It All Breaks Down to the First Rehearsal

I was recently contemplating the value of honesty and trying to determine whether it produces more advantageous results than would evasion and deception when it occurred to me that from my earliest memory, I have been roundly lied to.

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Turns out this is the biggest wad of ostrich shit ever to be converted into a colloquialism. I’m not just saying that so I can use the term “ostrich shit”, either. It’s documented fact. My own experiences certainly verify the findings of the researchers in the article. The injuries I suffered defending myself in fist fights as a kid have long since healed, but the emotional impetuses behind each one of those physical conflicts still affect me in one form or another to this day.

The sticks-n-stones adage doesn’t gain validity as we get older, either. Long after we’ve realized the limited nature of opinions and have learned to readily determine whose opinions should matter to us, the occasional rabbit-punch to the psyche finds it way through our defenses. A personal example that springs to mind came during a debate between my mom and me regarding the validity of the so-called “War on Terror”. I had made the claim that the Iraq war was indefensible, and in a zealous desire to put some conviction behind her unwavering republican values, my mother told me that if I, her only child, had joined the military and subsequently died in the Iraq desert, she would have felt my death was justified. That single sentiment injured me more than all the physical punishments she and my dad ever administered. With only her words, she tore open a rift between us that I seriously doubt will ever be fully repaired. I still call and visit my parents on occasion, but the visits are always tinged with the angst and heartache over mom’s utterly screwed up priorities. I would honestly have rather she just backhanded me across the face.

“If you just ignore them, they’ll leave you alone.”

Complete bullshit. Imagine a pale, gangly fourth grade boy with severe ADHD wearing Toughskins jeans and Payless shoes. You know, the kid who spends most recesses in the library reading rather than attempting to endure that brutal killing floor deceptively referred to as a “playground”. That was me. And I can assure you that no amount of feigned apathy ever stopped cruel schoolchildren from ruthlessly drawing out every one of my fears. In fact, whenever their abuse didn’t seem to be having any effect, they merely cranked it up a notch or four.

Again, becoming an adult won’t suddenly make the quaint little phrase true. To prove this, simply try ignoring Jehovah’s Witnesses. You’ll see. They’ll be back.

“There are no such things as monsters.”

OK, to be fair, it’s prohibitively impractical to go through a nightly litany of every heinous creature to ever haunt the dreams of children – especially lonely children with low self-esteem and gigantic imaginations. But still, wording is often very important. Referring to zombies and squid-headed behemoths with the same term you use to describe real threats like rapists and axe murderers tends to eliminate any intended comfort from the sentiment. A cold statement like “It is highly unlikely you will be in any danger as you sleep” would be as encouraging but have the benefit of also being accurate.

I think it goes without saying that by the time we’re adults, we don’t even give this one a single iota of credence. Of course there are monsters. Some monsters eat your legs if you go surfing at the wrong place or time and others lock their jaws onto your throat because some wannabe thug needed a pet that made him look the part. There are monsters that will cut your head off with a big-ass knife and there are others to whom retributive killing is more important and justifiable than educating children or providing public healthcare. You’ll even find monsters so insidious they can garner support and voluntary sacrifice from the very prey they feed upon. Given that, is it really any consolation Cthulhu is merely a work of fiction?

When I really stop and think about it, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised there are people who will believe outright lies delivered in the face of patently contradictory evidence. After all, we were pretty much weaned and raised on notions that are, like Ms. Palin’s speech, as untrue as they are convenient.

*The title of this post is taken from a line in the song Nancy Boy by Placebo.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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5 Responses to It All Breaks Down to the First Rehearsal

  1. YGRS says:

    Awesome post Kirk.

