Archive for August, 2014

Sometimes you just gotta throw the first punch … and the second, third, and fourth, if need be!

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll know that I’ve discussed a wide range of topics revolving around confrontations that develop into self-defense situations. We’ve covered the concept of giving would-be attackers a face-saving exit if you don’t want to fight. We’ve also discussed the myth of perfect technique as well as the fact that your zip code doesn’t make you tough and other related topics. Tonight, I’d like to discuss a topic that’s near and dear to my heart because it’s one that I believe is WIDELY misunderstood: pre-emptive striking. This is perhaps the most important thing you need to know if you find yourself confronted by an angry street thug or just about anyone else who wants to knock your head off your shoulders.

The concept of pre-emptive striking simply means being the one to punch first. This is a touchy topic in martial arts circles as well as amongst the general public because the traditional belief is that you should “let the other guy throw the first punch.” I’ve never understood why people feel this way. Maybe it’s because they think that will protect them if the police get involved, or perhaps they just don’t want to look like “the bad guy” for being the first one to act. For whatever their reasons, the concept of striking first when the bad guy is barking and snarling in their face is a foreign one. Then, there are some people, such as the man in this video, who understand its effectiveness.

Peach Shirt did the right thing by clocking White Shirt when WS got in his face. He also did the right thing by not stomping and/or hitting WS while he was down on the ground, as THAT definitely would’ve invalidated any self-defense claims. The only thing PS did wrong was not getting the fuck outta there after he knocked WS down the first time. He walked away slowly, perhaps proudly, allowing WS the chance to get up and chase him down. Luckily, PS put him down a second time and WS didn’t have any friends around to “take up” for him by swarming and attacking PS.

In my experience, assailants stand in front of you, barking and snarling for two reasons: 1. They want to see how frightened/nervous they can get you before punching you in the face. 2. They’re also working THEMSELVES up to attack. As I’ve said before, only a predatory criminal or sociopath will just smash someone in the face completely out of the blue. In most cases, your attacker will pull the ol’ bark ‘n snarl routine to draw a crowd and pump up their own courage to attack. In most cases, they’ll push you first, then go for the haymaker (a big punch to the face) after you push them back. The pre-emptive strike short circuits this whole routine and it’s usually the LAST thing your attacker is expecting.

I’ll bet this pimp didn’t see the chop to his carotid artery coming. It definitely cut off the flow of blood to his brain, though:

WARNING: a pre-emptive strike might win the battle, but you’ll have a hard time proving your innocence in a court of law. The criminal justice system should be renamed the criminal justice industry, because that’s what it is. Police, prosecutors, and judges will all have dollar signs in their eyes if they get involved in a situation where you delivered a pre-emptive strike. Be prepared for the possibility of having to defend your decision to “knock that motherfucker out” in a court of law. That same 6-foot-tall animal that was going to smash your face in will be sitting in the witness stand, looking like an innocent little lamb. And the story he’ll tell will not be ANYTHING like what really happened at the bar a month before. And prosecutors have a penchant for asking nasty little questions, such as, “But how did you know the victim was going to hit you, Mr. Ribner?” There’s no good way to answer it.

So if you decide to deliver a pre-emptive strike, don’t say I didn’t warn you. It may or may not be legal under the statutes of self defense in your state. Use at your own risk. Only you can make the decision whether your life is truly in danger … and only you will have to live with the consequences. That said, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Until then, stay safe, good people!

If you don’t want to fight somebody, then shut the fuck up. I can’t make it any more straightforward than that!

Although I only have this abbreviated news report of the this jumping, I’ve seen the original video a while back and it illustrated my point perfectly. What point? Refusing to fight someone while simultaneously asserting your right to offend them is a deadly combination. Here’s the news report of this horrific attack:

What the news report doesn’t focus enough attention on is the victim’s behavior that contributed to him being assaulted. As I recall from the original video, the victim says “I don’t wanna fight you” or “I’m not here to fight you” at least once during the confrontation. To makes matters worse (for himself), he does the typical talk-to-the-hand gesture, even going so far as to make contact with one of his assailant’s faces and pushing the man’s face away from his personal space. It’s at this point that one of the other men throws the first punch, connecting with the victim’s face and the jumping commences. While most people will say that pushing the man’s face away from him was the victim’s first mistake, it was actually his last in a line of tactical errors he made that morning.

Mistake number one was was announcing his intentions NOT to fight. I don’t know what started the argument between the three thugs and the victim, but making it crystal clear that you don’t want to fight, or that you’re not going to fight, is like ringing the proverbial dinner bell to people like the three assailants in this video, and it gives them the confidence needed to escalate their behavior.

Mistake number two was continuing to debate with his assailants. Again, I couldn’t find the original video, but I seem to recall that right after the victim announced his intention NOT to fight, he then went on to criticize them and chastise them for picking on him. In other words, even though he didn’t want to fight, he continued to have a warrior’s pride about him, allowing his ego to take control of him. Classic case of “battleship mouth/rowboat ass.”

Anyone who’s ever had any experience with a bully can likely cite what the victim’s third mistake was. If you answered “making contact with his attacker,” you get the gold medal. Here’s the bottom line: no matter what a bully does to you, their body and personal space are SACROSANCT. This means NO ONE can touch them, even if it’s something as harmless as accidentally brushing up against them. Such transgressions are always dealt with in a physical manner, as it’s a challenge to the bully’s ego and reputation. In short, from the attacker’s perspective, that face-shove “forced” him to react in the way he and his friends did.

Sadly, this confrontation is typically of what happens when a square from the 9-to-5 world crosses paths with thugs who grew up in generational poverty. Squares are used to fighting their battles with words, which they’ve honed to sarcastic perfection; nobody at the office or golf course is likely to take a swing at them. Thugs, on the other hand, live in a world where one’s reputation hinges upon being tough or “hard.” The thug knows that any perceived sign of weakness could invite attacks by other thugs who perceive him as “soft,” so they ferociously guard their reputations and have no compunction against using violence.

What the square should’ve done was apologize to the thugs while backing away from them and heading to a different car. In most cases, saying, “I’m sorry, man! I know I can be a real asshole sometimes. I shouldn’t have said that” is usually enough to allow the thugs to feel they’ve “won.” It doesn’t matter if he’d mean the apology or not, it’s simply the best option a person who “doesn’t want to fight” has in these situations. The question is, would HIS ego allow him to do it?

Oh, and if anyone can find the original video of this entire confrontation, please share it with me!

Do you need to execute perfect technique in a self-defense situation, aka a streetfight? The short answer is, “No.”

