A Shiver Runs Through It.

No matter how many times I remind myself to do otherwise, I find myself out of the house at the very same moment every school in Williamsburg and Greenpoint is letting out. Yesterday, I did it again.

Imagine you’re a guppy wading through a river with your young and a school of piranha are released from the stream directly to your north. Perhaps that’s not a big deal, you think, because directly to the south there’s another stream you can retreat to. Just as soon as you think of moving to that stream, it opens up and another school of piranha gushes out. You look west. Piranha are pouring in from the west as well, and those pirana have long fingernails and permed hair. East? That stream is releasing piranha and barracuda and automotive high school kids. And believe me, you do NOT want to mess with the automotive high school kids. They despise spawning, rich guppies. And I can’t say I blame them, some of these folks tend to all look the same and hold a fair share of self-awarded (and undeserved) entitlement.

So, you’re a guppy, a guppy who moved from one overpriced stream to annex another. You’re a transplanted guppy surrounded by piranha, barracudas, automotive high school kids and now a really bad analogy.

So, yeah, back to yesterday.

We’re at the park. Emory likes the swing and so we swing for a while. Eventually, we take a break and sit on a bench for a snack. He enjoys his mid-afternoon meal. I enjoy the sunshine. Suddenly, the park is engulfed by teenagers.

A few teenage boys walk by us discussing girls, iPods and bitches. A couple sits down across from us and starts to make out between puffs from a cigarette, their chapped lips form ovals and I am reminded of blowfish. The sudden ruckus causes Emory to lose all interest in his bottle.

Teenagers suddenly outnumber moms and babies. The conversation turns away from baby poop, playdates and sleepless nights to shit, fucks, and motherfuckers. I think, LA! LA! LA!, as curse words meet Emory’s ears.

A group of teenage girls run into the middle of the park from the north. They stop five feet from where Emory and I are sitting, a foot from the kissing fish. They carry a previous confrontation with them, one that probably took place earlier at a locker, in the bathroom, or in a hall.

There are two girls and a school of followers.

“COME ON, BITCH! I’M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS!” Says the shorter girl, the instigator.

“Why you not want to fight her, pussy? You gonna let her talk to you like that?” A voice calls out from somewhere within the group.

“I don’t care how she talks to me, I ain’t gonna fight her!” Says the tall, lanky, long haired girl.

She doesn’t want to fight. I watch her and write a story in my head about her parents. She’s a good kid. Her parents don’t want her in any trouble. She keeps walking away from the group. I feel sorry for her. I think that I want to tell her that I think I can speak for every spectator on that playground, she’s doing the right thing. But I stay silent. I freeze, actually.


The instigator tugs at her hair. The group moves in around her.

“I ain’t gonna fight you!” She screams.

The instigator swings, and hits the young girl on the side of the head. The girl still doesn’t budge. Her hair is disheveled.

“WHY YOU WALKINAWAY, GIRL? FIGHT HER!” Another voice calls out from the group.

I think to myself, I hate the group mentality.

The moms watch from their swings. Two, three, four and then five mothers lift their cell phones to call the cops. No one thinks to interfere with the girls. They live in a world much different from our own even though we share sidewalks, pavement, city water, and grocery stores.

I don’t move because I don’t want to be seen. I figure that if I can keep still, they won’t notice me sitting there with Emory. I think of those animals on nature shows, the ones that try their and blend in no matter how different their background is from the color and texture of their skin.

More obscenities fly, words I haven’t ever heard before. Girls can be so mean to one another.

Finally, the instigator hits the girl hard enough for her to respond. She doesn’t cave into the taunts coming from the group; she’s actually angry. She swings her arm and smacks the instigator broadside across her head. Little teenage fists begin flying, ponytails are yanked from their Scrunchies. A full blown cat-fight erupts.

I cover Emory with my arms. He’s standing upright, his feet are on my knees. I look down at his face. He’s staring directly at the girls, watching their every move. It occurs to me that he’s actually trying to figure this out. That can’t be good for development, I decide. He may not be able to talk or walk on his own, but he’s very much absorbing the hostile confrontation.

We get up and slowly move away.

“You don’t want to see this, Pumpkin Pie.” I assure him.

We return to the fenced-in, swing area where the other moms are casually calling 911.

The girl runs off as the group continues to taunt. The instigator stands proud like an ugly cock, a raging bull.

Had this been a group of boys, would it have played out differently? I remember the plethora of unpleasant days that make up my teenage years and I think about ones yet to come for Emory. I realize that I’ll be as powerless then as I feel regarding the girl. The thought makes me shiver. I make a mental plea that he not experience such humiliation or succumb to the hideousness of the group.