  2. Kzinti says:

    Sticks and stones may break my bones, but high powered bullets go right through me…

  3. I can't be flip about this one.
    When I was a child, I adored my father. And then when my little brother was born, I adored him. (Both ended up breaking my heart, but that's another story)
    The first inkling I had that dad wasn't the super hero I really thought he was was after I came home (at age 14) from seeing the film, "Johnny Got HIs Gun." That film was the first experience I had with what war really meant. As I usually did, I sat to discuss my evening with my father. It was only in that conversation that I learned he supported the war in Vietnam. After reeling from that shock, he added, "If your brother were old enough, I'd be proud if he were killed fighting in it."
    My precious little brother was only three at the time.
    I really never got over this. Neither did he. That was our first real disagreement, and he hardly spoke to me for years after that. He couldn't accept my views, couldn't accept I wasn't a clone of him. Not to mention the fact that I learned I wasn't a person in my own right in his eyes, I was an extension of him, his daughter. He clearly felt that way about my brother, too.
    It's interesting to me also that those I know who are so supportive of war, no matter where and what, haven't ever actually fought in one.
    My father never fought in World War Two, not on the Italian side nor the Allies.
    But I learned something from this, part of the reason I want our magazine to stay non-partisan. People who have different perspectives, need to hear each other and respect each other. And if they are related, they have to love each other, anyway. One of my stepsons is very conservative in most of his views. But we find common ground, talk to each other about politics all the time and actually do consider what each is saying.
    I'm sorry you had that experince with your mother. You're not alone.
    It doesn't mean the same thing at all, but I hear and value what you say, what you think, and who you are. Many of us here do. And now at least you know from first hand excperience that you should never treat your children the way our parents treated us. As possessions, rather than people.
    I'm sorry, Kirk.

  4. grrrace says:

    just… wow.sometimes parents say the most hurtful things… i told my dad how i'd been in an abusive relationship and my dad didn't know how to respond… so he said something so hurtful to me… he told me that i couldn't possibly be his daughter because he could never have a daughter stupid enough to be in an abusive relationship. he said some more hateful things after that, too. hehe. but that was the one that really stuck. i was heartbroken… i have forgiven my father, but when i think about him saying that to me, i want to cry still. at any rate, people will always lie to you… maybe they think it makes things go down easier… who knows… anyway, you wrote a great post…

  5. G says:

    After all the highbrow stuff I really can't help but want to lower the tone about 17 notches 🙂
    And partly Kirk…it's because you are such a vegan-like, tree-hugging, pansy! yes…you bring it on yourself….
    I do agree with you on the sticks and stones things. It's just you don't follow through on your convictions…now if you'd punched your mom in the face…that would have shown her! 🙂 I know, it's gross, crass and in bad taste. What can I say…to me that makes it a funny image man!

    As for the school kids bullying you syndrome. What lameness. In school I was the smallest kid until I hit about 17 or so and the alien dna kicked in and I shot up in size. I also spoke different, had long hair and didn't give a shit about the school uniform/dress code, so I was attemptedly ridiculed daily. I say attempted because after you take the biggest kid that's bugging you and kick him in the throat, the rest recognise it is best to leave you alone.
    It really doesn't matter how pasty you are. Get a bat and wreck someone's knee. Oh yeah you might get expelled but they will not bug you much after that. Violence you see…IS the answer. As long as you can do more of it than the other guys and are willing and able at the slightest provocation, you are now immune to peer pressure. So ignoring them DOES work….as long as it's clear you are ignoring them because they are psychologically inferior and unable to cause massive physical trauma in unexpected ways. I often had the whole class side together against me. Sometimes physically too. And yet…as long as you can move quickly and pick off your targets with precision…you get left alone after the first few of them get their testicles crushed by your knee.

    And finally, as for the monsters….this never really bugged me evenas a kid. My firm grasp of reality assured me that the worst possible monster was another human. It bugged me well into my early twenties, when I took to walking alone at night anywhere with a loaded .357. And realising that if some poor misguided monster was gonna try and axe murder my ass…well….he would have his head EATEN…and that's even before I would have turned it into a pink cloud with the .357 magnum. Again you see,,,fight fire with Napalm and one eye for a head tends to result in people leaving you well enough alone. When you are comfortable with the idea of punching people in the face, their verbal insults will not touch you so much paradoxically, because deep down, you know, if it gets you real bad, you can always cripple them and make them remember you every time they reach for their walking stick. And on some level they sense it too. And they become more careful with the words they bandy about.

    Generally though, being even more vicious than them on the verbal front too tends again tomake people think twice before they speak. It's the Batman concept you see. If they are scared enough, they will nt commit the crime. If they were smart enough, they wouldn't stray there anyway….so there are no innocents either way.

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