By now, martial artists and MMA enthusiasts alike are warming up their keyboards, a prelude to putting me in my place before challenging me to a fight. Thing is, I’m not talking about combative sports such as boxing, kickboxing, or MMA. In those arenas, it’s always best to have perfected your technique, not to mention your stamina and a host of other qualities needed before the bell goes “ding.” In a self defense situation, however, the need for flawless execution of technique diminishes in the face of such things as mental preparedness, conviction, and above all, situational awareness. Or, to put it bluntly, a wild haymaker and the determination to use it can be far more deadly than having a McDojo black belt but not knowing when the bad guys (or girls) are sizing you up for an attack.

One of the first things the School of Perfect Technique will tell you is this old chestnut: wide, looping punches (aka “haymakers”) are very easily to block or dodge, and leading with one is sure to get you knocked out or worse. While this is sound tactical advice, YouTube is FILLED with clips of people getting laid out by these “wild” punches. Here’s one where I swear the kid throwing the punch HAD to have had his eyes closed:

Also on the subject of punches, fight gurus will preach on and on about the correct way to throw a punch and what parts of the knuckles should make contact with your opponent. They’ll all criticize lobbing a straight, stiff-armed punch, which tends to strike with the inside of the palm and knuckles. Not only is such a strike telegraphed and easily blocked, fight experts swear that the punch is ineffective because it hurts the puncher’s hand far more than the victim’s face. Internet fight sensation Sharkeisha might disagree; with just one of the aforementioned clumsy punches, she practically destroyed a young woman her age:

If you think that was brutal, this stiff, straight-armed punch conributed to a man’s death:

Here another piece of fight advice from the technique gurus: never throw high kicks to the head/face in a street fight. Such kicks can be blocked and the kicker can be knocked off balance. Worse yet, such kicks are highly dangerous on the street, in a bar, or any other place where the terrain is uncertain an could cause the kicker to slip and fall. Despite this sound advice, here’s at least one streetfight where a head kick was a gamechanger… luckily, the victim’s friends had the presence of mind to save him!

Last but not least: “Never go to the ground in a streetfight ’cause the guy’s friends could stomp your face while you’re down there.” Technically speaking, I can’t exactly argue with this advice. Going to the ground with your opponent does present certain, undeniable risks, especially in this day and age where it seems like no one fights without a little help from their “boyz.” And Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and other wrestling arts are largely used for sporting competitions such as MMA and grappling tournaments. That said, they also have plenty of application in self-defense, and there are cases where these techniques have been used effectively in self-defense situations, aka “on da streetz, yo!” Here’s some basic BJJ moves used to neutralize an attacker:

So the School of Perfect Technique is full of shit, right? Wrong! Just because I showed instances where streetfighters went against the experts and came out victorious, that doesn’t mean that we as martial artists should quit honing our techniques. I will agree that wild haymakers can easily be blocked or dodged, and that they have a high probability of missing. I’ll also agree that the stiff-armed punch increases the risk of breaking one’s hand, and that a good strong hook or overhand right might be more effective. And when it comes to head kicks, I never used them in my competitive kickboxing days, let alone on the asphalt or inside the bar. And every martial artist should hone his/her ground game if for no other reason than they might find themselves there… whether they wanted to pull guard or not. (Also keep in mind that while most fights go to the ground, ALL of them start standing up.)

Simply put, sloppy techniques also work. Just about any technique will IF you execute it with determination and conviction. In other words, you have to WANT to knock out your attacker because he or she wants to knock YOU out. You gotta do something and do it quickly, and with all your strength behind it. Try not to worry about all the little things, such as “Is my footwork in the proper position?” or “Did I rotate my shoulder enough on that punch?” Those thoughts will cloud your mind and take you out of the mindset needed to survive a confrontation with the thugs and roughnecks out there waiting to prey upon YOU.

Stay safe, good people!

J.P. Ribner is the author of Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

Are you from the toughest hood in America? It’s doesn’t mean shit in a street fight.

Simply hailing from a certain zip code is NO guarantee that you’ll be some unstoppable fighting machine. In other words, a nerdy-looking hipster from Cape Cod could beat the shit out of a guy with a beard, chain wallet and the word Flint tattooed across his throat in Old English lettering. The key is the East Coaster has to want or need to win more than the guy from Flint has to protect his pride.

Consider the fate of the young man in the above video. Is New York a tough city? Absolutely! But simply being from the Big Apple isn’t enough to guarantee the win in every encounter. I don’t know what started the confrontation, but I can take a guess. We have two white guys at a gas station who suddenly find themselves being taped by someone with an Android phone, and a young wannabe thug telling them to suck his dick.

Before the fight kicks off, the thug takes the time to look at the camera and shout, “I’m from New York and I’m out here by myself. Fuck these n*****, man!” This was Thugster’s “shout out” most likely done to drum up support from whoever would end up watching the video of him whooping some cracka’s ass … or so he thought.

After uttering his now-iconic shout out, Thugster gave them another “Suck my dick!” (An atypical reference to genitals that is often spoken before a fight.) And then came Thugster’s weak left hook, right cross combination that he was likely certain would be a guaranteed knockout. (He’s from New York, after all.) Unfortunately for him, he’s quickly slammed to the concrete, reverse mounted, and pounded into unconsciousness. (I guess the Statue of Liberty didn’t have his back!)

But wait! you’re thinking. That only happened ’cause he’s from New York. People in Philadelphia are WAY tougher than New Yorkers. Giving shout outs to a neighborhood in Philly prior to a fight is SURE to guarantees the win. Right?

Let’s see …

Well, there you have it. Where you’re from doesn’t mean shit.

I’ve been the victim of violent crime, the survivor of a few streetfights, and was taught by the best reality-based self defense instructors. As such, I enjoyed watching real fights and attack videos and discussing them with like-minded urban survivalists. While not an expert by any means, I still enjoy analyzing these videos to hopefully determine what the people involved did right and wrong. Here’s the first of what I’m sure will be many “street fight-type” altercations. Please watch this video FIRST, then read my breakdown below.

Okay. Let me start by saying that I don’t think the “frat boys” are racists, event thought the title is “KNOCK OUT!!!!! Racist Frat guys gets tagged at Cook Out!” I believe the uploader used this title to distract viewers from the fact that the three attackers are guilty of assault, since their attacks would not stand up in court as a case of self defense. Why else would he play music over what the men were shouting to each other? Also, by raising the specter of racism, it appeals to viewers on an emotional level and encourages them to sympathize with the attackers and justify their actions. Judging by the comments on the video, it was a shrewd move that ultimately paid off. (Read for yourself.)

Okay. Now on to the tactics. I plan to mostly focus on the victims because they – and by extension we – have much to learn from their mistakes if we wish to avoid becoming victims of violent crime.

