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Paula Sophia Schonauer, LCSW, continues a serial memoir. If you haven’t read the earlier parts of this series, follow the links at the bottom of this page.

“I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
― William Shakespeare, Othello

Why do people hit other people? 

It is a childish response, the inability to tolerate and articulate distress, a throwback to when we expressed ourselves through tears and tantrums. Our society compels us to action, even violent action, over words and discussion, creating people ill-equipped to handle pain and loss. This is especially true for boys, who find themselves labeled as weak if they do not learn how to fight.

Michael Doughty put boxing gloves on my hands and tied the strings around my wrist. The gloves curved on the insides, forcing my hands into fists, and it felt good to squeeze my hands to make the gloves fold inward, turning my forearms into weighted clubs.

I pounded the heavy bag in Michael’s garage, satisfied I could make the bag move further than I could a couple of weeks before when I first started taking boxing lessons. It was about establishing a rhythm, creating unrelenting momentum through speed and strength. I enjoyed hitting the bags, even the speed bag, which I had yet to master. I managed a rat-a-tat-tat, another, sometimes three, but I always faltered, having to start over again and again.

Michael taught me how to build strength, mostly through push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. He told me I was too young to lift heavy weights, but he let me do deadlifts and curls with light enough loads for many repetitions. 

“You want to be toned, not bulky,” he said. 

I obeyed everything he said. His attention had become an invaluable part of my life. From him, I always got a smile. I always heard encouragement. He never belittled me or made me feel stupid. I loved him, pined for him, and I did not want the summer to end, ever. 
One day, after putting boxing gloves on my hands, he placed a pair on his own hands. 

“Let’s spar.”


“You know, like a fight, but not full speed.” 

I was nervous to see him towering over me with gloves on his hands, squaring off in a boxing stance. He looked formidable. Plus, I didn’t want to even pretend to hurt someone who had been so generous and protective. Because of him, nobody picked on me anymore, at least not in the neighborhood. Sometimes, Tommy and his friends rode their bicycles by Michael’s house to see what I was doing. 

“Hey, Donut,” they’d yell. 

“Why do they call you Donut?”

“Because of my name, Doughty sounds like Donut. Plus, when I was a kid, I liked to eat Donuts, a lot.”

“I like Donuts.”

Michael laughed. “Not as much as I did. I liked them so much, I was a pudgy little dude. All the kids made fun of me.” 

I knew he understood something about me. He had been like me, except not wanting to be a girl. Definitely not! I purged the thought. No room for that, not anymore. 

Michael threw a punch, his left glove hitting my right glove. Though he threw the punch light and slow, the impact knocked my own glove back, the thumb bumping my eyebrow. It didn’t really hurt, but I winced and screamed, anyway. 

“Come on, dude. That didn’t hurt.” 

His reaction made me mad. He had never invalidated me like that before. I almost started to cry, but Michael smiled, lowered his gloves, and stuck out his chin. 

“Come on, turn that anger into power.” He nudged his chin with his own boxing glove. “See if you can knock me out.” 

I shuffled closer to Michael, left hand out, right hand protecting my face. I jabbed but missed. I jabbed again, this time connecting. 

“Good! Now you got my attention. Get me with that right.”
I punched with my right hand, a right cross like Michael had shown me on the heavy bag. He didn’t move his face, and my glove plowed into his left cheek hard enough to move his head. 

Michael punched the top of my forehead, causing my neck to snap back a little. This time, I didn’t scream. I grunted, moved forward as Michael moved his arms away from his abdomen. 

“Give me a body shot. Above the belt, please.”

And I did, pounding his midsection blow after blow. It felt so good, too good. Michael nudged my head a few times, pushing me back, but I closed the distance, again and again, wailing on his abdomen, attempting to hit his face but not able to reach it. No more giveaways. 

After the sparring match was over, Michael licked the left side of his lips, wiped them with his glove. I saw a small, glistening red spot on the leather. Blood. 

“You see what you did?”

I was horrified to see I had hurt him, but he smiled and nudged my head in a playful manner. Despite Michael’s reassurances, it was weird to know I had drawn blood. Though he was big and strong, Michael could be hurt. Slight as it was, I learned I was capable of causing pain, maybe even great pain. 

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Last Updated August 27, 2021, 5:58 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor