When I was in 5th grade I came home crying because a couple of boys had grabbed my long, blonde ponytail and swung me to the group. My Mom was sympathetic and consoled me but when my Dad got home it was a different story.
He came into my room where I was doing pre-dinner homework and asked me what happened. I told him I was walking down the sidewalk after school and two boys in my class came up and grabbed my hair and pulled it very hard and then swung me to the ground. My father told me that the next time anyone touched me like that to ball up my fist and hit them. Hard. “No playing around Mary Patrice…you make a fist and you hit them in the face. And you tell them to leave you alone.”
I did exactly that the next time….except I didn’t need to hit him. When I took my stance with my fists bunched he ran away calling me a name. Funny, that boy and I went all through grade-school and high school and even college and were friends. He never challenged me again.
My father’s point was that it is not okay for anyone to touch his daughter and she had every right to defend herself. I remembered this years later when at a college party I was going into the bathroom and a big drunk football player followed me in and trapped me against the sink and put one hand on my breast and one between my legs. He was huge and strong and I knew that I had a fight on my hand…and I was going to fight. Instead of hitting him I reached up to his face with my long fingernails and scratched him from his right eye down his cheek to his neck. Then I ran and told the guy I was with, also a football player what had happened. The rest, well….was handled.
Another thing I learned from my father was that I could do anything I set my mind to. This was rather odd coming from a man born and raised in the deep south but I think his mother being a rather strong woman and being raised by his two aunts who also were strong had something to do with it. This included that there is a man worthy of me….God knows I have my fair share of relationship mishaps, I have made some wrong turns and poor choices. But I have also managed to date some very remarkable men. Just not the last one…but that is another blog.
Most of my male friends growing up were a bit intimidated by my Dad. He was a big, dark, strong, man who could scare you if you didn’t know how gentle he was. It was pretty cool when a guy I didn’t want to see would come to the front door. Dad would answer and simply say, “she doesn’t want to see you anymore.” Then close the door.
When I played volleyball it was seldom that my Dad got to see my matches…but when he did he would sit quietly and intently watch the play. One game, this girl was all over me at the net. She had intimidated me and I wasn’t going up for blocks and hits like he and I knew I could. He stood up and walked to the end of the gym where I could see him. He was behind me, but I heard him say. “TC, take this girl.” That boost of confidence said so quietly by him…meant the world to me. I can still hear those words in my head when I’m struggling. It taught me that no matter what life throws at me, when I allow myself to doubt, that I can take it.
He taught me to follow through in sports and in work and in life.
After him being gone for ten years I have learned that I would rather have memories of every single moment with my Dad than any materialistic thing in this world. The memories and times we shared together, either alone, or with our family, are treasured in the deepest places in my heart.
Sometimes when life throws you a curve ball, you have to take it. You have to take control over your own life.
When I was in my twenties I was in Dallas with three male friends and we had a tee-time at a fancy country club in Ft. Worth. When we got to the Pr0-Shop they informed us that I couldn’t play on the best course because it was for MEN ONLY. I stood there stocked. Surely I didn’t hear that correctly. It was the late ’80’s for Christ’s sake. However, they would let me play on the lesser course or I could ride in the cart ONLY on the MEN’S course. Well, being in my twenties and not wanting to disappoint my friends I said I would ride alone only.
About hole 9 I was itching to drive a ball and we decided no-one would know so I tee’d the ball up and drove it hard with a slight fade. I blasted the ball. Unfortunately, the Gestapo Marshall had been watching us and came and told me to get into his cart that I had broken the rules and could wait for my friends in the clubhouse.
I was furious. I told my friends to go ahead and finish. Two of them did, one came with me. Good old Richard…he was a real gentleman. When we got back to the clubhouse and wanted to go into the grill for a drink, we found out it was MEN ONLY. That is when I had enough. In a very steady yet loud voice I said, “You have to be kidding me? What kind of place is this?”
That afternoon when I got home I called my dad and was amazed and shocked and in disbelief. He apologized and said, “I didn’t think you would ever run into that type of discrimination and bad sportsmanship. I’m sorry I didn’t prepare you.” But you see, he did prepare me. My outrage was because he always told me I was strong enough to “go bear hunting with a switch.”