Let’s All Hit Each Other In The Face More.

posted in: Family, Rant 19
Close your eyes and think of anywhere, anywhere else, little chick.
Close your eyes and think of anywhere, anywhere else, little chick.

I’m in Iowa filming TV. Tonight, the editorial team and several of our guests went out to dinner.

Halfway through the day, I began to feel poorly due to my excavated intestines. I therefore didn’t eat much and had the opportunity to visit the ladies’ room at the restaurant several times over the course of our dinner. On one of those visits, something awful happened.

I was in the furthest stall from the entrance when I heard the door open. Laid out in a kind of “L” shape, I’m sure the bathroom appeared empty. Ambient noise from the restaurant slipped in and then faded as the door gently closed. The moment that it had, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone being slapped across the face.


A brief pause. Then an intake of air, and a child’s wail came high, high off the mountain and down into a deep, anguished sob. Confusion and shock and pain came crashing down in a tidal wave in a bathroom in Des Moines, IA.

“What is wrong with you?!” a woman’s voice hissed. And there was a tussle, a shake.

My rage came up fast from my legs to the very bottom of my throat. It stopped at my throat because I was speechless with horror and disgust for the slapper and an almost frantic need to console the child and take her into my arms.

I burst out of the stall the moment the two were going into the first. Their door shut. As I passed them, slowly, I could see the child now sitting on the toilet with the mother standing over her. Her scuffed up sneakers were dangling off the side of the toilet. Even now, I can see their little velcro straps.

My jaw was clenched so tight I might’ve shattered all my teeth.

“Where did you learn to make faces like that at Mommy?” the woman asked, now with a sticky, simpering tone in her voice. She screwed up, see. She thought the bathroom was empty. Now that she knew someone was there and had heard her hit her kid in the face, she was a little nicer.

The child wept. Plaintive, pathetic weeping. She was trapped. I stood at the sink and looked through my reflection in the mirror. I had to do something. I had to.

Once again I find myself, a single woman with no children, opining about parenting. I realize there’s a lot I don’t know about raisin’ up a chile; most ideals and proclamations about how I’ll do it someday are so much talking. But the argument that I know zero about childrearing because I presently have no children goes only so far. I am a human, and children are humans, so I’m qualified to take a position. You can’t be angry when you punish a kid, goddamnit. You calm yourself down, you get a hold of yourself, and then you figure out the negative consequences for that kid’s bad behavior. Never, ever punish out of anger. Is this not true? Is this not a stance I can take now, as a woman who has yet to hold her own baby?

So I’m standing at the sink in the bathroom, mentally eviscerating this kid-hitting woman four feet from me, and I remember a story my friend Lisa told about a similar situation she found herself in. She was on the subway in New York and this guy was roughing up his girlfriend. Really talking menacingly to her and smacking her around. Lisa was enraged. She was panicking. She needed to stop it, to say something to the guy. But she didn’t. Ultimately, she didn’t because, as she had to so horribly reason out, it might’ve made it worse for the woman later. The monster on the subway was maybe at 60%; at home, after an altercation on the train, would he hit 79%? 90% monster? What will monsters do at full capacity? Lisa burned and was quiet and told the story to me later, as upset at the time of telling me as she was that day on the train.

No, I wouldn’t speak. I wouldn’t make it worse for that little girl when she got to the comfort — the comfort — of her own home. But then I did do something. Something else that took me as much by surprise as I hope it took the monster.

Alone with them there in the bathroom, I smacked my right hand against my left. Loud. I made perfect contact with the one hand on the other: a loud crack sounded in the bathroom, bouncing off the tile and the linoleum. The talking in the first stall stopped. The sniffling ceased. I could almost see the confusion on the woman’s face and the “Wha?” on the kid’s.

I waited for total silence and then I did it again: crack! A crisp, violent sound.

In that moment, I might as well have been a professional sound effects person, paid thousands to come into a recording studio to capture the exact sound of someone being smacked across the face. Luck was on my side; if I tried to make that sound just so, right now, I might not be able to do it. But tonight, it was exactly what I needed it to be.

The slap hung in the air like a gun had been shot. I could tell no one in that first stall was breathing. The mother was surely, totally weirded out. The daughter, I don’t know, but at least for that moment her nasty mother wasn’t in charge. Of anything. I sent a silent, psychic message of love and hope to the little girl and then left the bathroom.

I had to run this story past my mom. Until I did, I wasn’t sure if my slap sounds were completely insane or if they were effective in breaking the evil spell that had entered the ladies’ room. Mom, who cried with me when I told her about hearing that little girl get hit, said she thought it was a great move. So there you go. We have an actual parent weighing in on how to do these things.

Don’t hit your kid in the face. That’s just a suggestion. But here’s another one: if you choose to hit your kid in the face in a public place, you are in my world. And my world might be kinda weird, but your kid is safer with me than she is with you.


19 Responses

  1. Karen
    | Reply

    love you

  2. Sharon
    | Reply

    How humiliating for a child. Today’s parents are under a lot of stress and pressure but it does not warrant a parent to hit their child!

  3. Matthew M. F. Miller
    | Reply

    Good on you, Mary Fons. Abuse isn’t a private matter, and you did the best thing you could have done in that terrible moment. You were brave, and you shifted the narrative – hell, you changed the story. Instead of being a know-it all, needs-to-mind-her-own-business stranger, which is how the mother likely would have classified you (and ultimately would have used your “intrusiveness” to somehow justify her terrible behavior), you did exactly what you hoped to do – you broke the moment and prevented (hopefully) more abuse in that bathroom.

    Words are beautiful, but there were no words that could have saved that moment better than two hands slapping each other in a bathroom. Bravo.

  4. Grace
    | Reply

    Oh, you just broke my heart with this story. That poor little girl. That is not parenting, that is bullying. I don’t know how you held your tongue, but your solution seemed to be very effective! Thank you for taking a stand for the child.

  5. Karen Morrell Johnson
    | Reply

    Perfect, Mary! We’ve all been in that situation where we ask ourselves “should I intervene?”. Your instincts were right on.

  6. Cheryl
    | Reply

    What a rough thing to become a part of.
    As a parent and one who will freely admit to sometimes infinite frustration with her children, and one with her own past, I can say that you may have done the right thing for the mother as much as the child. It may have snapped her out of the bad place she was in. Beyond knowing that she was seen, that her anger wasn’t private anymore, she may have had the moment where she is able to see what you saw (heard).
    It was a powerful message for you and her.

  7. melissah
    | Reply

    I love how u took care of that situation. I cried through your whole story. What an awful parent. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not against a pat on rump when it is necessary. But I’m not into slapping across the face or in anger….great job Mary

  8. Becky M
    | Reply

    High fives to you for thinking so fast in a horrible situation. My heart breaks for that little girl and I hope your actions have the right impact on that mother.

  9. Joy
    | Reply

    Wow.. It is a wonderful thing you did! I would have done something stupid like cry.

  10. Sandie Deahl
    | Reply

    The clap heard round the world..nicely done Mary!!

  11. Deb Hathaway
    | Reply

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this ‘event’. I usually open my big mouth and say something when I see an injustice… but your story made me stop and really think about it for a moment. Not once did it ever occur to me that by my stepping up and confronting the abuser, I might actually make things worse for the victim at a later date. That was EYE OPENING!!!
    I loved the way you handled the situation…that your inner self knew instinctively what to do. I hope I am as creative and clever if I ever find myself in such an awkward position in the future.
    GOOD GOING Mary!!!

  12. Briana Sprecher-Kinneer
    | Reply

    Beautifully written, Mary! Beautifully lived!

