zero tolerance

MOM : God-fearing, was a 'feminist' disciplinarian.
She had little sympathy for the `boys will be boys` excuse for namby-pamby parenting.

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curbing crudeness and lewdness

posted 2003-02-12 :: 11:58:20 PST
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Mother had no sympathy for 'boys will be boys' type excuses

I was in grade school. That's what they called it back in those dark ages in our little one-horse town. Mother was the zealous one, the zero-tolerance rule-setter, and my dad was the tolerant, mellow fellow, indulgent and easy-going as far as my behavior. I knew down deep that mother's ideals were right, but something in me, free-spirited, chafed, none the less. I had to test the boundaries.

Associating with other boys of like-minded "restive" spirit, I was often cruising on the brink of confrontation with the authorities of home and church and school. Through force of will, my mother prevailed over time to pull me away from the more reckless element of neighborhood boys. It was good, considering the fact that as we grew older, some of those boys wound up in dramatic conflict with the Law.

My mother refused to let up. Though too cowardly to flirt with girls properly, I was not too shy to behave improperly. Little stuff, my genteel dad felt, but my mother, more 'old school' or fundamentalistic, did not condone a "boys will be boys" looseness. She did not tolerate rudeness. she did not condone disrespect of your betters. She tried to get my blue-blood dad to restrain me, tried to get him to spank me. "He'll outgrow it," my dad told her. But her attitude, expressed within my hearing, was, "Little things grow into big things!"

She told our neighbor, Miz Polly, "He needs to learn to respect women." And Miz Polly said, "That's right. You don't want to raise a rapist." Miz Polly had a leather sharpening belt used by barbers to hone razors to a fine edge. It had a wooden handle, and she offered it to my mother. My mother threatened that I would get it, but I never did. For a long time I was "home free" -- or so I thought.

The danger past, or so I thought, I continued my occasional provocation of the opposite sex. There was one girl, an attractive youth about my own age named Gretchen who helped my mother with her Sunday School class. I had a crazy crush on Gretchen. To me she was almost a goddess, yet so distant and unobtainable, my love turned to hate, and I decided she was a stuck up, goody-two-shoes, her daintiness and feminity a taunt, her sophistication and delicacy a tease.

With more daring that good sense, I walked up behind her, unprovoked, shortly after church let out. I pulled on her hair and then ran away. Perhaps I thought she would chase me, fool that I was. But Gretchen was too much the good girl for that. She began crying. Immediately there were comforters on every side. Someone told my mother, and soon there were even adults offering her advice.

Mr. Baer either volunteered, or Mother asked him, but he wound up doing what Mother had wanted a man to do for quite some time. Somehow the three of us wound up in the basement, me bent over, and Mr. Baer using that special thoughtful "gift" from Miz Polly. That first time stunned me. On my bare bottom I got twelve licks with that thing, and it left me shocked and stunned and suddenly not quite so cocky. I know it must have hurt, but the funny thing, I didn't cry.

Both Mr. Baer and Mother hugged me. Mother was crying, at least sniffing, and I remember thinking "What are YOU crying for." Isn't it funny the things we remember. That afternoon remained etched in my memory. Unfortunately I gained a kind of unspoken notoriety -- too many people knew about it. The adults were too courteous to ever mention it, but there were a few kids who brought it up.

One boy, "Buddy" (a good friend in those days) couldn't understand that I didn't hate Alec Baer. I said, "Aww, Mister Baer aint all that bad." The truth was, I didn't recall the pain in my bottom. I know I must have been sufficiently reddened or welted, or whatever they say, but I must have been distracted. I knew all too well that I fully deserved it. Somehow the fact of that guilt weighed heavier on my consciousness than the fleeting physical pain, or the superficial marring of my epidermis.

I tended to be embarassed that adults would talk about me as if I were not there. My reaction would be to pretend I did not hear them. Before the euphemism "cautiously optimistic" made its rounds, my mother shared her own guarded satisfaction that the spanking had made me a quieter boy, less rambunctious, somewhat more compliant and less roudy. I didn't think I had changed THAT much.