Mistake No. 1: Trying to reason with their assailants. It’s fairly obvious this situation was past the point of “talking someone down.” Even so, the two eventual victims continued to try talking to the three to four men who were barking and snarling in their faces.

Mistake No. 2: Staying within striking range. There’s only one reason to keep someone within your striking range and that’s to strike them. Thing is, if they’re in your striking range, you’re in theirs, too. The two men who became victims went to great lengths to remain firmly planted in front of the group that was barking and snarling at them. That’s a bad place to be if all you want to do is talk.

Mistake No. 3: Being out of their element. Both of the victims – especially Golden Curls – most likely come from affluent backgrounds where most fighting is done with nasty, hurtful words and little else. The people they were dealing come from a world where one’s reputation is built upon being strong and tough, and differences are ultimately settled physically. It was a mismatch before the first punch was thrown.

Mistake No. 4: Insulting their attackers. At one point during the argument, Golden Curls smiles and appears to laugh in the faces of the men accosting him, all within striking range. (See Mistake No. 2) . To men as agitated as their attackers, this is seen as an affront to their dignity and practically demands a physical retaliation.

Mistake No. 5: Not knowing they’re in a fight until it’s over. Only the most hardcore criminal predator will attack without warning. Most people – even streetwise men such as the attackers – still need to work up the courage to throw the first punch. This is the dance routine that most fights follow: 1. Barking and snarling in each other’s faces. 3. Minor physical contact, such as a push or a shove. 3. A sucker punch while the victim is still talking. 4. The follow-up blows until the victim is incapacitated or worse. I dare someone to tell me that this chain of events didn’t play out EXACTLY that way here.

Okay. So there’s the five huge mistakes of our foolish victims. What could they have done to NOT become victims? I’ll spare you the speech of not being in a place where such a thing could happen because that is a blog post in and of itself, and the two young men clearly didn’t have that option as they camera picks up with them in the thick of it. So, based on my experiences in real-life altercations and what the wise Peyton Quinn has taught me, here’s what the might’ve done instead:

1.Recognize that a fight was going to happen whether they wanted it or not. Let’s face it, sometimes you’re not always in control of the situation, and shit gets ugly really fast.

2. “Create their own witnesses” by placing their hands up, palms forward, between them and their attackers and saying, “I’m sorry! I don’t want any trouble. I’m cool, man!” No protracted conversations, just a few key non-confrontational phrases to let the crowd believe they don’t want to fight.

3. Be the first to punch/strike. Waiting until the other guy swings first might’ve worked in high school; but in the real world, you’re asking to get knocked the fuck out with this tactic. Pre-emptive striking gives you the element of surprise and the first few critical seconds of momentum. See how it worked for their attackers? Golden Curls was down and out after one shot while Red Shirt was dazed and unable to retaliate after a barrage of power punches. (He looked like a Bobblehead with all those shots!)

4. Commit to action. Keep punching and striking, all the while moving forward toward the door. Will they get hit? Yes. But they would’ve also had the upper hand because they struck first and didn’t stop.

5. Get outside the building and run for help.

Some might choose to question my tactics, and I’m open for any type of discussion on the matter. The truth is, I can’t tell you when you should fight and when you shouldn’t – that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. What I can give you is some general advice based on my own experiences – and plenty of blunders, admittedly – as well as the sage advice given to me by the man I trust in these matters.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yesterday, my wife linked the post “How to Date a Fat Girl” by blogger Adipose Activist. In her manifesto, Adipose lists her eight ironclad rules that she believes men must abide when dating – or trying to date – fat women. While I agree with her for the most part – most men don’t know how to talk to women in general – I felt that fat women might also benefit from a few rules for dating fat admirers, aka “FAs.”

It should come as no surprise that I’m a big girl lover from way back; my wife’s blog is The Big Girl’s Guide, for crying out loud! Anyway, in my dating experiences, I’ve noticed a few annoying traits that many of BBWs continue to indulge in … even when they should be long past these immature “stages” mostly associated with our teenage years and early 20s. So, without any further ado, here’s J.P. Ribner’s rules for dating FAs. Take heed, big girls!

Rule No. 1: Lose the attitude. Yeah, I said it. Some of you fat girls have nasty attitudes, the result of defense mechanisms fortified after years and years of ridicule. I get it. The problem is, being so defensive ALL the time practically guarantees you’ll also come off abrasive to the very men who would otherwise be interested in dating you! (Read that again and let it sink in.) As a young man, I had the patience to attempt to weather these storms in hopes for sunny days on the other side. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it didn’t. If I were single and dating now, the typical BBW bad attitude would be a turn off, and I would simply move on in search of sunnier climes. After all, there are plenty of other fat fish in the sea!

Rule No. 2: Don’t shame him. As previously stated, many BBWs are carrying around the trauma of being ridiculed, used, and looked upon as less-than. Problem is, not EVERY man is like this. Angrily grilling each potential suitor over his intentions is not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people. Niether is shouting “Are you one of those freaks who’s into fat chicks?” across an open bar. These attitudes won’t protect you from being rejected, ladies. In fact, they practically guarantee you’ll turn off someone who was legitimately interested in you. It’s like my wife said, “Being fat is not an easy thing but being a man who loves fat women can’t be much easier. They get teased, shamed and looked down upon for their desires too. When a man on a dating site uses a moniker that indicates he likes BBWs, don’t shit on him for it.”

Rule No. 3: You’re not a magician. Ladies, it’s time to ditch the “disappearing act. Or maybe its teleportation? You big girls know what I’m talking about – insisting on having sex with the lights off, and using blankets to cover up and hide your body as you slide into bed. This might fly on your first couple times together; but if we’ve been together for nearly a year and are sharing “I love yous,” there’s absolutely no reason for the Criss Angel routine. We men are visual and FAs are no exception. We want to see your bodies because looking at them turns us on. So from now on, it’s lights on and covers off! Same goes for how you dress. Just because you’re fat doesn’t mean you have to hide yourself behind billowing dresses and oversized Warner Brothers cartoon character T-shirts. Dress sexy and reveal those curves that drive us FAs wild!

Rule No. 4: Turn off the spotlight. You know, the cognitive bias known as “the Spotlight Effect,” where you think everyone is staring at you all the time. I swear, many of my erstwhile BBW lovers have sounded like paranoid schizophrenics when we were out on a date. One never ordered more than a side salad (no dressing, of course) and Diet Coke, while another didn’t order anything at all! She just stared at me awkwardly as I devoured my burger. They also thought other women – the dreaded “skinny bitches” – were staring at me. My girlfriends would say, “They’re wondering what you’re doing with a fat pig like me!” Newsflash, ladies: you’re not mind-readers, and no one is scrutinizing your every move. Now just relax and enjoy the evening … and don’t be afraid to order dessert!

