**Thanks to Weekend Wordsmith
"Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" How many times had she heard Mama remind her of that little bit of playground wisdom? How many times had she spoken or thought those words? Plenty! Growing up poor, smart, wearing glasses ...she had been called lots of things. But she never let them bother her. She had lots of self esteem and knew exactly who she was and where she was going. Until the day when she was 11 and the slimy dad next door noticed she had boobs. Then the world turned upside down and nothing was the same. She was still confident on the outside, still smart, but she began to doubt herself just a little bit. Withdrew just a little bit. Stop trying so hard just a little bit. Not so much as anyone would notice~but she knew. When she hit her teens, she began to notice that the kinds of boys who were drawn to her were the "dangerous" ones. She really deep down preferred the neat, tidy chess club~math club~debate team boys but the only ones who bothered were the "stoners". So to satisfy that little missing piece she now had, she glommed onto every tattooed, wanna-be biker within a stone's throw of the place and put up with the shit. The digs, the slurs. "Damn your hair is nappy-you sure you ain't part black?" from the skinhead. "You cain't tell me you forgot cigarettes again, you stupid bitch." from the carny guy who ran the merry-go-round at the park. This pattern continued through college, where frat boys were her self destructive weapon of choice. When one of them would start a drunken tirade, she would just think, "Sticks and Stones, Sticks and Stones" just like Mama taught her.
When she married, she thought she had found the mythological "Mr. Right". He was the "math geek" of her dreams. He was not hunky, but he was brilliant! He had invented some piece of medical equipment and it gave him the money to follow his passions. He gave her a great life. They had rich friends, a nice home, fun vacations. They talked about the past and how her own deficiencies had caused her to choose poorly and wasn't it great he had found her to pull her up and set her right. So he was a little uptight-after all the chaos of her younger life, the control he possessed was like being rescued from the Titanic. And for a while it was good. He designed computer games, then taught High School Math. After each experience, he would say "That's not really me. I need to do something else. I need to find "the THING". She completely understood~he was her "thing" and she had searched for him just as diligently as he searched for his passion. So she stroked and petted and let him moan and complain because she understood. Then one day he threw the vase because she had let the flowers wilt in it. A few weeks later, he kicked the cat when it got in his way. Followed days later by the punch to the wall that just missed her head. She tried to help, but he just called her "Bitch" or "Dumb ass" and she chanted "sticks and stones sticks and stones" in her head like a mantra.
Then the day came. She knew it was coming, but she couldn't get out of her own way. She just braced for it. He had left yet another job that "made him fell dead inside". She had figured out that yelling and throwing and name calling made him feel alive~stirred his juices~made him feel passion. So she let him and then cried as she cleaned his messes and tried to forget the mean things he said. But this day...he hit her. It was the first time, but she didn't feel as shocked as she should have. He needed a release and the usual stuff wasn't working. She stood there thinking, "Well, at least I saw it coming." Then he did it. The one thing she had always said she would never put up with~the line she would not allow to be crossed~the one word she could not chant out of her head. He screamed "CUNT" in her face as he drew back to hit her one more time.
It was automatic. She dropped into the kick boxing stance her personal trainer had taught her and let it fly. She took every bad decision, every nasty name, every degrading feeling and that hit that hurt more than her face and put it into a kick to the groin, followed by a punch to the nose. As he crumpled to the ground, he was not stunned by the physical assault. What made him lay still and pray it was over was the look on her face as she leaned close and whispered,
"Sticks and stones, bitch, sticks and stones."