Thursday, October 6, 2011

From the Other Side...

Jennifer had an interesting post up yesterday about feeling like prey:
Guess who looks like the easiest person in the room to victimize? If you guessed the one that looks like they’ve been vicitimized before, you win!
Jennifer had an unfortunate mishap involving gravity and a metal shelf, and as a result had a nasty cut and some bruises on her face. Walking around, with folks seeing what looks very much like abuse, she felt like she was being judged as someone who could be an easy mark. Naturally, not being prey she didn't like it and responded thusly (and bravo! say I, BTW).

I've got a story from the other side of the table.

Many years ago we were camping down on Cape Cod. We had a popup camper, a three year old, and a little-over-one-year old in this little popup camper for a week (and, of course, it rained most of the week). Every chance we got, we were outside - much more open, of course.

At some point one evening TheBoy got a mosquito bite directly between the eyes. He woke up at 6AM the next morning complaining that he couldn't see. As we were about to scold him for exaggerating, he came over to our bed and showed ups - both eyes had swollen completely shut! We didn't know if he had had an allergic reaction to something, so we bundled him up and took him to the nearest hospital.

Several hours later, after being pumped full of IV medicine to reduce the swelling and combat any allergic reaction, he was released from the hospital and we tried to resume our vacation. Owing to his ordeal, we decided to take the afternoon and have some fun, and stopped into Friendly's for dinner rather than make something at the campsite.

Well, as we walk into Friendly's, everyone is staring, and then it hits me. I'm 6' tall, shaved head, goatee, heavyset, wearing a sleeveless shirt and camo shorts. I've got a pre-schooler with two prominent black eyes from the morning's festivities - and, of course, the assumption is that I gave him the twin shiners.

I. Wanted. To. Die.

I wanted the ground to just open up and swallow me whole. I spent the entire morning in the hospital at my son's side, hoping and praying and crying and pleading with G-d for my son to be okay. At the time, I didn't know if he'd had a reaction or not, and had no idea what was going to happen. I prayed, hard, to swap places with my son - please G-d, just give it to me instead. Apparently He listened to me, because my son was fine - but showing that He does have a sense of humor, He made TheBoy look for all the world like he'd gone five rounds with Mike Tyson.

The horrible burning sense of shame that these people thought I'd beaten my child is something that sticks with me to this day. Oh, sure, they shouldn't have judged the book by my cover, but I can't blame them for jumping to that particular conclusion. A week in a popup trailer with two small kids in the rain would make Mother Theresa start to twitch; add in a kid with what looks like the mother of all facial beatings and it's not far out of the question that he might have been abused.

I've long held that story in the very back of my mind. I think about it whenever I see a group of kids hanging around a storefront - yes, they might be punk teenagers looking for someone to buy them a pack of smokes or a six pack, but they could also be putting up flyers for someone in the neighborhood that lost their dog. It has helped me to keep an open mind - so I would see the pretty young woman with a bruised face and hopefully *not* immediately think "victim".

One has to be careful if one's only exercise is jumping to conclusions...

That is all.


Bubblehead Les. said...

Yeah, it's not cool to jump to conclusions based on someone's Appearance, right Barry?

Nancy R. said...

I was in a car accident 14 years ago - a head-on collision that left me with two very black eyes. Why my nose wasn't broken when it hit the steering wheel, I'll never know, but those bruises where spectacular. On more than one occasion over the next three weeks I was counseled by very-well meaning women who told me I didn't have to stay with the bum, I could get help. Of course I denied getting beat up, and of course they didn't believe me. It was rather sobering.

Wolfman said...

I have a story much akin to Jay's. My wife works for the same large national company as her parents, and in close proximity to people that reported to her (now retired) mother. In the early days of our cohabitation (now a marriage), before I was a particularly known entity to her parents, there was a situation involving an extended business trip and my 70lb dog's display of excited affection on her return that left her with bruises (my wife can accumulate bruises by brushing too hard against the counter) on her upper arm that looked very much as though I had grabbed and violently shaken her. Of course I had done no such thing. I lived in constant fear for the next week that one of her employees would report back to my mother-in law that I was beating her daughter. The one situation in which a calm and logical explanation of the facts from all parties will almost never be believed. There is almost zero chance of recovering from that accusation.

KBCraig said...

A few weeks ago, my wife tripped and fell at home while her hands were full, and the first thing to smack the floor was her orbital bone.

To call it a "shiner" downplays the amount of swelling and bruising she had.

Naturally, as soon as I got home from work (honest, I wasn't even home when she fell!), I posted a picture to Facebook with the caption, "I bet next time she brings a sammich!"

A couple of days later when we ventured out to the store, she walked two steps behind me with her head down, and flinched every time I turned to say something to her.

Yeah, we're like that...

Anonymous said...

Wow, wearing that skirt around for a few days is really helping you get in touch with your inner self.

Couldn't help it Jay, it just popped into my head, it had to be said.