When I was 8, my parents split up and I moved to a new address a few miles away. I had to change schools too. At my old school, I had friends that I’d grown up with since Nursery, and the culture was quite civil. Cross the border into Sandwell, and it was quite different. My new school was a culture shock – all about who was “cock of the school”, when the next “scrap ’round the backs” was, and sniffing out anyone who wasn’t devoted to Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.. By comparison, I was smaller, quieter and less threatening than everyone else, which made me quite the target. One of the troglodyte fuckwits had it in for me with a passion, even though I’d done nothing to him. Even when we’d both left school, he was still looking for every opportunity to beat me up – he never got the chance, though.
My son’s a lot like me when I was that age, and it’s both a blessing and a curse. He’s very polite, concerned and contemplative, always favouring diplomacy over confrontation, and has almost no interest in sport whatsoever. He’ll grow up to be one of the good guys. When he’s troubled by something, and he needs to know how to respond, he asks a lot of questions beginning with “What if…”, as if he’s trying to cover every eventuality. It’s one thing to offer advice as a parent, but it made me realise that while I’m worlds apart from who I was at his age, mentally covering all the bases is something I do all too often. In order to help him find a solution to all his problems, I have to find a solution to mine.
When I’m asking myself all those “what if…” questions, it’s usually to do with any potential confrontation, and based on negative reactions I might get from other people. We both need to harness the power of ignorance.
I was always brought up to believe that ignorance is rude, without exception. That’s probably why I ended up being such an easy target, because to not speak when spoken to – however rudely – was rude. To defend myself, I had to do or say something – I had to react, and by reacting, I played into the hands of those who sought to torment me. I need to disconnect that line of thinking.
My son is not like most other boys in his class. I’m not like most adult males of my age either. We’re both on the right side of weird in our own individual way, and we will no doubt face some occasional verbal from those who don’t approve of our personal choices, behaviours or preferences; but we are both blessed in that, for all our quirks and weird little foibles, we have loved ones who are behind us and support us.
The less we acknowledge those who oppose us, the less they can harm us.
It’s time to turn “what if…” into “so what!?”