The knuckle sandwich epiphany

Back in the days Before Technology, when I was growing up, we entertained ourselves by interacting with other kids.

This usually involved riding bikes or climbing trees, making up games or going to imaginary places. But sometimes we’d talk about Really Important Stuff like -
Cartoon of a kid saying, "If you could wish for anything in the world, what would you wish for?"I would nearly always answer -
Cartoon of a little girl with a halo above her head saying, "World peace."

Or sometimes -
Cartoon of a little girl with angel wings saying, "An end to world poverty."Keep in mind, it was the 80s.

The Cold War was going strong and the threat of nuclear destruction loomed large in the news. As did the famine in Ethiopia, which parents used with masterful effect at the dinner table.
Cartoon of a woman with her arms crossed saying "You are NOT too full to finish what's on your plate. There are starving children in Africa who would give anything to eat a brussels sprout!"Cartoon of a little girl at the dinner table thinking, "If only I could post my veggies to Africa..."Popular music had a lot to say on such matters, too.Cartoon of Whitney Houston singing, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way."Cartoon of BandAid singers with headphones on, singing "We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones la da di da so let's start giving."All in all, it was pretty clear to me that it was our responsibility as a generation to solve problems like world poverty and conflict.

Among other things – such as inventing a prosthetic copper kneecap, so my mother would no longer suffer from arthritis – I planned to become a nun and help the world’s poor. Like Mother Teresa. Only protestant.

I practised by wearing a sheet on my head while reading the Bible on the slippery dip in the backyard.
Cartoon of a little girl  with a sheet over on a slippery dip, reading in her head - "And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Canan..."I may have taken my responsibilities to all humankind a little more gravely than most kids my age, but it must be said, this wasn’t an entirely selfless impulse. In my elaborate imaginary world, my Good Deeds would earn me universal approval and recognition.
Cartoon of a little girl, holding a giant trophy above her head. It says "For causing world peace and stuff". An announcer is saying, "Our youngest Nobel Prize winner ever!"Sunday School also instilled in me the importance of being gentle. Should the day come when I was smote on the right cheek, I would be poised to offer the left one for a second smiting.

Or so I told myself.

I had conveniently forgotten that as a five-year-old I threw a piggy bank chock-full of copper coins at my younger brother in response to some pretty low-grade verbal provocation.
Cartoon of a little curly-haired boy saying, "I don't want to play with you! You're a very bad sister!"Not only was my brother younger and smaller than me, but he had some very definite views about pants – namely that life was much better without them. So, there he stood, small and pantslessly vulnerable as I hurled the piggy (formerly a guest at my backyard tea party) with every hope that it would crush his skull.
Cartoon of a little girl on a picnic rug hurling a piggy bank at the little curly-haired boy with no pants.This was by no means an isolated incident. In high school, I consistently chose the path of most resistance in response to the merciless teasing of my male friends.

Cartoon of a girl in school uniform hitting a schoolboy in the guts with her canvas rucksack.These early forays into violence didn’t go so well for me. The piggy bank episode saw me banished to my room, and my satchel-swinging fury only ever succeeded in escalating the high school teasing. Clearly I would need to curb this ferocity if I hoped to achieve anything Good in the world.

Then, as a 20-year-old, working in a summer job at university, I became friends with a 27-year-old vegan lesbian anarchist who attempted to expand my worldview with a slightly more sophisticated version of the playground What If game.
Cartoon of a spiky haired girl asking, "Under what circumstances would you kill someone?" Cartoon of girl replying, "I wouldn't." Cartoon of spiky haired girl asking, "But what if it was someone evil? A serial killer? What about Hitler?" Cartoon of a girl looking disturbed and replying in a small voice, "Nope." Cartoon of spiky-haired girl throwing her arms in the air and saying, "But he killed millions of people! Wouldn't all the lives you saved be worth the one life you took?"Cartoon of a girl looking dumbfounded.Her argument made sense, but I couldn’t see how it gelled with my aspirations to be an ambassador for peace. I stowed it in my bank of Important Things to Think About Later.

A year after my refusal to kill Hitler, I made friends with a funny, spunky law student who had an inexplicable crush on her weasel-faced ex.

Weasel Face was pasty and scrawny with unwashed rat-brown hair that straggled down to his hunched shoulders. He worked at Macca’s, but considered himself to be a writer in the mould of Jack Kerouac.
Cartoon of Weasel Face with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, saying, "Visiting brothels is an important part of my craft. I choose to live authentically so I can write authentically."It was a classic you-could-do-so-much-better scenario, but my friend didn’t want to do better. She wanted Weasel Face back.

One night, I was out with a group of extended friends, drinking and talking. As the night wore on, people left one by one. Until I found myself alone with Weasel Face.

I still couldn’t fathom what my friend saw in him, but he didn’t seem so unbearably offensive one-on-one. I stayed and played a couple of games of pool with him. Finally I told him I was heading home, and he asked if he could come with me.
Cartoon of Weasel Face quirking one eyebrow and smirking.He was persistent.Cartoon of Weasel Face with his hand on his heart, saying, "Please? I promise I won't do anything. I won't event try to touch you. I just want to lie beside you."How was it that this worm still held my friend’s heart in the palm of his grimy little hands and didn’t appreciate how very lucky he was?

I left him standing at the taxi rank, looking forlorn.
Cartoon of Weasel Face seen in the sideview mirror, standing at a taxi rank, drooping.It was pitiful, and more than a little funny. But I didn’t mention it to anyone.

I knew I had the power to destroy him, and it was a deeply uncomfortable feeling.

The next time we saw each other, it was in another large group at a pub. Weasel Face was sitting at my table, needling a gay friend who was sitting with us.

I made the fairly mild and none-too-original observation that his homophobia suggested he might be uncomfortable with his own sexuality. Weasel Face bit back venomously.
Cartoon of Weasel Face shouting, "No-one asked for your opinion! You're nothing but a stupid little child! You don't know the first thing..."To begin with, I was stunned.

A cartoon of a girl's face looking like she's just had an idea.

But as he continued to rant, my hackles rose.
Cartoon of an irritated girl thinking, "Who does this pathetic butt-smear think he is? He really needs to be quiet now."That didn’t look like happening any time soon, and I felt no inclination to argue with him. I didn’t value his opinion, and he didn’t value mine. So why was he trying to cow me with his disapproval?

I really did just want him to stop talking.

I made a surprisingly calm and measured decision.
Cartoon of the girl standing up and punching Weasel Face in the head.And his reaction was unexpectedly satisfying.
Cartoon of weasel Face holding his his face in his hands and lamenting, "My face! My faace!!"For a second I was at a loss for what to do. I knew I couldn’t sit back down with him at the table and continue as if nothing had happened. So I picked up my bag and left.

I headed for the bus stop with a spring in my step.Cartoon of a girl walking happily, thinking, "I smote him big time!"

It was in that moment that I finally recognised my childhood ambitions for the fantasies they were. I had never been cut out to save the world through passive resistance.

Having tasted the power of standing up for myself, it was clear to me: I was destined to be a Bandit Queen.Cartoon of a girl ninja in fighting stance.
When I grow up.

79 thoughts on “The knuckle sandwich epiphany

  1. Your style of incorporating these comic pictures into the story are great! it really made me visualize what you were saying and overall it made it such a great story. I too, often think back to what my calling in life really is and more than half of the time it comes out to be a ninja.

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