Cafe Witness

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm a Fag

Not really, but that's beside the point, because that title was decided for me last week. [NOTE: Update at the end of this post.]

I was walking the two blocks from my apartment to the grocery store when two of the neighborhood kids -- girls between the ages of 8 and 12, I'd guess -- noticed that I was:

* wearing a light red (to them, pink) hoodie,
* carrying a recyclable grocery bag (to them, a purse) over my shoulder, and
* bouncing when I walk (which is a happy family trait)

Thus, in their eyes, I was a fag. And they let me know it.

On my way home, the older girl called out to me, and when I looked over, she -- in all the slow-motion magnitude that cinematographers use to signify a watershed moment in one's life -- flipped me off.

I decided to shrug it off, since kids are kids. But I filed it away, knowing that it would boomerang back around again, since kids are also pack animals. And it did.

Yesterday, I was walking Rufus and a gaggle of neighborhood kids -- all of them white and lower-middle-class -- were playing one someone's lawn. When I walked past, they let me know my new name ("Fag Peter") and hurled insults at me and my dog for a full two blocks, loud enough that I (and, certainly, anyone else in the neighborhood) could hear quite clearly. Again, I chose to ingore it, but it does pose a number of interesting problems:

* I now brace myself every time I leave my house, expecting to be venomously insulted by children.

* Since these kids likely know where I live (and what I drive), property damage or vandalism is not out of the question.

* Presuming that everyone else on the block heard these insults and has thus far decided to say nothing about it, I presume they don't mind the neighborhood kids slurring anyone else who walks through.

I'm Wondering How Best to Handle This

If we were all kids (or adults), I could react in an appropriate way (fistfights, reasoned discourse or litigation). If I was a kid and they were adults, I could tell my parents and get the police involved.

But as an adult being harassed by children, my options seem starkly limited. As mentioned above, their parents and neighbors don't seem to think that insulting someone is a reprimandable offense. And even if I did approach their parents, I suspect one of the following things would happen:

* It would let the kids know they were getting to me, thus fueling their desire to further harass me

* It might get the kids in trouble, thus legitimizing their anger toward me, or

* The parents might not see anything wrong with it, and accuse me of either provoking the kids or otherwise causing a needless problem.

As I See It, I Have Four Options:

* Walk Rufus on other streets, and avoid my own neighboring block at all costs (thus living as a prisoner in my own neighborhood)

* Walk everywhere with Ann (which might at least momentarily confuse the kids long enough to Google the term "fag hag")

* Confront their parents, or

* Confront the kids

Also, I should point one bit of clarification:

* Although I'm not gay, it's not the "fag" insult that bothers me. They could just as easily (and nonsensically) be calling me a cripple or a nigger. What frustrates me is that these kids are evidently growing up in a neighborhood where judging someone based on outward appearances, and then slurring them in the streets, isn't deterred.

Granted, I'm sure each of these kids will learn a lesson someday, when they display their prejudices against someone their own age -- or, as adults, against someone who doesn't mind beating the shit out of them -- but for now, I feel unnecessarily cast as the moral protagonist in some afterschool special, in which I know have to reach deep inside and find some pearl of wisdom that will make this all worthwhile for everyone involved, when really I just want to buy groceries and walk my dog in the neighborhood where I'm paying to live.

Thoughts?

3:21 PM UPDATE: While walking Rufus this afternoon, I passed by the homes where some of the kids live, and two of their parents were at work (on laptops) on their porch. I introduced myself and explained the situation to them, and we had a fruitful (I think) discussion about it.

They were upset, apologetic and, I think, embarrassed that any of this happened. One of the moms admitted that she'd heard the kids yelling something yesterday, but since their voices all blend together when they're in a pack, she couldn't make out what they were saying. They each said they'd talk with their kids, both individually and as a group, because they said their kids know that kind of behavior is wrong and they want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Here's hoping this works out, and that we can all move forward as a neighborhood, rather than seeing an escalation in petty insults.

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28 Comments:

  • well, my first instinct is "beat this shit out of them," but that's (a) sinking to their level, and (b) illegal. (damn.)

    so I'm gonna go with - next time stop and talk to them. Ask if there's a problem they'd like to talk about. Most bullies, when confronted, will back down. They'll (hopefully) be embarrassed and knock it the hell off.

    there's always the option of video-taping their behavior for YouTube?

    By Blogger Jen_Jake'smom, at 12:05 PM  

  • I agree with Jen... it really is a no win situation.

    I would do a very simple, conversation and then possibly the parents - but as you said that may put your car/windows/dog in danger.

    It could always be worse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1QaFtd55MI&feature=related

    :)

    By Blogger Chris Johnson, at 12:14 PM  

  • You could say "Yeah, I sure had fun with your dad last night."

    But then you might get beat up by the dad.