Rule No. 5: Confidence is sexy. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but it really is true. We proud, out-of-the-closet FAs have faced our demons, both inside and out, and have admitted to the world that we prefer bigger women. If you’re not at the same level, self-acceptance-wise, than you’ll be unable to accept our compliments when we genuinely say how beautiful you look to us. BBWs without a sense of true confidence will immediately invalidate the compliment, saying something like, “Don’t be silly, I’m a big fat cow!” There’s no quicker way to make us NOT want to compliment you ever again, which is a shame because we do find you beautiful – we’re dating you, after all – and we want to say it. But when you act like there’s something wrong with you, you’re also saying there’s something wrong with us for being attracted to you. Simply put, it’s a huge turn-off … so don’t be that girl.

Well, That About Sums it Up
As they’re all interrelated, each one feeds into and off the other. (No pun intended.) At the end of the day, it all comes down to truly being comfortable in your own skin, which is the biggest challenge each one of us faces, whether we’re fat or skinny, short or tall, black, white, or brown, etc. Whatever mile marker you’ve just passed, I hope this list helps you on your journey.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.


Reflections on Rejection …

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

“A rejection of me is a reflection of them.”

Look into the mirror and repeat that phrase at three times out loud. Do it ten times if you do anything creative, such as writing, music, blogging, art, photography, etc. Lock it into your memory like the mantra it is, because it’s one that you’ll need it to counterbalance all the verbal diarrhea the haters and losers will will try to dump on you.

I’m going to break it all down for you; but first, a little story. In my former life, I was an alt. country singer/songwriter. While auditioning potential bandmates, I got a call from a young man who was very excited about working together. He was coming on so strongly, in fact, that he sounded downright manic. We agreed that I’d send him some of my songs, then I’d follow up with a phone call. He also asked me to go to a Detroit rockabilly show with him, going so far as to suggest I crash at his house for the night. It was a little too much for someone I hadn’t met, but I took the polite way out and told him “We’ll see.”

On our second call, his former exuberance was replaced with a nastiness that was exceedingly personal. “I don’t think it’s gonna work out, man. Your vocals are just … different.” I asked him what he meant, and he went on and on about how “weird” my voice sounded, and that it didn’t “sound country.” I had to agree with him, it wasn’t going to work out between us, and I told him as much. “Well you’re still coming down to the show, right?” he asked. I replied with a flat “no” and he shouted, “That’s bullshit, man! You promised!” Click! Dial tone. Breathe in. Say, “A rejection of me is a reflection of them.” Breathe out.

Working in the creative arts take a lot of guts, and putting your art out there for public consumption is very risky. You’re doing something that a lot of people only wish they could do, but they stop short of doing it because they’re scared of being criticized by assholes just like themselves. And when they encounter an artist who’s on his/her way up, these haters are confronted with their own inadequacies. They feel compelled to lash out and project all their self-loathing into the artist who’s doing the one thing that they, themselves, never can. Their internal dialogue most likely sounds something like this: “Who does he/she think she is, showin’ off like that?” And then comes their attack(s), and its always personal.

The most vicious, personal attacks disguised as “critiques” will most often come from complete strangers. Friends, family and close acquaintances aren’t usually that mean. After all, they have to see you nearly every day and/or on the holidays, so they’re less likely to be brutal about your work … even if it deserves it! Instead, they’ll likely say something positive yet largely non-committal, such as “it’s great” or “that’s awesome” or “you really got something there.” Long story short, the glowing praises of family and friends can sometimes blind you to ways in which you can improve and grow as an artist. Take it with a grain of salt.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled haters!

If you’re being attacked by a critic who’s saying things just to be mean and hurtful, try not to take it personally. I know it’s easier said than done, but the rewards are worth it. Stop and ask yourself why is the person making their criticism personal? Do they even know you on a personal level? Chances are they don’t, though there will always be one so-called “friend” or family member who chooses to “go there.” Fortunately this is rare, but when you come from a place called “Trauma Central,” it’s to be expected. I’ve already dealt with one family member whose “helpful advice” crossed the line. How do I know? I’ll let you be the judge.

Here’s what Mr. Wonderful had to say about my neo-noir murder mystery, World So Dark: “You did an okay job with the characters and dialogue, I guess, but you got the police procedure all wrong. I’m tellin’ ya, Jay … you really need to call me before you write books like this ‘’cause I would’ve seen this stuff a mile away. I’m tellin’ ya, you gotta have me help you write this stuff, man.”

Did you catch it? In the off chance you didn’t, I’ll drop some intellect on ya. His “book review,” if you can call it that, starts out with a vague compliment, which he quickly negates with the added, “I guess.” This followed by a litany of self-serving, egotistical statements meant to illustrate how much he’s allegedly needed to make the book a good one. Was he trying to help me? Or was he bothered by the fact that I wrote a book and he didn’t, and felt the need to prop himself up by tearing my work down? Again, I’ll let you be the judge while I while I repeat my mantra.

Whether you’re a serious artist or just a dabbler, you take great risks when you put your work out for public consumption. Your talent and dedication is bound to inflame the petty jealousies and insecurities of those who don’t have the courage to do what you’re doing. And it’s not egotistical to admit that, either; it’s a simple fact. Why else would their alleged critique of your art turn into a personal attack against you? My advice: accept it as just another part of the job, and DO NOT let it detract you from living your dreams. After all, even Beethoven had his critics, but I’ll be you can’t you name five of them without using Google. Don’t worry, neither can I … and that’s my point!

Just remember your mantra: ““A rejection of me is a reflection of them.”

J.P. Ribner is the author of three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

I really lashed out at some of my former bullies and would-be bullies on Monday’s post. Since most of them aren’t my friends on Facebook, I thought it only fair to message them a link to the story and invite them to respond to me if they feel so inclined. After all, I don’t want to be perceived as the guy who “talks shit about people behind their back.” Here is a person-by-person update on the responses, or lack thereof, I received. As to be expected, some were better than others.

Little King & the Pinoy Powerhouse

I’ll lump these two together only because both of these gentlemen manned up and apologized for their actions from days gone by. Further, after chatting with them on Facebook, I can see that they each have an interesting story to tell, and I’m enjoying reading them … and getting to know both of them better in the process. Many men are loathe to apologize for things they’ve done, big or small, so I commend both of them for having the courage to do what they thought was right in their hearts. As far as I’m concerned, all is forgiven and I no longer see them as “former bullies or would-be” bullies any more. What can I say? I’m a big softie at heart; I even cried when I saw E.T. (But don’t tell anyone!)

