One Good Beating December 2010

One Good Beating Cat Bentivegna Adami

"Beatings are essential to growing up.” Pops began, “Be grateful for those beatings.

Afterward, the world will soon open up, acknowledge you. Every one's gotta pay some

dues. There is no other way around it. Don't avoid it. Just embrace it."

Week one of my father’s basic training at Ft. Meade, Maryland, he took a grueling

fourteen hour hike and then slept in the forest. A comic book loving city boy, petrified of

the arachnids, insects, and tiny evil woodland creatures, he covered himself under his

sleeping bag and barely slept a wink, hearing every hoot, hiss, howl and rustle in the

wind, scratching himself incessantly as if covered in ants, all night long. The next day,

another fourteen hour hike, yet this second evening, my father could barely

remember zipping the sleeping bag shut, as he just passed out cold with painful

exhaustion, grateful for the rest, regardless of the potentially poisonous predators

surrounding him.

Even with a few million Reds aiming for them over the border, the Western

Germany my Pops was shipped to was a playground for U.S. servicemen in 1958.

Popular amusements included: drag racing through the Black Forest, drinking beer with

high alcohol levels and romancing buxom beauties. U.S. kids were so scrawny back then,

that only a few steins of beer put these GIs over the edge. Each inebriated night, Pops

would witness a fight; over a girl, over a bar tab, or just because he looked at you funny.

No real reason was needed, the fighting was just to ease the tension.

Life in the service is a "kill or be killed" mentality. So, as the story goes, my Dad

randomly picks one of the bigger beefcakes at the bar and just rams his head into the

guy's guts. His first fight, he was scared as can be but warm from all the beer, and the

fresh strewn blood running down his face. When he awoke the next day, swollen head,

double vision, limping to the mess hall for breakfast, the worst was over. Pops was no

longer an "outsider" and the table he sat down to eat at was filled with new friends.

The first few years out of college really sucked for me. First of all I was broke. I had so

much credit card and college debt, that I could barely afford clothes or to go out and grab

a beer. All I wanted to do was to be in grad school but I could not retrieve

my transcripts from Tulane without paying them ten grand. Various pie charts based on

my income were calculated and taped to my apartment wall. I figured I would be debt

free in around thirty three and a half years. My fake blond hair constantly had black roots

as seventy dollar dye jobs were few and far between. My dreams of living in the French

Quarter in New Orleans and writing would have to be put off for a few years, although I

could never have imagined so many.

Work was a mindless punishment surrounded by "Philistines." Being an "intellectual"

like myself was fantastic as there were no income requirements. T.S. Eliot was a banker

and a poet which comforted me in dark times. But he wrote the "Wasteland" and all I

was good for was some Henry Miller inspired soft porn. I was mostly performing data

entry and on the receiving end of a mercurial, elitist boss's tirades. It could

not have been farther from the life I envisioned as a "free" artist.

To get through this time I would go out drinking - a lot. Usually pounding pints of

Double Bourbon and Cokes on Monday or Tuesday nights spending all the following day

at work, unshowered, reeking of cigarette smoke, dry heaving in the bathroom and

giggling at my desk. I would play the local NPR station on low, as I had practically been

fired for attempting a New York Times crossword puzzle during my daily desk side meal.

I would lock the front door of the office so whoever needed to come in – a

Canabis reeking, pierced bike messenger, or my boss, would have to knock first and

wake me out of my slumber and allow me time to wipe the drool off of my chin.

I was not offered health insurance, so when I started having massive panic attacks, I

began seeing the head of Psychotherapy at Catholic Charities, for a sliding scale

ten dollars a session. Dr. I was an older grey haired woman in her early sixties, an ex-

nun, who began her career counseling prostitutes. I know she must have thought of me as

a seriously self-indulged, waste of her time. See, I had to take a short "mental health"

leave of absence from said desk job into my first year out of school. Like my pal Holden

Caulfield, I needed a break. My panic attacks were so bad, that I could not leave the

apartment I shared with two room mates. My heart would pound so hard in my chest with

anxiety, that I would beg for an ambulance, I thought I would pass out at any minute. I

had terrible aches and pains and could not stop a most horrific recurring record playing

over and over again in my head.

