A while back, I wrote out a list of words that have never been used to describe me, and one word that I could not add to that list was “bruiser.” That’s right, either due to my size or some mis-construed bad attitude, I am occasionally perceived as some sort of Steven Seagal-esque tough guy.
For example, while attending a concert last week, a guy walked up and stood directly in front of a table full of college guys seated next to us. When the guy finally walked away, our neighbors wondered aloud why the rude hipster did not choose to stand in front of me. Implying that this imaginary showdown would have ended with me connecting on a roundhouse kick to his carefully manicured sideburns.
Let me state for the record that I would only be capable of kicking Billy Barty in the face if he was kneeling and that the only thing I really remember about the karate class that I took for three years in grade school is that one time my Dad took me to Arby’s afterwards because I had missed dinner.
Despite what I think of as my relatively peaceful demeanor, not one, but two, homeless people have led off their requests for spare change by asking me if I was going to punch them in the face. That didn’t stop them from asking but, hey, times are tough.
I’m guessing that part of the misperception has to do with my body language, as I apparently give off an initial vibe that led my now-wife to refer to me as “the angry loner.” But underneath that stoic facade lies the heart of a man who at 21 would ride his bike the long way back to his apartment to avoid the line of buses in front of Jarret Junior High at 3 pm so that he wouldn’t be viciously berated by 13 year olds.
The second factor in this perception undoubtedly comes from my size, as my relatively Tom Arnold-esque physique is sometimes mistaken for muscle.
When I was a kid, I suffered the indignity of getting my Toughskin jeans from the Husky section at Sears. I believe the ACLU successfully sued to have the word Husky banned in 1979, so chunky kids can now pick out slacks from the far right side of the racks that everyone else gets to use. I’m not sure what became of the Husky section at Sears, since I no longer buy pants from stores where I can also purchase a bandsaw.
I have only been an active participant in one fight in my entire life, and it stemmed from me calling Tony Pavia Tony the Pony on the walk home from school in the 4th grade. No punches were actually thrown, but I would like to see any of those UFC tough guys wrestle while wearing a winter coat and a book bag.
My only other altercation was the result of my friend Jeff yelling something unflattering at a pre-OJ White Bronco as we walked to the mall after seeing “Robocop.” Teens poured out of the Bronco like it was some sort of juvenile delinquent clown car and we foolishly decided to hold our ground. A shirtless young man who was apparently only a few years older than me, yet built like a 35-year-old ex-con roofer, punched me in the face after making the statement “I like you.” In retrospect, he may have been lying.
Maybe this is the first step in correcting my image, but I don’t know if I want to go too far. I enjoy not having people stand in front of me at concerts.