    J/K :)

    By Blogger BrainLint, at 12:15 PM  

  • Do you know any of the older and perhaps less puerile kids in the neighborhood that could act as a go-between? Or someone with a little street-cred with those kids that you might be able to be seen talking with or might give them the word to stop the shit?

    By Blogger Joe C, at 12:17 PM  

  • why not take the camera and video the kids yelling "fag" then post it on YT.

    then send that link to the school principal.

    oh... and what's with "Peter" as part of the insult? I must've missed school that day.



    LOL... the word verification below the comment box is "shermen", with the r and m close enough so it's looks like "shemen".

    By Anonymous rich, at 12:17 PM  

  • I wouldn't bother with the parents. It's likely they won't care. I've been dealing with that mentality for years now.

    Videotape each and every time. This will either scare them or endear you to them.

    Good luck!

    By Blogger Ms. Caroline FB, at 12:22 PM  

  • Smile. Wave. "Hey there." Non-confrontational, non-threatening ... hopefully boring, eventually.

    Intimidation by kids sucks, doesn't it? No less real, though.

    By Anonymous @bethbellor, at 12:22 PM  

  • If none of those options seem "manly" enough for you. You can always resort to passive aggressive violence and fear. As in let them catch you killing pigeons or something crazy. If it worked for hitler it can surely work for you.

    By OpenID casualmagic, at 12:26 PM  

  • Next time I walked the dog I'd leave Rufus at home and find some stray, nasty looking mutt to walk, then as I approached the children I'd unleash him, because he's not my dog anyway...

    Lather, rinse and repeat daily until you find the right mean dog that gets through to the kids.

    It'll be fun until it's done, and then problem solved.

    These aren't poor little children after all, they're little turds who will one day become big pieces of crap, so I'd see unleashing the dogs on them as a favor to society.

    By Blogger Scott Bannon, at 12:30 PM  

  • It actually might be entertaining to screw with them. One day venture out in full-force stereotypical gay garb, the next in full-force stereotypical manly man garb. I'll lend you a English Bulldog for the experiment, just be sure to take your time returning her.

    Their parents suck, btw. It really shouldn't be your problem to try to figure out how to make it stop or keep it from escalating.

    By Blogger Burgh Baby, at 12:40 PM  

  • dude, my kid is only 6, but if when he got older he did anything remotely as rude and horrid as this, I would want to be told -- because *I* would then beat the shit out of him.

    From this and my other comment, I probably seem violent, but I'm really not. I just can't deal with this crap. (Nor can I deal with people with disabilities being made fun of.)

    The irony here is that in most cases, a parent who would CARE about their child acting like this is the parent who taught the kid in the first place not to be a little shit.

    I LOVE the idea of the stray dogs. LOL

    By Blogger Jen_Jake'smom, at 12:49 PM  

  • fight fire with fire. it could escalate, or you could scare them off. they are kids; you have authority as an adult, no matter your perceived sexual preference. you are in charge and you shouldn't let the little bastards take your freedom from walking the street without being harassed.

    here's what I would do:

    1) Stare them down. Kids hate that and it kind of creeps them out.
    2) Talk to them directly in a tone they understand and let them know you won't be bullied.
    3) Chase them with a baseball bat screaming "how gay do you think I am now, motherfucker?"

    just make sure you have a back-up plan in case they chase you back.

    also, if you want to be a little more discreet, anonymously call the cops on them for anything and everything they might be doing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:55 PM  

  • as a dad I would want to know all about it. I would apologize and have my son in to do the same.
    if the parents are not as cordial, which i seriously doubt, let them know that you will be calling the police and both the kids and the parents will be dealt with. Harassment is harassment, and juvenile court exists for just such an occasion.

    By Anonymous nathan king, at 1:21 PM  

  • This is a tough one. In a lot of cases the parents of these types kids are either too lazy, too drunk, too stoned to give a damn about their kids calling people names.

    Your options for dealing with this are limited, but I agree with Jen and Rich - take a video of them, post it to youtube, then post it to your blog.

    By Blogger Schultz, at 1:59 PM  

  • Snipers. It's the only way.

    I wish I could offer something helpful here. They might be so bold because of general pack mentality. If you see them separated from the crew, you could engage them and maybe that will discourage it. But that's effort you have to put into it, and it's not up to you teach them a life lesson.

    Ignoring it sounds like I'm parroting my mom when I was in gradeschool, so...

    Yep, snipers.

    By Blogger righteoustetris, at 1:59 PM  

  • Wow. I don't really have anything to offer than what's already been said, and having read your update it sounds like maybe the kids will be talked to.
    As a person who is considering breeding at some point in the future, I find this terribly disturbing. I would never raise my kids to behave in such a manner, but who knows what they learn in school and from other people. Parents really need to be throroughly involved in their childrens lives and it seems like that is happening less and less these days. Didn't things seem simpler when we were younger?

    By Anonymous pittchick, at 2:38 PM  

  • Kids say the darnedest things!

    I was going to suggest that you politely clarify to them that, while being serviced by their dads COULD make you gay, you have in fact also been serviced by their MOMS, which therefore makes you bisexual, not gay.

    Luckily, it sounds like the issue has been resolved.

    By Anonymous parking chair, at 2:49 PM  

  • I would never raise my kids to behave in such a manner, but who knows what they learn in school and from other people.

    the answer to this is, you explain to your children - and talk with them every day and often the subject will come up, this isn't just a lecture you give them once - that it doesn't matter what other people do or say, you do what you know is right.

    I have this conversation with my son constantly - he's in his first year of school and coming home with all sorts of things. If need be in the future, I will resort to "if your friends jump off a bridge, will you?" ;)

    By Blogger Jen_Jake'smom, at 2:52 PM  

  • Refreshing to hear the parents actually were apologetic and seemingly sincere.

    I wonder how those kids are dong in school? Seems like the antagonists and bullies from my day most often sucked academically.

    I say, keep some Chinese Throwing Stars with you at ALL times. Kids get mouthy...WHAM!

    By Anonymous Chris Lugo, at 2:56 PM  

  • Sounds like elementary school for me...

    I've always accepted some level of ignorance for those that live in more metropolitan areas like this. ie: why do my neighborhood's kids and adults walk up the dead center of the road? Are they not as afraid of the fact that a car can hurt them?

    Aside from that, I second the throwing stars, but prefer a folding chair. Then you can sit down and laugh at them after you rack them over the head...

    By Blogger Sorgatron, at 3:18 PM  

  • Glad to hear the parents responded well. That has to be refreshing for the neighborhood, yes? Also, thank you so much for removing that picture.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:16 PM  

  • That's just awful, Justin! I'm sorry you're experiencing this. Interested to see if the parents have any impact on the kids' behavior, or if it escalates.

    I've seen kids say/do inappropriate things over the years and I always reprimand them for it - loudly and firmly. I don't care who their parents are or what their parents think. We all live in society together and if the parents won't wash the kids' mouths out with soap, then it's up to someone else to do it (at least proverbially). Perhaps a sharp, "That's inappropriate language" could startle them straight.

    I like Burgh Baby's idea to go all-out and perhaps even cross-dress the next time you walk Rufus. I wonder what the kids would say then.

    By Anonymous Marina Martin, at 4:45 PM  

  • Well, this just sucks. Children can be so cruel. I imagine it causes fear as well (and rightfully so). IMO, though, it’s learned behavior – most of the time – that’s pure bluster. And who do they learn from (primarily)? Parents.

    The bad news: The parent talk may not work because of the above. The kids learned that behavior somewhere and it most likely started at home.

    The good news: You met neighbors that you probably would not have met otherwise. This was a good thing and will be proven as such (related to this incident or not) in the future. You may also consider taking it to the next level and hosting a community meeting (at a rent-free community/city location) about “safety in the neighborhood.” Don’t make it about you and this incident, but about safety in general (this incident can be mentioned as an example during the meeting – a good time to get feedback as well). Consider it short-term pain, for long-term gain…

    The advice: Ask the kids “Why” questions. Ask why they are calling you names without even knowing who you are? When you get a response – answer with another Why question. If the children have any ability to think on their own (and they do), they will realize before you get to your 5th “Why” question, that they – too – don’t have a clue as to why they are doing what they’re doing…or at the very least – they will question their own behavior. Another one that works: “How would you feel if…” The other comments from your readers were correct when they said that Kids don’t like it when you directly address them with direct eye contact and questions. They’ll back down.

    If the parents aren’t part of the problem, then the school is the source. That’s a bridge we can cross if you get to it.

    Good luck.

    By Anonymous Jaculynn Peterson, at 5:20 PM  

  • If talking with the parents doesn't work out, you could always hire another bully to go lean on them.

    I too have had the unfortunate encounter with a small group of mean kids. They picked on my small dog instead of me, but it was still very frustrating. I got lucky they started picking on him after I was already in the process of moving.

    By Blogger Lisa, at 12:29 AM  

  • Open carry.

    Just kidding. You're the world famous producer of STBD, why not work them into a storyline on the series or something. Having a positive influence on them could be a real coup for ya.

    That or denigrate their insult skills. OMG U R GAYZOR!!! I mean, is there any other more over-used, small-minded, and CHEAP insult? Tell them to come up with something original or stay out of the battle of wits.

    Kids are vicious, but can sometimes be gotten through to. I hope their parents invite you over to dinner or something just to watch the kids twist.

    By Blogger SexCpotatoes, at 12:02 PM  

  • This is one of my most favorite post on your blog..nice blog..I am always excited to read your blog stuff..Thanks for your contribution

    By Anonymous Invertir en oro, at 3:15 PM  

  • So, I do not really imagine this is likely to have success.
    steel buildings

    By Anonymous Duncan, at 10:34 AM  

  • Indeed you are a complete fag! there's no doubt about it!

    By Anonymous 4rx, at 11:34 AM  

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