I loathe the group.

“Poor girl, she only wanted to do the right thing.” A mother next to me says shaking her head. “Kids can be so cruel.”

I nod in agreement as I give Emory a push. He laughs gleefully from his swing.


  1. Please don’t stop blogging.

    I have thought similar thoughts about my son. I guess all of us with children have those thoughts. I wish I had some “advice” or “direction” to offer to the discussion, but really all I can say is that I have that sort of despair, too.


  2. I was watching a segment on the Today Show yesterday I think, about a boy that was so bullied and beat up at school that his parents are bringing charges up against the bullies. I could not believe it. Kids are so mean – especially young teenagers. It seems to have gotten even worse since I was in school in the 80s and 90s, but I still witnessed my fair share of fighting then too. It’s a shame that kids that are raised right and try to do the right thing are still pulled in to all this.

    Also, I hope you don’t stop blogging. I love your writing.


  3. Another vote for you to continue blogging.

    I remember something like this happening to me when I was in school. Actually it happened quite a few times, I guess I had a giant target on my head that people thought meant “punch me”. Your writing brought me right back to that time in my life, I could actually close my eyes and put myself in that poor girls place. Kids can be mean and the best thing you can do is to raise Emory to be the kind, forgiving, understanding boy that we know he already is.


  4. Great post. I think it’s kind of funny that all the moms were casually dialing 911. I don’t know why, but that image sort of makes me laugh. Probably because it would (wrongly) not occur to me to do that. It seems so impotent in a way but is really probably the best thing to do, especially with little ones in tow.


  5. Don’t leave me Mihow. I look forward to reading about your zany adventures every day. But I’ll take every other or every third if it means you’ll still be with us.


  6. Hey michele, i always hated walking in brooklyn at either lunch or when the kids get out of school. Gross. That boy rocks though. Look at those cheeks.


  7. A friend of ours used to teach at one of the very rough school in New York city and he’s told us that girls fight way dirtier (the instigator will remove all of her jewelery before starting anything -no earrings to pull, right?) than boys. Why? Because if it came to a fight between boys, there would likely be a gun involved.

    I’m not sure which freaks me out more. That girls are more likely to beat the shit out of each other or that boys just don’t because they’ll wind up dead. I’m just glad I live in a small, easy going city in a neighborhood without secondary schools.


  8. Now add the internet anonymity to mob mentality and teen cruelty and you have a recipe for what has got to be the worst teenage years any of us could ever imagine.

    I recently saw a YouTube video showing this older brother viciously teasing his younger brother about his MySpace page to the point of absolute freakout, and it’s apparently been viewed now by millions of people. All I could think was that this kid is going to either become suicidal or homicidal from the humiliation.

    Sometimes I’m happy I only have to worry about my cats. They’re not into MySpace yet.


  9. I identify with that poor girl. I was the one who got her hair pulled, tripped in the school halls, books dumped. I was the nice girl who never wanted to start or cause any trouble. I’m not so hesitant these days. I think blind rage would have over-ridden my usual calm motherly instincts and I would have inserted myself into that situation with extreme predjudice. I’m a tall and big woman who can be very intimidating, when needed. I just hope that mob all end up working for minimum wage and married to men who treat them like dirt. What worse fate could there be? ;-)


  10. Loved the post… Makes one realize how much parents want to protect their kids from what they cannot be protected from.


  11. At the high school I worked in, there was a “girl fight” and one of the kids came into the office holding a small hand full of her hair yelling that so and so pulled it out. Took me a horrid while before I found out it was part of an attachment.


  12. horrid moment that is


  13. ha! That’s REALLY funny. A much needed comical moment at this point.

    Also, Becky, believe me, I know where you’re coming from. I had my fair share of abuse in high school. But I gotta tell you, interfering with the kids here in Brooklyn could easily end up disastrous. I’m not talking punch or two, hell, even a knife to the groin. You just never know if you’re going to get shot in the face interrupting a fight here.


  14. Ah – You hit the nail right on the head. : This same scenario plays out regularly outside my Williamsburg apartment.


  15. Your boy is AWESOME! Great shot. And a well-told story. I am in agreement w/you: best not to get involved except to avoid serious injury or death, lest you risk your own or E’s. It’s useful to keep in mind that it is their drama, not yours, and for the most part it must and will play out for them in its own way, just as each of ours did. Plus which, it ain’t like they’re intimidated by adulthood in any meaningful way. (Bigness, maybe, as one earlier poster mentioned; but adultness? Not a chance. Even bigness—well, I tend to wonder. Guns rather level the size playing field, don’t they?)


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