Dr. I straight up told me a friend of hers had been struck by a bus and killed on a

vacation in Ireland. I was only twenty-three and I needed to "lighten up" as I would never

be able to control everything that happened in life. And even though I was feeling very

out of control - like Jimmy Stewart clutching the walls up the stairs on his way up the

tower in Hitchock's "Vertigo", coming to terms that I could not control everything, as I

had tried so hard to do my whole unconventional life, saved me.

Two years or so out of college, I was twenty-four and stuck in what I foolishly thought

was a dead end job. I was so angry my roommates would at times come home to see my

bedroom trashed as I had turned into the Incredible Hulk.

Worst of all, or most definitely adding to my "frustration," was the fact that three years

had passed since I last got laid, which oh, yeah, happened to be when I lost my virginity

senior year in college. My father even took me out to dinner just to console me, "I know

you might think so, but I can assure you, you are NOT gay." I missed the freak out and

breakdown most kids go through while in high school or college and was paying the price

for that now. I would have to pay my dues. You can't be "born thirty." You need time to

just be a kid.

So, one Friday night I am out at a bar with my best friends from high school, all of us

dressed in our yuppie work outfits. It is packed inside and we are all sitting around in

a circle, laughing. Out of nowhere, some college guy, takes a seat between two of my

girlfriends. I had noticed that this guy, another guy and a tall blond girl had just been

staring at our group for around twenty minutes.

So my friends continue telling their stories with this dude just sitting there, as we

exchange these looks on our faces like "What is going on?"

All of a sudden, this guy puts his arms around two of my girlfriends, uncomfortably

squeezing them together toward his face and shouts "Which one of you bitches wants to

get fucked tonight?" I was livid. We all yelled at the jerk and watched him scamper

away back to his friends. Worst pickup line of all time. In my man hating rage, this guy

had gotten off easy. The girls began laughing again, although I was still steaming on the

inside. A few moments later, the blond girl who had been standing with our intruder,

approaches our table, standing above us. Instead of offering an apology for her over-

served boy friend, she hovers over our table and whines "Who the hell do you think you

are being mean to my friend?"

I don't know what happened next but the dam burst. I gave this girl a look from across the

table and she knew she was in trouble. "I'm gonna kill that bitch!" I screamed and jumped

over the table and chased this girl out the door of the bar and onto Webster street, in

my high heels and work suit. I ran so fast to catch her not knowing what I would actually

do once I caught her. I mean, I had never been in a fight before in my life - I was an

altar server in Catholic school, received "safety" citations from the Illinois Secretary of

State, never did drugs, stole, or said more than two or three bad words about someone,

tried to be honest, and paid my bills on time. And here I was, powered by adrenaline and

years of pent-up anger. And then I remembered, my Dad, the Germany story, and that no

matter what, I had to make the first punch or whatever and I had to make it count. At that

moment I caught right up to this girl, this very stupid and now scapegoated college girl,

who had defended this awful young man and for me, Gloria Steinem, and all the broken

hearted women just like me, pushed this girl so hard into airborne flight over Seminary

street that she landed right on her face.

Soon my arms were being pulled back by the tall bouncer who tried to hold back his

laughter. He quickly let go of me and I stood on the sidewalk in the front of the bar.

Awed looks from five friendly faces froze on the other side of a giant window. Catching

my reflection, I could see my white Ann Taylor dress shirt was ripped and the pearl

necklace was caught in a knot of hair on the top of my head. My face, beet red; heart

beating faster than a panic attack but invigorated beyond my wildest dreams.

My trajectory soon changed. I lightened up. Work got better, bills got paid off faster

and I even started talking to men again. Pops was right, the heavens did start to open up

to me. And all it took was one good beating.

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