I am not, by any means, a fighter.

In high school there was a group of girls who picked on me during my freshman year, and I didn’t dare stand up for myself for fear that it would result in a fight. The thought of fighting scared me. I would have dreams (and still do, as a matter of fact) that I was in a fight and although swinging mightily, would either fail to hit my opponent completely, or only graze their nose or cheek with my fist, causing no real impact. It was very frustrating.

It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year in high school that I had my first real fight, if you even want to call it that. A fight usually requires two people throwing punches, otherwise,  it’s just called getting your ass-kicked. But I’ll always refer to it as my one true fight because I did not back down, nor did I run away. I just never threw a physical punch.

My family and I were staying on Martha’s Vineyard for 3 weeks, and I quickly reconnected with my summer friends who either lived on the island or vacationed the same time I was there. My favorite town on the island was Oak Bluffs as it had more to offer in the way of amusements. In true early 80’s fashion, there was an arcade on Circuit Avenue where I would spend hours on the Ms. PacMan machine. Oak Bluffs also had The Flying Horses, which is one of the nation’s oldest running carousels.

I mashed many a finger into this contraption.

I know, riding a merry go round sounds lame, but this one had the added allure of grabbing the rings. Each time your horse went around, you could catch rings out of this mechanical arm. The last ring is brass and if you get that, you get a free ride. It was a great way for me to totally show off as I was quite good at grabbing the rings. While most folks grabbed one each time around, I could grab up to 6 at one time and the crowd would ooh and ahh. I usually left there with bloody cuticles and a swollen ego.

During the course of this vacation, I kept running into this one guy at the arcade. He was cute, and he flirted with me whenever he saw me, and I have to admit, I flirted back. My friends had warned me that he had a girlfriend, but as I was not really interested in him on any serious level, I just blew it off. However, Oak Bluffs is a small town, and I guess this gal had gotten the word that her boyfriend had been smiling and flirting with some summer girl – namely me.

The night of the fight, my sister drove me to Oak Bluffs in our puke green Pontiac Catalina. She had other plans that night, and was to drop me off at the Flying Horses and pick me back up at 11 pm or so. I was clad in a lavender jumpsuit complete with zippered pockets and Candie’s sandals; my blonde hair pulled up in a tight ponytail. Before the fashion police come and lock me up, try to remember…it’s the early 80’s.

I hopped out of the car and immediately joined my little gang of friends outside the Flying Horses. I turned to look down the street and saw a very mad, very determined girl storming towards me. In the span of a few split seconds, a couple of thing went through my mind. First, I was assuming this was the girlfriend of my cute arcade dude, and I was probably going to get in trouble. Secondly, I looked to see if my sister was still anywhere in sight – perhaps stuck at the red light. It was then I spotted the tail end of our Catalina slide around the corner and out of sight., and realized that I had absolutely no back up.

As she barreled towards me, I prepared for the worst, but apparently not the type of “worst” my brain could imagine. I was fully expecting a shouting match to ensue, but first this gal wanted a piece of me. With flat, open palms she shoved me full-force in the chest. Not being prepared for any sort of physical assault, and being clad in Candies sandals, I naturally went flying. My tanned & jumpsuited body sprawled onto the hood of a parked car, and my can of diet Sprite, which I had just opened, went airborne.

Ok, game on.

I got up, marched over to her and decided that she was about to get a major dose of her own medicine. I pushed her in a similar fashion, shouting, “What the fuck is YOUR problem?” Now this should have been totally cool. I NEVER stood up to anyone like this, but everyone was watching, and I was pissed that I lost my Diet Sprite. I was waiting for her to respond with some like taunt or threat, but this bitch meant business.

Without uttering a single syllable in reply, she hauled off and hit me square in the mouth. I can remember seeing a little spittle of blood fly, and I definitely remember seeing a flash of white light upon impact. But the most astounding thing was it didn’t hurt. Whether it be adrenaline or denial, the fist hitting my mouth did not seem to hurt, which was good because she wasn’t done.

She started screaming, “You’re a fucking whore! You’re a fucking whore!” to which I cooly replied “If someone called YOU a whore, you could take it as a compliment.”

BAM! Punch #2 to the mouth. Still no pain. I looked her in the eye and said evenly, “Don’t blame me if you’re too ugly to keep your boyfriend.”

Now, why I decided to turn into Don Rickels rather than Rocky Balboa, I’ll never know. It just never occurred to my body or brain to throw a punch. She went fairly wild at my last wise crack, and probably would’ve knocked my teeth out if my friends had not intervened. They got between us, which is to say they kept her from killing me.

In any case, I felt refusal to fight worked in my favor – after it was broken up, she looked like a real loser. Most of my friends were Islanders who knew her, and frankly told her that she should think twice about bothering  me and instead turn her fists on her flirt of a boyfriend. She stalked off, and my friends and I walked to the beach.

We sat on the stone wall over looking the shore, and I held a cold beer bottle to my lip in an attempt to keep the swelling down. She actually did very little damage – I had no fat lip or bruises. My friends gave me the requisite sympathetic hugs and pats on the back. We talked about what a bitch she was, and I admitted that it was my first fight, and that for the life of me I could not figure out why I never hit her back.

I ran into cute arcade dude later that night. He approached me to apologize, but I never game him the chance. I told him to fuck off and slapped him across the face.

I saw her one other time during that summer. As I was walking through town, I noticed the happy couple walking in my direction on the same side of the street.  At first I was panic-stricken, and I’ll admit that the thought of crossing the street or better yet, running away, crossed my mind. But I held my position, and we positively glared at each other as we passed, her boyfriend pointedly making an effort to hold her close to him.

And that’s the story of my first, and thankfully, only fight. I still have the same dream where I can’t quite seem to punch my opponent, and it’s still hugely frustrating for me. But at least I know I can stand my ground, even if I all I fight back with is witty retorts.