There was another by-product of that first, introductory basement show-down. The uppity girl, my "dream" girl, Gretchen, actually deigned to pay more attention to me. There was an unspoken bond between us, or so I imagined. She would speak to me, at church, or at school. I still was tongue tied as ever, could not tell her how pretty she was. But I would return her greetings, and otherwise ...... behave myself.

It was, in a strange almost inverted way, a positive thing, overall. She had forgiven me, and I knew I full well deserved it, it would have been wrong to hold a grudge. One girl at church asked me why I had DONE such a silly thing. She emphasized DONE, as if the whole thing was perfectly preposterous. I don't think it ever occurred to me how my stunt appeared to others, till that moment. I had no answer, but from this perspective it was simple boyish aggression, no more. Just a spur of the moment prank. I had not cared how many people witnessed it.

As to the difference between my dad and my mother in their philosophies, I still waiver as to which is better. Perhaps, as my peaceable dad believed, I would have outgrown my boyish rambunctiousness. But most likely not. My mother had no sympathy for "boyish" bullying or aggression. She refused to condone assaultiveness against girls, or obscene looks, or "eyeball rape." She rejected the notion that "boys will be boys" -- a crusading feminist long before the days of feminists. Her radical feminism was right out of the ten commandments!

Maybe both my parents were right, each in their own way.

Nobody wants to be the "bad guy." Nobody wants to be the "bearer of the tough message." Nobody wants to be the disciplinarian --- the one who has to say N-O. (No!) Yet often it is the rebuke that we learn most from. Often it is the confrontation that helps us most. Not the feel-good, or flattery.

In a sense, on could say that, for me, the important thing was that now they all knew what worked. Now, my mother had allies, not least of which was Gretchen, and others at church.

Nonconfrontational paternalism is a fine ideal, but I was the type who craved domination. I seemed to need a male bully or tyrant to keep me in line. This was what my mother now realized. We had a talk and I agreed that I must not fight my licks when Alec "spanked" me.

Second, the more my benignant paternalistic dad faded into the background, the more Alec Baer and other fathers stepped up to give me the violence and domination my sorry butt seemed to need, want, and demand. It was not hard to catch me doing the attention-getting behaviors that veritably "asked for" intervention.

For the first time, like, everyone was on the same page. The "quiet man" was long gone, of course -- but then, he had been a real wimp at discipline. Now, she made sure she found guys who were "all man" when it came to dishing out my discipline. And Alec turned out to be a gem. What a true sadist.

I discovered I was really sort of in awe of him, grateful too -- partly because now at last I had a father, but also because of his sadism, his sheer robust physicality. He was fit, and rather muscular, thick neck, a ham-like fist -- I perceived him as such a tough guy, and when he beat the crap out of me, my mother totally adored him. So yes, she had been dressing up fancier now. All for him, she would dress very sultry.

My mother poured her heart out to Alec how she just couldn't handle me any more, how I copped ogles at her, gave her porn looks. How I needed a man to beat the devil out of me. She convinced him I was spoiled rotten and showed no respect to her at all.

He believed her that without a doubt that humiliation and the leather strap was the only way to break a teenage boy still stuck in puberty it seemed. So she started dating him and partly it was for my sake.

I soon realized how much she manipulated him dressing up all sexy and showing off her incredible looks. Suddenly I realized how foxy my own mother was. She was always dabbing on make-up, or trying out her fancy clothes, sauntering about in ultra spikie five-inch heels.

My God, she had him wrapped around her little finger, dressing the exquisite slutty way he loved. Because she knew what he liked. She loved wearing the high heels, the higher, the better. Somehow we were all on the same page. It was unspoken. I would see how she was dressed for him. I knew I was in for it.

It was obvious to all concerned that at some level I needed and wanted such a real man for my "father" figure, in a way.

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Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow
walks the walk

If a whipping did you a world of good, give YOURSELF a pat on the back, too.
Our past can only bless us, any of us, because we made the choice to let it.

2003-02-12 :: 11:58:20 PST
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