I’m a sucker for bad boys. As ashamed as I am to admit a past littered with men who punched parking meters for fun, I now refer to these not so gentle-men as MAD: Mean, Angry and Dense. There’s an us-against-them quality to the MAD man: When he isn’t pissed off at you, he’s pissed with some other shmuck, if not with the entire state of Alaska, or those inept people at the Daily Grill. MAD men know exactly how the world works, and would rather lose a personal relationship than the point they’re making.
The first MAD man I fell for was actually a 7 year old bully named Rachel. SHE was the Queen of the School, highly admired, fashionable, and so scary that children would occasionally vomit in her presence. Rachel was a special combination of perfectly feathered hair, high-level roller skating talent, and a MAD motha all rolled into one pretty punk.
Everyday during recess she’d gang up on some innocent kid playing jacks or jumping rope. She and her 4th grade posse would surround the terrified victim, calling out names and kicking where it hurts. Since Rachel was a star soccer player, she left her mark by bruising body parts, along with egos. God I wanted to be her!
That said, I did not like Rachel. I fantasized frequently about shaving her head while she slept. Yet, I wanted to be like her, and have unrelenting confidence and big balls. But more than anything I wanted Rachel to like me. Maybe then I’d avoid her Tretorn sneakers making swift contact with my gut.
She didn’t seem to beat those she tolerated, so most often I avoided her MADness, since I learned from a young age to suck down my Sicilian rage and be a “nice” girl. My method worked for many years. After all, it’s difficult to kick someone’s ass while they’re kissing yours.
I hoped that by remaining peaceful and passive, eventually Rachel would stop being MAD, and become polite like me, and the rest of my wimpy friends. Maybe then she’d no longer call me “anorexic” or tell me what I could and couldn’t wear to school – Trust me, the low-food diet and Zion Ranch wardrobe were NOT my ideas!
When my submissive ways didn’t work, Rachel and her popular gang of tween bitches would stand with hands on hips, looking as though they had inhaled a most foul odor, taunting me with labels I’ve blocked from memory. Even though I’d get so mad, I’d just stand there, looking away, hoping we’d all disappear from my inattention and lack of focus.
I called this elite gang of gals the “wheat, meat and dairy girls”. For years, I envied not only their access to processed food, but also their cruel power to crush self-esteem with a single word, or look.
Midst all the “peace and love” on the commune where I grew up, there were strict rules, and speaking out wasn’t allowed. Although protesting was encouraged politically, it wasn’t tolerated in the home. Lightning, wasn’t a man of force, yet would often remind me in a thick Texan accent to stay in line with the program:
“Na Deli, you’d betta have emptied the trash or I’m gonna’ have ta’ fetch-a switch.”
Then, after a glaring look, he’d return to his chanting.
Whether I liked it or not, I had a list of chores fit for Kunta Kinte. Everyday I hauled compost, watered the garden, pumped the well, collected fire wood, washed dishes, and harvested wild miners lettuce for the trough of communal salad we ate every night.
Rachel, on the other hand, had no duties, and called her mother a “lame-O” while she danced on the kitchen table in tight Wiggles. We didn’t have a table. We sat on the floor like the Moroccans and ate with chopsticks like the Chinese – anything to set us apart from the Americans.
The next girl I fell for was during high school. The first time I saw Tina, I was impressed instantly by her femme-meets-boyish charm when she grabbed her friend’s donut, sang “Freddy My Love” using it as a mock-microphone, then crumbled the doughy remains, throwing them into the air with a snide chuckle as she walked away. I knew then: she was the ONE. For four years I did my best to win her over (at least enough to avoid her from destroying my donut).
Of course there are many shades of MADness, and unfortunately far more sinister than I’ve described here. Sadly, just because I’ve grown up doesn’t mean I’ve finally escaped MAD people. MAD men run countries, troll the internet and torture children because of their skin color, sexual orientation…or tragic wardrobe and unusual lifestyle.
In recent years I’ve become in touch with the MAD man who lives inside – the sadistic, demeaning creep in my head, who became ever louder once the last MAD man left the building. As soon as I outgrew MAD relationships, I began to notice how I abuse myself with harsh criticism.
Similarly, I’ve found with every MAD person I’ve known and loved, underneath the hard exterior, they’re protecting a scared child.
The “power” I’m now attracted to, and strive to attain, is that rare ability to freely express the beautiful vulnerability that connects us all.