The Violence Behind My Stiff Upper Lip

One morning as I waited outside of my kindergarten class at Berylwood Elementary for the teacher to arrive, a boy punched me in the mouth.

I had not spoken to him. I had not interacted with him at all. He just punched me in the mouth. Hard. I screamed. My face felt like it was on fire.

My father had just dropped me off. He witnessed the assault from the curbside. According to him, he jumped out of the car and yelled at the boy. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why did you do that?”

The boy responded, “I didn’t like her looks.”

My father couldn’t see the real damage. So, he left. When the kindergarten teacher finally arrived, she was unmoved by my tears, not even shrugging when I showed her my bloody tooth and pointed at the boy who did it. (She had always been an awful teacher, even prior to this incident.) Later that day, probably because I kept crying from the pain, there was an emergency visit to the oral surgeon. The boy’s punch had broken off my front tooth at the root. I remember the surgeon talking to me through his cotton mask, putting me to sleep so that he could extract the fragments that had shattered up inside my gumline.

The surgery was a success, but it left an ugly scar on my gum. Every single dental professional who has ever examined my mouth or cleaned my teeth has asked about that scar, as have many people I’ve met. I’ve practiced over the years how to hide the discoloration by dimming my smile, keeping my upper lip from riding up too high. People ask questions, you see. They always want to know what happened. And I rarely feel like telling them because, no matter how I phrase it, the incident makes me feel like a victim. Not just a victim, but someone who never found justice.

This happened back in the days before parents were litigious. The surgery must have set my parents back quite a bit, but they never sued anyone. They did repeat the story over the years, reinforcing my victimhood and subtly implying that, if he had liked my looks, he’d not have hit me.

I didn’t like her looks.

These days, plenty of men seem to think I’m attractive. (I just got an obnoxious reminder of that in an incident yesterday.) Not that it matters. Men commit violence against women — both domestic and virtual — regardless of whether they meet society’s beauty standards. Being attractive in anyone’s estimation far from guarantees future safety. There’s never any excuse, really.

Today on Denim Day, I don’t need to put on a pair of jeans to remind myself of the violence. All I have to do is to stand in front of a mirror and lift my lip. Like my scar, we don’t always see the violence, but it’s there, hiding in plain sight behind a well-rehearsed smile.

Repeat After Me

So, if you haven’t heard already, a minor was gang-raped in a college house up in Alameda County. From Salon:

Another witness, April Grolle, said, “I saw that this young girl did not want to be in there, and that’s when we just went ‘We’re getting this girl out of there.'” They managed to break down the door and found the girl lying on the bed with “vomit dribbling down her face.” Chief Elk said, “We had to scoop vomit out of her mouth [and] lift her up. Her pants were completely off her body.” She continued, “She had her one shoe on, her jeans were wrapped around one of her ankles and her underwear was left around her ankles. To the left of the bed there was some condom thrown on the ground.” The women then dressed the alleged victim and drove her to a local hospital.

The vomit, as it turns out, wasn’t even hers.

But the D.A. doesn’t think there’s enough evidence to go to court, even though there were the three female witnesses who rescued the girl and who can describe the last man brutally fucking her. (The jocks, of course, aren’t talking.) At least the Sheriff thinks there’s been a crime…

Let me remind you that there’s a man on Death Row in San Quentin because of the “eye witness” testimony of one woman and another woman who says he confessed to her. They both later recanted their testimony. No DNA evidence. He remains on Death Row after appealing to the Supreme Court. (And I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it. He does.)

This means we can send a man to his death based on eyewitness accounts, but we can’t punish a roomful of sadistic, evil young men to prison for rape. Because, you know, eye witness testimony is sooo unreliable.

Repeat after me: Our justice system is a joke. A big fat stupid joke told by dirty old men pissing against a tree in the park.