Wrestling with Something Else

December 4, 2007
By Miriam Brown, Oak Park, IL

I am wrestling with my father; we lock hands across the carpet as we test each other’s strength. Eventually he overcomes me and I am helpless as he tickles my sides, forcing my diaphragm to contract, sending laughter bubbling out of my lungs. But soon that match is over, and we are both all smiles.

Then I get a call from my friend; sobbing. She has also just finished a wrestling match with her father. But this one was not for fun. She describes it to me: the initial screaming contest; the insults; the first assault. But Meagan is strong, and she is able to throw off her father, pushing him into the mirror; using her legs to kick out. Their battle does not end in smiles; it ends in tension that will inevitably rupture in a few days.

My bruises are due to my own clumsiness; her’s are actual testimonies of violence.
She learns self-defense hands-on; I use my TaeBo tapes for exercise.

I have no idea how to react.
I do not pretend to relate, but the bond of friendship can overcome my lack of understanding.
I listen.
I sympathize.
I offer my house as safety and myself as an advocate.

And the next day, when I play-wrestle with my father, I take note of just how big he is; how much he weighs. As we face off I imagine just how intimidated I would be, should his pretense of anger turn earnest. I cannot visualize defending myself from his greater momentum or mass…and suddenly my respect for Meagan grows.

She is a victim, but she is a strong one; one who has the courage to brave her house everyday, to walk into rooms filled with tension and abuse. She has the tenacity to defend her younger siblings, to stick up for her mother, and to go through it alone. I am her confidante, but she battled single-handedly for years before I met her. This battle has left scars: physical ones that adorn her wrist, and emotional baggage that weighs down her self-esteem. Yet she is stronger than I, and I respect her.

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