Thursday, July 5, 2012

Avoided Bar Fight Blues

This one gets deep, folks.  It'll take a sec to develop the point, so bear with me.

I guess it kind of gets to the root of my whole blogging thing.  To release stress or tension, people do many things.  Some people drink.  Some do Primal Scream.  I write out my feelings to release pain.  I write every day, but as most of it sucks big time, no one ever sees it.  (I usually write longhand in a series of journals.  my book takes up many on its own.)

Some of what I write ends up here.  Why?  Narcissism?  A driving need for approval?  Sadism?

All of the above?

In any case, I have been drinking more of late.  Not as much as I used to (Thank God) but more than I have been.  If that makes sense.

This leads to painful mornings.  As I work very early, hangovers are bad bad bad.  To say nothing of what my poor liver has suffered over the years.  Alcoholism runs down both sides of my family, which when combined with my Scots/Irish/German ancestry means I was a formidable Drinking Machine back in the day.

Guzzle Guzzle

So this drinking may or may not have led to the incident last Tuesday, July 3.  It was the thirtieth birthday of a good friend, so a bunch of us went out to fete her.  At the second bar we patronized (first one closed at midnight), there was a table near our booth.  I was walking past it (going to the bathroom) when I noticed that the one person had a phone with a PSU symbol on it.  As a fellow alum, I stopped to say "hi."  At the table were two really hot girls and two guys.  One was Indian, and he went to U of Illinois.  The other guy was big.  He probably was a football player sometime in the past, but his muscle was now more than coated by a layer of fat.  he also had a large scar on his left knee (he was wearing shorts.)

We spoke pleasantly, then off to the bathroom I went.  On my way back to the table, one of the girls called me over to ask me a question about my time at PSU.  The whole group had just graduated from college (PSU and Illinois) and i stopped to answer her question.  I rambled a bit, having had some drinks already.  I also bought a drink for the Illinois guy.

So out of nowhere, the big guy starts getting very rude, saying he'd "heard enough of [my] bullshit" and "the girls are almost young enough to be your kids." 

Took me second to connect the dots... so i just said "Friend, you are being VERY rude."  He said "I ain't your friend.  Just go away."  At this point, he leaned forward in his chair.

I figured out he thought i was hitting on the girls.  I said "Friend I AM old enough to be their father, and I'm not trying to hit on them.  So..."

He said something I couldn't hear, cutting me off, and seemed to be ready to launch out of the chair.  He clearly wanted a fight. 

I looked down at him and said "Friend, back off.  I have a brown belt."  (I do, in Tae Kwon Do, even though it's been years since I've studied.)  He said "I'd like to see it."

His tone was pure menace and sarcasm.

Last time I was in this situation was at a Halloween party a couple years ago.  This time, a pattern repeated itself.  I started selecting targets.  His scarred knee was an obvious one.  Knocking him either back into the chair as he stood or putting him face first on the floor as he stood was another option. 

But, as before, I did a quick run through of "What I Have to Lose" verses "What HE Has to Lose."

Him:  Gets bailed out by parents, probably goes back to their house where he lives.  His parents sue.  Maybe he gets a spot on his police record, maybe not. Probably banned from bar.  Probable physical damage, despite his youth.

Me: Get sued (no matter who starts it); have to call wife to bail me out; can't afford lawyer; maybe a spot on my record, maybe not; possible physical damage; banned from bar; Ruin night for my friends, including the birthday girl.

So, being an adult, I said "No, you wouldn't believe me.  But I'm going.  Have a good night."  And extended my hand to him.

"I'm not shaking your fucking hand."

I was pissed off by this point.  I turned to the girls and said "Goodnight ladies" then to the Illinois guy "Goodnight sir."  Then walked back to my friends.

They didn't see or hear any of it.  Would they have had my back?  I was there with four people: two guys and two women.  Maybe they would've helped, maybe not.

Our table got some wings and chicken fingers.  I had another cider.  The other group eventually got up to leave.  I told my friends what happened and they were supportive.  They were glad i backed off.  A couple of them pointed out I did the right thing, and that I showed I was an Adult, not a kid like him.


All true.  So why is it still eating at me?

My "Big Sis" pointed out that fighting is a "guy thing" and "Women don't fight."  Not bar fights anyway. 

