Originally Cont’d from Name-calling can get you kicked in the end 1-28-10
Calling a kid names could cause a lasting scar one may have to deal with later in life. It’s either that, or you learn to “toughen up” as I did, and let the wise-cracks, the slurs, the hate-filled and ignorant remarks simply glide over you.
I remember my teenage years, and names aimed at me by people I didn’t know or hardly knew. On occasion, I’d hear somebody call me “queer.” I’m not homosexual, not that there’s anything wrong with it, to quote the old Seinfeld routine. But I never shied away from such “feminine” activities as dancing and singing, getting “dressed up,” for a party, and “speaking in complete sentences” and not the monosyllables used by a lot of so-called “tough” guys on the block of North Philadelphia where I grew up.
Later still, I got hit with such labels as “racist,” and then “sexist.” Neither fit, but I never stayed around those persons long enough to prove them wrong. They did not know me, and I was maturing enough to know my bending over backwards to show them the opposite would be a waste of time. Their’s and mine.
When it comes to name-calling, I’m not talking ancient history here. I remember returning from a trip to Greece in late 2008 and hearing a comment from a fellow Vietnam veteran twice my size about my fellow countrymen. We were riding in an elevator full of veterans and this Patty DeMarco-type — a bully — asked me if I enjoyed myself with all the “Greek men” in Athens.
“Yeah,” I said. “Including your mama.”
Got a big laugh all around. Except for the homophobic name-caller, who turned red in his White face. He was the same one who said his parish priest had to “clean out” the church recreational hall when a group of Muslims were permitted to hold a meeting there. The guy’s old. Age-wise as well as culturally. He’s got white hair and lives alone with his PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Few have any thing to do with him. Including his family. When will he ever learn that you just can’t elevate your self, you can’t improve your lot by trying to tear down another because of their religion, their politics, their way of life?
I kicked Patty DeMarco’s ass the next time he called me a name while growing up in Brewerytown. (See Name-calling can get you kicked in the end .) Hit him as hard as I could, shouting “get up, ‘shrimpboats,'” as he fell to the street, cowering next to marble steps leading to one of the row homes on our block. He held both arms over his face, as snot poured out and onto his clothes. Now it was his turn to bawl. The only name he called then, was for his “mama.” It felt good, but I would not recommend it for an adult who picked up PTSD during his or her lifetime. Could end up in jail and the name-caller in the morgue.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you, is how the saying goes. They may not hurt, but I don’t think you ever forget them, either. If you’re lucky, you use them to either build character or learn how to forgive from a long distance for harms done you a long time ago.
For more on “name-calling,” see
‘Les We Forget names called our soldiers
I hurt just reading this. I don’t understand the kind of hate that causes people to lash out like that. It sounds like your early experiences with the bully prepared you for later encounters with bullies. 🙂
My son, Nicholas, is facing them now. I hope he feels his way through without losing too much of his compassion for others.
After the introduction, the “mama” joke really threw me off. But it also felt liberating from a reader’s perspective. I wanted to see you fight back at that point.
Yeah, I fight back sometimes, but have to be careful and learn when to “pull my punches.” You can get more out of a witty retort, sometimes, than you can get out of a fist thrown toward a jaw.
Once again you’ve written a compelling post. I couldn’t help laughing at that spot-on “mama” joke. That’s such a useful device isn’t it?
For the guy with a bit of weight: “my God you’re big!” R: “That’s what your mama says”
Yo Mama jokes can get you out of scrapes, but also getcha into some. Know when to shoot from the hip and when to holster the gun, is what Somebody said somewhere.
The guy told me he didn’t like anyone saying anything about his mother. Guess he could dish it out but couldn’t take it.
I like your “Mama” joke, I’ll keep that handy for another duel . . .there’s always another one down the long dusty road.