I probably shouldn’t post this, but I need to get something off my chest: I almost got into a fight with a tubby highschooler today.
I was simply walking towards the local Ithacan library to teach a comix course to young kids, and passed a small group of teens passing a cigarette around on the sidewalk (1 Caucasian, 3 African-American). The tubby one (who’s also the white kid in the group), mistakenly offers the cigarette to me. “Ah, shit, I almost passed it to the Asian Kid!” (And you have to imagine him as a suburban white kid who’s trying to mimic an impressive thug.) I walk ahead, and heard mumbling and laughter, something like “Asian Persuasion!” and whatnot; then someone mumbles the word “Chinaman” or something of that ilk.
I turn around, walk back, and tell him “That’s not cool, man.” I’m being fairly diplomatic when I say this, but still assertive enough to show that I mean business. “It was just a joke, yo”, he responds. “You wanna throw it down here?” He reaches into his back pocket as if there will be some weapon in play, but of course it’s all gesturing.
I simply note, “No, man, you wouldn’t want me to say that shit to you, I just want an apology.” I extend my hand and ask for his name (as if I were a guidance counselor). He shakes my hand, but decides to give me one of those hard, tough, I’M GONNA SHOW YOU HOW STRONG I AM handshakes. It’s clear he was also using all the strength he could muster to squeeze my hand. I smirk a little, and then squeeze back. HARD. He quickly withdraws and says, “Yo, what the hell, man?”
Now, this kid, he’s as tall as me, 5′ 10″, and probably heavier, since he is tubby. He’s probably also the strongest kid in his class (He looked no older than 15 or 16). And since I was wearing a t-shirt, you couldn’t tell from first glance that my arms are the product of the ability to do 100 push-ups. I can tell he was a bit surprised that I wasn’t fazed.
In the end, he walks away, while I stand there.
The reason this whole situation bothers me is because I really had to fight the urge to punch this kid in the stomach. That’s not something an adult should want to do. But I am glad I kept my cool. Not that I’m freakin’ Bruce Lee or anything, but I have tussled a little here and there; back in junior high, I put a friend in a sleeper hold so strong, he started bleeding from the nose and nearly passed out (we were really rambunctious kids with not enough supervision in the lower east side). I have to keep telling myself: it’s not worth getting arrested over.
Moral of the story; boys who act tough and puff their chests are usually morons and wimps with too much to prove and too little to work with.