Two-Ton Tony

None of the bullies I mentioned in my first post garnered as many responses as Two-Ton Tony. Some of his former friends messaged me to tell me of the harrowing experiences with him. Listening to them, I couldn’t help but wonder if Two-Ton Tony is a sociopath, since his behavior – as described by them – showed all the classic traits of this personality disorder.

Anyway, after a bit of cyber-sleuthing on my part, I was able to find Two-Ton Tony’s workplace. As it so happens, I’m in need of the services provided by said business or one like it. All things considered, I was thinking “no better time than the present” to swing up there and talk with my old classmate. As luck would have it, Mr. Two-Ton and his boss were standing in the parking lot, conversing with someone else, when I pulled up. I got out of my car and approached them, my mind and my body sharpened and ready for anything.

Standing before your ol’ high school bully after 20+ years is quite a surreal experience. There he was, the man who threatened to “stomp my face into the concrete” for nearly an entire school year was now standing before me. And now, the size disparity between the two of us wasn’t as drastic as it had been back then. He’s still a fatass and taller than me, but my years of weight training lessened the size differential that I thought was a factor back in ’88.

As I stood there, a flood of emotions came rushing into my brain, each one struggling against the other for control of my consciousness. Part of me wanted to smash his face and keep on smashing until one of us was the only one standing. Another part of me urged myself to stay calm, since the presence of at least two coworkers put the odds were decidedly in Tony’s favor. The other part of me wondered if he’s even the same person he was back then.

As the conversation progressed in the mid-day August sun, I’m not entirely certain that Two-Ton Tony fully recognized me while he was giving me a job estimate. There was a point where I caught him starting at me, but when he noticed me notice him, he quickly averted my gaze, added a few more steps between us. If I had to take a guess, I’m not entirely certain he knew it was me, J.P. Ribner, the person he decided was not worthy of having a peaceful senior year. If I had to take a guess, he probably was looking at me, wondering where he knew me.

As I left the parking lot laughing, I decided to make sure he knew who paid him a visit. Upon returning home, I decided to send him a link to my first blog about him with the following Facebook message:

“Hey Tony! It was nice to see you today, and even better that you were actually nice to me. I don’t want it ever to be said that I talk about people behind their backs. I’d like you to read this story and get back to me.”

Facebook registered him as reading the message around 7:30pm. The following morning, sometime around 8am, I received this response:

“This whole encounter is very bizarre and borderline stalker type actions. Consider this your notification that you will be trespassing if you return to my [place of business] ever again. Any more communication to me will be taken as harassment and dealt with accordingly.”

Okay. Just to recap for you good people. Two-Ton Tony was the guy who used to follow me around in the hallway AND out to the car after school, threatening to kick my ass six ways to Sunday. And this went on for an ENTIRE school year! It only stopped after I blocked that weak-ass punch he threw at me during the pep rally, then stood my ground when he came lumbering toward me, talking all kinds of shit. But look what happens when I pay him ONE visit at his job – I’m “bizarre” and engaging in “borderline stalker-type actions.”


Here was his chance to say, “Hey Ribner … I was a jerk to you back then. I’m really sorry, man.” That’s all it would’ve taken to make this whole thing between us go away. I would’ve been just as happy if he stepped up and said, “That’s right! I did bully you, and I’ll do it again. Meet me at …” And for the record, I’d be happy to meet him anywhere he’d want to meet so we can finally find out who’ll be the last man standing.

Instead of either of those options, Two-Ton Tony bitched out and chose Door Number 3: an implied threat of calling the police! Oh, and he blocked me on Facebook, too, which I guess is his way of “dealing with it accordingly.”

I can’t help but to laugh my fucking ass off at the complete joke that he’s become. To sum it all up, in high school, he might’ve roared like a lion; but now, he’s nothing but a passive little lamb. Or, as my lovely wife put it, “Looks like Two-Ton Tony is a big, fat pussy!” She’s right, you know.

There’s something else I find interesting about Two-Ton Tony’s response. Is shows a complete failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, which, coincidentally, is ANOTHER trait of a sociopath.

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

The Anabolic Israeli Commando

Next on the list is the Anabolic Israeli Commando. Since he’s not a Facebook friend, my message to him has likely gone unnoticed in his “other” folder … the tiny one that no one ever checks because it’s not where messages from their friends go. If he doesn’t respond in a couple days, I’ll send him a friend request and hope for the best. Although the A.I.C. never said “I’m sorry” for what happened between us, he did more or less redeem himself for his actions the following school year, and I must admit that I forgot to include this detail in my original post detailing only his dastardly deeds. So, in the interests of full disclosure, here’s the story how my former high school bully actually turned around and did something good for me. (So if you’re reading this, A.I.C., keep in mind that I’m manning up and giving you your props where you deserve them!)

During the summer before my senior year, I ran into Crawdaddy, who was someone I at least enjoyed talking to while at Powers. During our conversation, he mentioned that he had borrowed a cassette tape – KISS, I believe – from the A.I.C., but he’d be unable to return it since he wouldn’t be returning to Powers for his senior year. Frankly, he was sick of all the bullshit. He said he didn’t want to ask me to take the tape back for him since he knew of the history between myself and the Commando, but I assured him that it would be fine. The A.I.C. and I had spoken a few times after the incident – nothing beyond your typical “What’s up?” cordiality – and I didn’t see a problem with me returning his tape for Crawdaddy. And so the situation was settled … or so I thought.

One problem occurred when I got back to school – I didn’t have the A.I.C. in any classes nor did I ever see him in the hallway. I did, however bump into a mutual acquaintance whom we’ll call “Shades” for the simple fact that he wore those self-tinting glasses that all Stoners who have to wear glasses used to wear in the 80s. Since I knew Shades was friends with the A.I.C., I asked him if he’d be kind enough to give him the KISS tape, to which Shades said, “Oh yeah! Sure, man. No problem. I’ll give it to him when I see him in Science class.” That was the last I heard from Shades, but not the last I heard from the A.I.C.

A few days after the hand-off, I went to my locker to see the A.I.C. looming there beside it. I asked him what was up and he told me that Shades told him that I had his tape and wasn’t going to give it back. At that point, I told the A.I.C. what really happened, adding, “Why the fuck would I want to keep your tape, dude? I don’t even like KISS.” He retorted by saying, “Well why would Shades make that up?” The answer to that seemed as plain as the nose on my face, but maybe he didn’t see it. I explained, “He’s keeping it ’cause he’s hoping you and I will fight again.” Upon saying that, the A.I.C. tilted his head to the side, gave me a look, then clapped his hand on my shoulder and said, “Okay. Well I’m gonna go talk to him and take care of it.” And that’s the last I saw of the Anabolic Israeli Commando and Shades. I can only assume the case of the missing KISS tape was taken care of and the true guilty party was punished.