  13. Lisa D.
    | Reply

    You talents are so excellent with a pen…er keyboard. I hope you read this as I feel it important that you may need nutritional info. about what may be irritating your in-narrds(spoken with a French accent). …I have written before and enjoyed your writing so much every time you post, what a breath of fresh air. …someone with something to say and do. It is no mistake that you were in that little room, at that very time, and were so inspired to do something. I loved what you did , as it was genius on so many levels. When we have that kind of inspiration for the helpless it comes from God. He cares so much about all the little ones, and He cares for your heart-feelings( I know you still cringe at what happened) and health too. You are brave and strong to live such an wildly creative life. ..so very glad that you inspire us. I write as I talk, with little punctuation.
    The nutritional advice is about eating GMO’s It is a story of great big business holding hands with government. Since the nineties, cancer and colon troubles have doubled. All these gluten issues that have popped us recently ..celiac disease may be nothing more than peoples’ colons blowing up because there have been animal and bacteria genes spliced into our corn wheat and soy, squash and zucchini. Would you like some fish genes in your Bryers Ice Cream with those chocolate swirls? My daughter is your age and she has physical symptoms from eating GMO’s her stomach blows up! You can see it after she eats it, she looks like a chicken that swallowed a grapefruit. The whole fam has issues with that and pesticides, food additives, and preservatives . Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a natural pesticide to bugs and has been gene-spliced into our food plants and when bugs eat it, kaboom, it blows up their digestive tracts and they die. Problem is, people are having the same result. It’s insidious to think that the company that makes these problems for human beings, Monsanto has the right to go on doing this and the government is protecting it from lawsuits. Funny how the heads of Monsanto go on to be the heads of government offices. That is Fascism ..business holding hands with government and making out.
    I had written you from my little Kindle pad about this and some glitch may have prevented it from getting to you and I am so sad that you have suffered so , even though I don’t know you, I do care and I had to make sure that you get this info. You may write to me at the above address and I will try and get you more info to help you. I do understand you have had a real physiological disease, but it may be healed to the point that it stops being an insult to your life. I know that carrying around bags of organic food and goodies and being picky to eat only organic food without additives is a pain, but much less of a pain than the kind of suffering that we do from eating poisonous foods.
    I was too beat up by my body, and spending way too many visits in the little room, but it was with severe migraines and extreme nausea and illness..I was driving the porcelain bus every week at least once and all day too, at times. It was the food additives. Do you remember that beautiful African American investigative reporter, Ed Bradley? He saved my life with his investigations on food additives. It’s all about profit. I am well today because he was willing to find out why so many people are sick.
    I know you have to eat and travel, and it is never convenient to wag food, but it may just be a great investigation on your part and heal your suffering. I found many portable foods that are organic, and I have a nutribullet and it is good. Got it at Tar’get'(also a French word.) It comes with books and recipes and you will be a rocket on those nutrients… as long as they are Non-Gmo and organic. Not that you aren’t already. A Coleman 42-Can Wheeled Soft Cooler With Hard Liner, and some of those blue icy packs would fly through the airport with you. I found it on Amazon.
    Finding a restaurant is a real challenge. I call them all the time. They actually admit that they have GMOs in their food. I am from TX and we are close to Mexico and it influences out diets here. A corn chip isn’t a corn chip if it has to blow up my digestive track. So I go to Costco for their organic things. Ohhh if they would just get potato chips.
    Andrew Weil MD on TV is a true nutritional scientist wellness person. I don’t know about any psych, or other spiritualist mumbo he has, I am a believer in Christ… but he has books on nutrition and aside from Denver, his True Food Kitchen restaurant also has locations in Arizona (Scottsdale and Phoenix) and California (Newport Beach, San Diego, Santa Monica). Chipolte has begun to eradicate GMO’s from their great food chain. I am so much able to live my life now. If it weren’t for ED Bradley I would have died 20 years ago.
    I know this is a long speak, didn’t know any other way to reach you, but you are definitely very, very, much worth caring about. You have a friend here in Texas and one that very much appreciates your art, and insight, and wishes and prays you to be well and happy.

    Lisa D.

  14. Lisa D.
    | Reply

    Hey it didn’t put ion the paragraphs, I swear I made them.

  15. Sharon
    | Reply

    One of your best post Mary not what happened but how you handled it. More people need to think of ways of handling injustice.

  16. Sue Lohr
    | Reply

    I am proud of you, Mary! Doing ANYTHING is better than letting that woman think she ‘got away with it’. Because next time, it might have been worse. Because of you, perhaps there will not be a ‘next time’ for that dear little girl. Thank you for standing up for her.

  17. Patricia Sanabria-Friederich
    | Reply

    I love what you did ! Very nice to see a young woman act like that . God bless you.

  18. Saska
    | Reply

    After the noise I made, I probably would’ve said….”let me hit YOU as hard as you hit HER”. I believe children need to be directed in the right paths, but nobody deserves to be slapped…NEVER.

  19. Lisa E
    | Reply

    I have two teenage daughters. My gut was knotted as I read your post. I LOVED your response. Perfect in every way. You got your opinion across and stopped what was going on in that stall. Better yet, I think there’s a chance that your actions may have gotten through to that mom. Hopefully, she can see herself and get a grip on her feelings. That little girl knows that someone out there was supporting her. She was not alone.

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