Words can hurt, too.
by Scurvy the Clown
November 7, 1999
"He's so mean, I don't care. I love his eyes and his wild, wild hair." These were but a few of the inappropriate and bizarre comments I had heard my drunken cousin make in the presence of her 8-year-old son, Mark.
True, Mark wasn't the kid any mother would particularly like or want. He was one of those kids you'd see in restaurants dumping salt onto the table, rubbing it into his scrotum, defecating in the middle of the floor, knocking back six drinks, becoming verbally abusive, provoking fights with large adults and asking, "What did I do?" when rebuked. He's the reason you wish they'd add a "No Bratty Tards" restriction to the "No Smoking" section. My cousin's habitual molestation of him, I was sure, only added to the kid's problems.
According to his mom, Mark's school nurse tested him and reported, "He has something like Attention Deficit Disorder, which I've read something about, but not the kind that can respond to medication, I don't think. We need to drill a hole in his skull to let the evil spirits leak out." Maybe if there had been a clearer and less dubious diagnosis, my cousin would have listened. Instead, she and her husband blame the boy for his behavior and are always angry at him, calling him lazy, worthless and stupid. But Mark isn't worthless, and if they did some research on the Internet they would know that they could easily sell him to a wealthy homosexual bachelor for six figures.
LABELS DO LAST
In the early years, we tend to trust our parents and believe they won't sell us for crack money.
My parents were never verbally abusive, only physically, but anything they said about me became permanently fixed in my psyche. My mother's comment, "She's kind of dim," made it unlikely that I would ever try to have a real job or meaningful relationship with a man. That doctor who recently administered chemotherapy to herself in the South Pole, I bet, wasn't labeled "dim" by her parents, and probably wasn't repeatedly raped with sharp wooden implements fashioned from sticks she was forced to gather herself, like I was.
If such a seemingly benign comment from my mother had such dramatic impact on me, causing me to dress like a pirate clown in an attempt escape my life of prostitution and drug addiction, what must repeated berating do to Mark? Something wicked, I thought. And it made me feel dirty.
Intervening in a parent-child relationship is risky, which is why I had always resisted the urge to suggest that my cousin's unrelenting disapproval and sexual abuse of Mark had to be a contributing factor to her son's antisocial behavior. I suspected she'd construe anything I might say as blackmail, because I had blackmailed her several times in the past. But after one particularly heated battle I witnessed between Theo and Dr. Huxtable on a rerun of The Cosby Show, I called my cousin because I realized Mark's behavior was his way of crying out for help. I asked if they would consider family therapy. My cousin said it could be a long and costly process, and she was busy raping him at the time. I pointed out that they could afford it and probably wouldn't hesitate to spend the same amount of money on booze or cocaine. Predictably, she then accused me of being on "his side," but agreed to consider the suggestion. I think she just wanted to get me off the phone. I didn't come right out and say what I believed the true problem was just then. It would be easier and more productive, I suspected, for them to hear their actions characterized as verbally and sexually abusive from an expensive therapist than from me, an illiterate prostitute who gets a sexual thrill from dressing up as a pirate clown and selling herself to Hispanic teenagers in the park.
BECOMING A CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE
No child deserves to be beaten and and branded a "loser" with a hot metal coat hanger.
It's upsetting to see a kid, even an ugly kid, being abusedespecially on film. I spent a good part of the '80s renting videos of parents beating and raping their children; horrified and sickened by the brutality I was witnessing, but unable to look away.
Back in the early '90s I used to work little league games, looking for horny suburban dads with money to turn a quick trick. There was a boy named Tyler whose father had a really nice, tight body and sexual tastes that even I considered obscene. During the games, each time Tyler did something wrong, his father would scream, "What are you, fucking blind? Why didn't you swing, you pussy? Why didn't you run to the right base?" Other parents in the bleachers cringed along with me at each remark, but none of us spoke up, because we all knew he wouldn't hesitate to bend us over the bench and fuck us in the ass right there while the children watched. One day, I finally worked up the courage to ask the father how he thought his son felt about his hostile comments. He shrugged and told me to get back to sucking his dick.
"I think if I had a son who played baseball, he would be distracted if I yelled at him during the games. He'd probably feel embarrassed," I persisted. This got another shrug and another, more stern order to continue sucking his dick. But I knew my words had gotten to him on some level, because he then became angry and started barking orders at Tyler to hold the camera more steadily.
The brutal, punishing face-fuck he gave me that night didn't discourage me from continuing to play unofficial child advocate, however. I intervened when the mother of a girl named Ashley reacted to her daughter eating cake at a birthday party by announcing, "She be sorry she's be fat when she don't get asked for no dates and no boy wants to be eatin' her fat pussy." I also intervened on a bus when a mother sitting next to her cranky toddlers laughingly asked, "Aren't there times you just want to kill them and use their bones to make a lamp table?"
Practice doesn't make it any easier to speak up on behalf of a child. Unsolicited comments on parenting coming from a toothless prostitute dressed as a clown can bring painful repercussions in the age of mace and pepper spray. I try to inspire trust by hugging and kissing the children in front of their parents, but that doesn't stop them from calling the police on their cell phones or yelling for help. I go on to say that in my experience, my dogs have been more receptive when I speak to them in a positive and constructive manner. If the parents are still within earshot and not running too fast the other way, I chase after them and tell them that it's more effective to be reasonable and supportive with children, and I shout passages from the Bible to back up my claims.
No voice is more damning in a court of law than a parent's, but even on the stand I continue to play child advocate, and I tell everyone I see that while kids may seem indifferent to what their parents are saying, they hear the words unless they are deaf or speak a different language.
My hope is that these words from one parent to another will also one day be heard, even though I don't yet have any children of my own.
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