Little Italy

Little Italy, the Italian miniature pony, might not ever respond to my overture. For one thing, we’re not Facebook friends, so my message is likely sitting in his “other” message folder. I was also unable to send him a friend request due to fact that the security on his page is tighter than Fort Knox. Perhaps that has something to do with his recently-confirmed drug arrest and conviction. Mama mia! It would appear that my erstwhile bully was arrested for possession of at least 25 grams of cocaine, which carries a 2-4-year sentence. He’s currently on probation, and hopefully he’s able to piece his life back together and rid himself of the chains of addiction.

Ol’ Buckethead

Also not a Facebook friend, I don’t suppose he’s seen the message. Or, he’s seen it and has chosen not to respond. Then again, considering that he was the guy who once threatened to beat me up for saying “hello” to him, he could be on his way to Metro Detroit right now, determined to put an end to the menace that is J.P. Ribner. Perhaps Little King or the Pinoy Powerhouse could reach out to him and encourage him to make contact and squash this thing once and for all. It would be nice to be able to cross another name off the naughty list.

Well, that’s it for this installment, but there will be plenty more exciting stories from Powers Catholic High School to come. Stay tuned!

J.P. Ribner is the author of three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

Bullies at a Catholic school? You betcha! And while they were nothing more than a rag-tag group of two-bit tough guys and shit-talkers, they managed to make my last two years of high school a living hell.

Sometime near the end of my sophomore year at Hamady High School, I had the brilliant idea to transfer to Powers Catholic High School for my junior and senior years. For those of you who read my four-part series Fat Boys are Back (And J.P. is Under Attack), you’ll know that a big part of why I decided to change schools was because I felt that I didn’t fit in at Hamady, and it was a school in which I had no friends. I was wrong, of course, but I didn’t realize that then. I foolishly thought that at Powers – which had about four times the amount of students as Hamady – I could surely find at least one or two people to call a friend. (Such things were important to me then.) I also didn’t think it was a big deal because I had attended a Catholic junior high school in Flint, Michigan (Donovan Mayotte), so transferring from a public to a Catholic school wasn’t exactly uncharted waters for me.

I was right about one thing – Powers had about four times as many students … and easily as many bullies.

To be honest, I was warned that transferring in my junior year was probably not a brilliant idea. Many people told me that by eleventh grade, most people’s friendships and social cliques were well established, and breaking into a circle of friends as a complete stranger would prove a Augean task. I was undaunted in my desire to switch schools, however, due in large part to the effects of the ill-fated attempt to see the Fat Boys perform at the Capitol Theatre and the unfortunate social falling out that ensued. And so, following the tumultuous summer of 1986, I marched into Powers Catholic with the intention of linking up with like-minded students and finally finding what I’d been searching for all along – a place where I belonged. Instead, I learned some valuable lessons about the weakness of human character, both mine and those who tried to torment me.

In their infinite wisdom, the administrations at Powers Catholic set me on a course to be shamed by my fellow students before I ever set foot in a classroom. Being a mere peasant from a small public school, I was stuck in several classes a year below my academic level. Being surrounded by sophomores was rather embarrassing, to be honest, and I’m still convinced that I was one of many victims of Powers’ caste system. After all, while my family had one of the biggest houses in Mayfair (my old neighborhood, aka “the hood”), it was a shack compared to the homes those rich Powers kids lived in. I didn’t even have my own car in those days, yet many of these kids were rolling into the parking lot in Mercedes Benzs or BMWs! The biggest drawback to being placed in these remedial classes was that it gave these rich little shits plenty of ammunition to use against me, and it was usually along the lines of me being “dumb,” “stupid,” etc. Having a bit of a mouth on me myself, I always fired back, which is how I often ran afoul of Powers resident bullies.

The bullies at Powers, for the most part, fell into two distinct cliques – The Preppy Gang and The Stoners. To call either of these this rag-tag collections momma’s boys and second-rate juvenile delinquents “bullies” might be giving them too much credit, however. The Preppy Gang had a “fight-one, fight-us-all” mentality, which more or less made them a gang, albeit one that wore heavy corduroy pants with huge grooves, penny loafers, and the latest Polo/Brooks Brothers/L.L. Bean ensembles. This group also liked to engage in something I call “bullying-by-proxy,” in that they would enlist older guys in my class to try to fuck with me because the members of The Preppy Gang were a far too effeminate bunch to actually step up and go toe-to-toe.

As for The Stoners, they were pretty much your garden variety 80s burnout crew – puffy mullets, cheap corduroys, ill-fitting collared shirts, and untied high-top sneakers. This group was more likely to throw a wild haymaker, since that’s what they occasionally did at their drink- and drug-fueled weekend parties that became part of lunchroom lore. They really should’ve been called “The Boners” because each one of them acted like the gigantic, vein-laden cock they likely wished they had between their legs.

Whether it was The Preppy Gang or The Stoners, both groups seemed as though they were always looking for a fight. Me being a thin, small-statured, socially awkward loner who didn’t have any backup to call upon made me the ideal target. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on to the bullies themselves.
The Little King
My trouble with The Preppy Gang began the day I crossed paths with a girlish, limp-wristed dandy whom I call Little King. Like all members of this little sewing circle, Little King had a nasty little mouth on him, along with the complete inability to back it up. This would’ve proven a lethal combination had his royal majesty spent one semester at Hamady; but since this was Powers, such behavior was not only tolerated, it was considered the norm for these privileged pansies. Sometime early in Felix Lehmkuhle’s science class, the Little King decided to pop off at the mouth, calling me “stupid” or “retarded” or something like that, whereupon I promptly informed him that I would snatch the perceived crown from his head and shove it up his ass so far he wouldn’t be able to breathe. Little King indulged himself in the obligatory ruffling of feathers and mumbling under his breath, but he did so whilst steadily backing away from me. Foolishly, I thought that would be the end of things; but later that week, I was confronted once more by the Little King and he had brought his royal court with him … all of whom claiming they would jump me and kick my ass.
The Pinoy Powerhouse
Old grudges die hard, which is why it’s no surprise that the Pinoy Powerhouse was willing to step up and fight me on behalf of the Little King. Short yet rather stocky and with a hot temper to match, this Filipino fighter and I had gone at it many years earlier at Donovan South, one of the many Catholic junior high schools that feed into Powers. I don’t quite remember what the argument was about back then, but the fight consisted of us hurling insults whilst circling each other, and the highlight being both of us landing hooks at precisely the same time, causing each of us to stumble backwards and begin our circling and taunting once more. Much like my run-in with the Little King – and our earlier fight at Donovan – the Pinoy Powerhouse and I traded insults back and forth in the lunchroom, both of us swearing to destroy the other. In other words, nothing more than the rattling to sabers was to be seen that day.
Ol’ Buckethead
If you have a mother like mine, do yourself a favor and DO NOT take social advice from her. If you do, you might end up in a fight with an asshole like Ol’ Buckethead. A tangential member of The Preppy Gang, Ol’ Buckethead’s appearance really lived up to that moniker. Although a year younger than me, this unfortunate lad was already losing his hair by his sophomore year. In fact, his hairline was receding so much that it made his head look like the head of a man in his 60s, which is not a good look for a tenth-grader … and even worse if one’s head is shaped like a bucket flipped on its side and slammed atop a skinny, pencil-like neck. Anyway, in her ongoing efforts to increase my shame and humiliation, Mommy Dearest suggested I be more personable, perhaps say “hello” to my fellow students, and maybe I might make a friend.

