One thing about myself I’m not proud of; I’ve been punched in the face a lot. Like, I actually don’t know how many times. I try to calculate it and things go hazy and red. I take this as an indication that I’ve been punched in the face too many times.
I’m not a boxer; I’m a skinny cartoonist with a big mouth, whom many observers assume suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome. I don’t consider my face “punchable”, but my jukebox of a head is apparently too tempting for froggy dudes to resist. Miraculously my nose has never been broken, but my back teeth bear the brunt of damage from more than a few fists.
As a teenager, I would walk miles to convenience stores in other towns to pick fights in parking lots. If you do this (and I sure didn’t make it a regular habit), you generally keep it to yourself, because technically you went to another town to commit crime, and also, if you’re me, you don’t always win. It’s a long walk home, your face hot, swollen and red, and you’d better be ready to take care of yourself. No parent wants actual proof that their kid is an antisocial psychopath.
I’m only talking about this now because I had to give it up. You’re in real trouble if you have to promise your little sister you’ll stop fighting. Also, I’m over forty now, and fighting with a middle-aged man gives you 50/50 odds you’ll kill him. But the thing that truly freaked me out was what my reaction to getting punched had become.
If you’re unfortunate enough to have been punched in the face, what was your first response? I’m guessing it wasn’t “oh gee, this again”, which was the point I reached. You’re not supposed to be mildly perturbed when someone hits you. You should say, “WHAT THE FUCK?!?”, not “oh, I guess we’re in a fight now?”
It is in no way socially acceptable for me to be as fighty as I am, so I do whatever it takes to control it. Amazingly, it feels even cooler to confuse a possible attacker by doing nothing, instead of thinking “oh goody, free fight”. These days people will do anything BUT hit you, which is fine by me. When my home was invaded in 2011, I sustained a reported 30-50 blows to the head, which has made certain neurological functions a bit glitchy. I lucked out in that I’ve never had a “normal” brain, so I have no default setting to compare with. Also, I’ve never been knocked out, so either my opponents have all been weak, or I’m made of sterner stuff than the next clod. I’m not looking to test this theory. Please do not punch me. I have outgrown its meager charms.
Another reason I am leaving this violence behind is that people use your belligerence against you. Weaker men will do or say anything to keep from losing or looking bad. And I’m not saying domestic violence doesn’t exist, but some women think that fighty guys will think nothing of punching them. Do you not understand that this behavior is based on protecting you? Let me just round up everything I care about in this world and smash it with my mitts. Does that really make logical sense? You can’t just pick and choose the male impulses you like. I go out of my way to grok the alien nonsense emanating from women 24/7. I think you can tolerate a little scuffle when some jerk looks at you funny. Anyway, your mother liked it.
It might even have been a natural impulse. Ten years ago, before I got on the medication I’m currently taking, a strange thing would happen when I suppressed the urge to fight; I would pass out. Some gremlin would flip the light switch in my head, and I would reawaken confused on the floor, before a terrified girlfriend. After the breakup, I just went back to hitting people again, and the blackouts stopped. However, sometimes I can feel the tinges creeping back in when I control myself, as though this would be the point where I’d normally pass out. I still have episodes where I “see red” and go ballistic. However, I’ve written and published eight graphic novels in the past ten years, which I would certainly call progress and efficiency. I talk a lot of shit, but I also get shit done.
Part of me suspects that the culprit is this: I am of a different era than the one we currently inhabit. When I was a kid, kids fought. You knew a girl liked you if she physically injured you. When you got too big, someone would inform you that you “play too rough”, and you’d go find some bigger kids and get your butt kicked. You’d go to the pool, and there’d be mean kids you’d have to scrap with. At my grade school, there was a big donnybrook in the lunchroom every week. I was in two small but brutal rock fights before I was thirteen. By seventeen I’d beaten an older man who’d pulled a knife on me, with a tree branch. By eighteen I had been shot at. Four years ago I stabbed a home invader repeatedly. What can I say? I’m wired differently.
My parents bear none of the blame; they were total peaceniks. My dad was appalled at the idea of fighting, and spanking was an abhorrent concept. Violence is a natural reflex I developed being alive on earth. My entire life, other people have fucked with me and tried to tear down what I build. I see how the world treats creative people. You think I do what I do for the dividends? What dividends? Who ever got rich and happy doing what I do? I know full well I’ll be fighting extinction to the grave.
So that’s the kind of fighting on which I focus. It’s nowhere near as fun, but it’s easier on the teeth and brain.