When I was fifteen, I still rode the school bus. My friend Thom was the only thing that made it tolerable. I was a highly reactive kid, having been raised in an alcoholic household with much violence and antagonism. As such, I was an excellent target for others who were bored, insecure, or had who knows what motivation to harass others.
My bus driver himself encouraged the picking. He would watch as kids tormented me and waited for me to finally react, at which time I’d be punished.
If I made it all the way to my bus stop incident free, then I’d still have to make the half mile walk from the stop, up the road to my house with lots of other angry, insecure guys.
A kid named Cody would really lay into me whenever we got off the bus. I remember Thom and I fantasizing we were more macho or tough, that we’d give these guys what for.
Never the less, we weren’t. I felt weak. I felt powerless. When I brought incidents like this harassment up to adults at the school, they’d insist it was because I wore a target on my forehead (they called my PTSD reactions a target).
So on the day that I was getting pushed, bullied, ridiculed, and called faggot, while other boys laughed, I lured the slimiest of the bunch into my yard. They continued taunting.
“I’ll show them who has the power!!” Was my thought.
I ran up to my mom’s bedroom and took out her .22 handgun. I didn’t check to see if it was loaded. I hadn’t planned this at all. It was reactive.
I emerged from the front of my house where the boys were still yelling and even throwing things at the house as people passed in their cars on the busy street.
“Who’s tough now M***** F******!” I exclaimed as I lifted the gun to point it at Cody’s head.
They ran. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pissed themselves.
The one time I had a gun pointed at me was two years earlier, when my drunk dad mistook me for a home intruder. I went all Jello at that moment. I didn’t lose my bowels, just all other muscle control.
Having that gun pointed at my head was one of the most terrifying, just all around gross, entirely negative experiences I’ve ever had. (To this day it’s beyond something I can put into words, the feeling I had when my father pointed a shotgun in my face and screamed: “Freeze m***** f*****!”)
We are dealing, as a nation, as a people, with the effects of toxic masculinity. I grew up witnessing the impact of this pathology. I swore it would never be me, and yet it was. It has been. It will continue to be, unless or until I take inventory of how I participate.
It would be so much more convenient if I can point the finger and say, “there.” Yet that convenience comes at a heavy price. One I’m no longer willing to pay.
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