Against my better judgment, I walked into Lehmkuhle’s science class (in retrospect, most of my troubles seemed to originate there), and made my way to my seat. Since Buckethead sat next to me, I decided to say, “Hey man. What’s up?” as I sat down. Suddenly, that elongated, head snapped ’round in my direction and he said, “You don’t know me, motherfucker! I’ll kick your fuckin’ ass!” Like my encounters with the rest of The Preppy Gang, I was able to keep Ol’ Buckethead from jumping up out of his Sperry Topsiders and swinging wildly upon me by uttering a few choice words of my own.

Suffice to say, Mom’s advice did not work and Buckethead and I never became friends nor mended fences. Instead, he soon threw his lot in with The Preppy Gang to present a united front against the odd stranger who dared enter their midst. (Update: after a bit of cyber-sleuthing, I was able to locate Ol’ Buckethead’s Faceboook profile. True to my suspicions, he’s as bald as a buzzard these days and his head is as gigantic and bulbous as ever. I mean, it’s shaped like a fucking light bulb!)
Little Italy
I don’t have anything against Italians; in fact, some of my best friends trace their ancestry to “The Boot.” But the bully I’m about to describe was not only a proud Italian, he was also a rather stereotypical one, right down to the dark, slicked-back hair and golden horn pendant he wore around his neck on a gold chain. To put it bluntly, this guy was Jersey Shore LONG before the world ever heard of the likes of Vinnie and Paulie D. And mama mia! did he have a temper! I say’a, Mistah Italy! What’s a’matta wit you?

At the height of my feud with The Preppy Gang, I was heading down the hall on my way to class, when I turned the corner and was walking right through Preppy Rowe. From both sides of me, I became taunted by the likes of Little King and the rest of those effeminate momma’s boys that that made up that clique. Naturally, I fired back with some insults and threats of my own, and the next thing I know, all four-feet, two inches of Little Italy was suddenly in my face, screaming about how he’ll tear my head off for “talkin’ shit” to his friends. To this, his so-called “friends” giggled and squealed like a bunch of cheerleaders on prom night, no doubt relieved that someone was willing to carry their tattered banner into battle on their behalf. In the end, it boiled down to me – the Slovak Warrior – and Little Italy both daring the other to “take the first swing,” and this macho charade ended the moment the bell for class began to ring.
The Anabolic Israeli Commando
One of the toughest (self-proclaimed) members of The Stoners was The Anabolic Israeli Commando. Tall and with a dark brown mullet, The A.I.C. was proud of his Jewish heritage and was often seen reading Soldier of Fortune magazine during class and no doubt dreaming of engaging in heated battles in the Gaza strip. He also had arguably the most well-developed musculature in all of the school, the result of his near-fanatical weightlifting regimen. It was long rumored that this was boosted by a steady regimen of steroids. No one dared say this to him, though, for to do so would mean certain death at his hands … which coincidentally, makes the rumor that much more believable. (It also didn’t help that his father – a physician – was convicted with unlawful distribution of prescription drugs, possession of machine guns, and other charges.)

Long story short, The A.I.C. and I had a class together, one rowdy remedial math class that was so out of control, that fights, near-fights, and shit-talking were a daily occurrence. Similar to my aborted bout with Little Italy, I initially ran afoul of The A.I.C. when another student – Froggy – got in over his head with some shit-talking to me. It was a classic case of battleship mouth/rowboat ass, but Froggy had an ace up his sleeve. He walked up to me with The A.I.C. in tow and said, “If you try to do anything to me, you’ll have to go through him.” From that day forward, I became The A.I.C.’s sworn enemy, and he became mine. And so began a school year-long dance of shit-talking, threats, and near battles that all boiled to a head one balmy day near the end of my junior year.

I remember walking into class and heading toward my desk, which meant passing by The A.I.C.’s desk in the next row. As I was preparing to sit down, A.I.C. socked me rather hard in the shoulder. Without thinking, I spun and drilled him in his chest, just above his heart … a move that sealed my fate. “I’m gonna kick your ass after class,” he said. And he meant it! Like all bullies – Stoners, in particular – there is “the rule”: they can do whatever they want to you, but you don’t dare do the same to them. If you do, you better be able to back it up. Well, true to his word, he followed me out into the hall and handed his books to one of his sycophants. I handed my books to an acquaintance and prepared for what I had convinced myself would be the ultimate ass-whipping.

The A.I.C. began swinging on me, connecting with my face with a couple of hooks. Admittedly, he got a few good shots in before I grabbed both of his wrists to immobilize him. I still remember the look of shock in his eyes when his overdeveloped biceps were unable to pull loose of my grasp. (Apparently, adrenaline strength trumps steroids.) To his credit, A.I.C. improvised by pushing my head down into his oncoming knee – it might have been once, it might have been twice – causing a hairline fracture in my nose. I pushed him off of me, knocking him back against the lockers and jumped back out of range, quickly assessing the damage to my face – bloody nose. Then, he and I locked eyes – Guilt? Fear? Remorse? Apathy? – that caused him to freeze. I did too … for a moment. Then the thought of charging forward and slamming my fist into his face bubbled up from my primordial subconscious just as the teachers swarmed the scene to separate us and usher us to the office.