I told my wife and she was glad I backed off as well.  She mentioned that she would've waited a while before bailing me out, and that I showed I was a "Better person."

I thought about it.  A lot.  I figured out why it bothered me. 

He was a bully.

He touched a deep wound in me- one that never healed.  As I grew up, I started confronting bullies because I figured if I didn't then they would have power over me.  I hate bullies.  So here I let a kid half my age bully me.  And it's gnawing at me.

Last time I had this problem, it took weeks to get over it.  I KNOW all my friends are right- I did the right thing.

Now I have to Live with it.


  1. You absolutely did the right thing.

    You didn't let a jerk draw you into a stupid fight where you had nothing to win. Even if you kicked his ass, you wouldn't have won. You're an adult, he's a loser. You won by walking away. Kicking his ass would not have changed him or taught him a lesson or done any of the things that we tell ourselves will happen when we get drawn into a fight.

    He didn't bully you. He tried to provoke you and you told him, in a very adult way, that he was a clown. You know that. He never will. That's his loss, not yours.

    Fighting him would not have been standing up to all the bullies who have ever been jerks. It just would have drawn you down to his level.

    You did the right thing.

  2. Sophie,

    Linda is absolutly did the right thing. My clear thinking commen sense tells me she was right.

    My basic instincts and history tell me the contrary. I can surely understand why you feel mad at yourself for not properly educating the goon. He had earned a 'beat down'. Sometimes you have to hit a jackass in the head with a 2X4 to get his attention.

    If I was there in your group I absolutely would have had your back. In my younger days there were very few fights that I walked away from before someone got hurt. I am amazed that you had the thoughts that you did before you stepped away. I tend to be instinctive. When things need to be done they need to be done.

    About 5-6 years ago I was in a bar with about 5 guys. We had been drinking for a while...starting with a 2 hour coctail party, followed by a heavy drinking dinner and then a few more in the gin mill. We were on a business trip in Banff Canada. We were chatting up a few young ladies...all young enough to be my daughter...who were celebrating the coming marriage of one of the girls. Two young guys from Labrador (oil field workers) came in to try to chat with the girls. The girls made it clear that they thought that the 'old' guys were more interesting. The Labbies asked where we were from. They were OK with the guys from the mid west but when I told them I was from NY they sneered about me being a Yankee fan. I ended up jumping from my seat onto and over the table and onto the two young guys. My buddies had to pull me off the Labbies. They left. They came back a short while later and offered a half baked apology and we ended up in another fight. When they were able to get away they fled.

    I know that we are bi-gendered and there is little that I like to do more than to get dressed, get out and behave like a lady ~ but "Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." These Labbies dissed my NY Yankees. I am sure you would have done the same for the Phillies or the Nittney least if you had been drinking as much as I had that night.

    Again, Linda is did the right thing. You will get over this but I fully understand how it would bother you.


  3. Sophie -

    You did the right thing. If you're going to fight, you must have nothing to lose. The bully was doing his calculations, and realized that he could get his way by being the bully. But what did he really gain from it all?

    You probably made the first mistake by trying to be nice to them. (This is not usually a bad thing. Nor is it meant as a criticism. Being open usually results in good results.) Was he seeing you as a woman trying to hit on the women at the table? Was he reacting to you being trans? Who knows? But something triggered his fighting reflex. And once triggered, it's best to back away unless you are ready to go all in.

    What does concern me is that you mentioned your drinking. Can you stop drinking for several months at a time? If you feel you can - do it now, just to detox. I am lucky that alcohol is not my addiction. But unlucky that food is my weak spot. I can't disconnect from food. You can disconnect from alcohol before things get bad for you.

    For some reason, you triggered his action to treat you with his perceived status of you as a man. He never would treat someone he saw as an inferior person as he treated you - he had to know where he stood in the pecking order. And you as a transperson probably confused the hell out of him for reasons he couldn't understand. As a result - fight or flight.

    Again - you did the right thing. You identified what was bothering you. Your correct choice of action (backing off) was reinforced by your friends. So you can move forward from this learning experience and say that you have gained something from it - no matter how uncomfortable you were at the time.


    1. This was back 2012- before I transitioned. A month later, I DID stop drinking, as I was arrested for DUI.
      I stopped for 5 months then. I've stopped again to lose weight.