tell my children about until they are 30. But still, I don’t like getting punched. Some people punch hard. In fact, even though I didn’t like the game, I got good at spotting them on the road so that I could preemptively whack someone else and yell “no punch-backs!” I had the fastest arms in the arms race.

What is it about these non-consensual rituals that cause them to permeate so much of our growing up years? It would be one thing (sort of), to have such a game among friends, although even then one might suppose that a more sensitive child would go along with it to be part of the crowd. But to feel that you have the right to go up to a total stranger, or at least someone to whom you have rarely or never spoken, and pinch them as hard as you want? That seems odd. I mean, imagine that you are one of 100 people in a school of 1,000. That means that, potentially, you could expect to be pinched 900 times that day. That is a lot. That is a not a fun game.

The television show Glee addresses this issue somewhat, but they substitute slushees for all of these other cases. At McKinley High, any time someone has done something to cause their social status to fall, to not follow the popular trend, they get a slushee in the face. Friends have reluctantly slusheed other friends, mostly for fear of getting slusheed themselves. It is, as depicted on the show, a clear case of bullying and an extreme example of the kinds of little daily abuses that our kids suffer through all the time.

Now, maybe it’s not a big deal. I got pinched, punched, and paddled all through my growing up years, as did pretty much everyone else I knew, and we all seem to have come out the other side okay. But why must we do anything at all to make someone else’s day just a little bit worse? I know there are people out there who love physical contact of all sorts, and that rough-housing, wrestling, and even pinching, snapping rubber bands on each other’s arms, and nougies don’t seem like a big deal. But just think the next time you are going to touch someone in a rough way. Think about if they really want it. Because if they said they didn’t, then they don’t. And if they didn’t say they do, then they don’t. And you need to stop.

And if they won’t stop, I guess you could buy one of Andy Richter’s Pinch-Proof suits…

Posted in Birthdays, Bullying, Car, Glee, St. Patrick's Day, Violence.

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