To this day, my biggest regret was allowing my fear of The A.I.C. to overwhelm me. This fear, not his punches or even his bone-crunching Muay Thai kneestrikes – allowed him to win that fight. Did my nose feel broken? Yes. Did it bleed? Yes. But did it hurt? Not really. Adrenaline is a powerful chemical and it’s one that has flowed quite freely through my veins for as long as I can remember. The following year, my relationship with The A.I.C. lacked all the two-way animosity that marked our interactions from the year before; but still, it always itched in the back of my brain that what he did to me should not go unpunished. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to rekindle my battle with this muscle-bound human bulldozer – losing the fight to him practically painted a bullseye on my chest that drew every wannabe bully and two-bit tough guy out of the woodwork to fight me during my senior year.
Two-Ton Tony
The second Stoner to set me square in his sights was Two-Ton Tony. He was a mountain of a man; a full 300+ pounds of beer-drinkin’, pot-smokin’, potato-chip eatin’ blubber. And a man that size could still be formidable and even dangerous if he were to get a hold of my 5’10”, 160-lb. ass. A member of the Stoner crew, he had all the stoner accoutrement: the requisite mullet, untied high-top sneakers, earring in the left ear only, and a Bondo-covered van that blasted out Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica in the parking lot after school. He also had a grudge against me that lasted the entire school year.

I don’t know how or why Two-Ton Tony had it out for me. We didn’t have any classes together and I never took the time to talk to him or his best friend and sidekick, Little Joe, who was a near carbon copy of Two-Ton Tony, save for being shorter and less of girth. The only way I can figure it was that my fight with The Anabolic Israeli Commando happened practically in front of Two-Ton Tony’s locker, and perhaps his fat, sadistic ass got a kick (no pun intended) out seeing his friend, The A.I.C., dish some punishment out to me. From everything I’ve since been told about Two-Ton Tony, he was an angry, miserable person whose only way to feel better about himself was to tear other people down. Perhaps seeing me on the losing end of the scuffle with The A.I.C. made me an easy target in his mind. So let the games begin!

My senior year was one of constant torment from Two-Ton Tony. Whenever he would see me in the hallway, he made sure to tell me that I was a “faggot” and a “pussy” and that he was going to kick my ass. Since my loss to The A.I.C. the year before had shaken what little confidence and belief in myself I might have had, I did my best to ignore him. This kept his antagonism strictly on the verbal level. As my misfortune would have it, Two-Ton Tony’s asshole older brother, some bargain-basement Jason Bateman wannabe, happened to work at the grocery store in my neighborhood, and he always made a point to remind me how Two-Ton Tony would pound my dick into the dirt every time I was sent up there by Mommy Dearest to pick up groceries.

The closest Two-Ton Tony and I came to exchanging blows was in the upper level of the bleachers during a pep rally. Why I decided to stand near The Stoners I have no idea, but there I was, standing against the railing, with Two-Ton Tony on the top bleacher just below me. A casual turn of his head caused him to notice I was standing behind him, which was followed by a “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” comment. (Of course. Because my whole goal in life is to look at assholes with chips on their shoulders.) He fired a hard, straight right toward my stomach, which I quickly deflected with a “wax-off” block, knocking his pudgy hand – with its fat, Polish sausage fingers – into the metal railing. “That’s it!” he shouted, before slipping through the gap in the railing with incredible grace for a fatass.

Next thing I know, Two-Ton Tony is in my face, telling me he’s gonna kick my ass, as all the Stoner asshole crowd around us in a circle, shouting encouragements for him to do just that. I’ll never forget one of my so-called friends, Sir Kerry of the Blue Camaro, shoving his face practically into mine and saying, “Do it, Tony! Kick his ass, man. Kick his fuckin’ ass!” To my credit, I didn’t back down, and my stand-off with Two-Ton Tony ended much like many of my near-skirmishes at Powers, with both side daring the other to “take the first shot, man.” And like that, my feud with Two-Ton Tony ended as quickly – and as strangely – as it began.
What Does it all Mean?
So, if writing this blog is to be some type of therapy, the question of “What does it all mean?” inevitably must be asked … and answered. If I have to say anything, it feels good to unburden myself of all of this. I’ve been carrying around far too much trauma for more than 25 years, and I’ve come to a point in life where I believe my own health and mental stability requires me to purge these demons, one story at a time. As to my former bullies, some might read this yet many will not, as social media has connected me with but a scant few of these lads. For those who do, perhaps they’ll recognize themselves and use this opportunity to reach out to me to apologize … or at least just discuss the issue. Then again, they might not take too kindly to my unflattering portrayals of their high school selves, thus urging them to want to avenge their tarnished honors. I wouldn’t be bothered if that were the case. While I may have “lost” one fight at Powers, and walked away from many others, there were some I won and in rather violent and dramatic fashion. As to those tales … well … that’s a whole ’nother story!

J.P. Ribner’s experiences with bullies and the violence they cause has led to his creation of three novels: Legacy of the Bear, Prophecy of the Bear, and World So Dark.

What does the Face of Abuse look like to you? Do you picture a man with a five o’clock shadow and a “wifebeater” T-shirt? He’s probably sitting in a well-worn recliner and shouting, “Shut up, bitch! Go fix me a turkey pot pie!” If this is the image you saw in your mind’s eye, you don’t know Jacqueline about the Face of Abuse as it appears to far too many men.

Similar to the mythical Hydra, the Face of Abuse is a loathsome monster with many faces. And like that nightmarish serpent, the Face regenerates two heads for each one severed, and its breath and blood are the deadliest of poisons. Unlike the image of the chauvinistic brute that mainstream society associates with abuse, the Face is female, and at first she seems far from that loathsome creature of Greek mythology.

This Face of Abuse begins as one of exquisite beauty. Ask any guy who’s come eye to eye with this she-beast, and he’ll describe soft, loving eyes, angelic cheekbones, and a smile that took his breath away. Beneath this façade of expertly-applied lipstick and eyeshadow, however, lurks a monstrosity that harbors a seething animosity toward men. It won’t be long before she attacks her unfortunate victim with unmatched and unchecked violence and ferocity; punching, scratching, biting, and kicking are all too common, and the law of the jungle dictates that the victim must suffer these attacks in silence. Bruises, cuts, and even trips to the hospital are a regular occurrence, yet the damage to his psyche goes even deeper.

Once moved to violence, the Face becomes a mask of righteous indignation. Cloaked in this pretense, she reminds her victim that this is what happens to those who disrespect her. “If you were any kind of man,” she hisses, “you’d apologize. Either that or I’ll find someone who knows how to treat a woman.” Her toxic breath is so painful to her victim’s central nervous system that he’s willing to do or say anything to stop the pain. Only then will the Face’s sweet, innocent beauty return, but not without a warning: “Do it again and I’ll make you regret it!”

The Face can adopt a look of blinding anger, especially in the heat of a discussion. What starts out as a disagreement quickly escalates into her unabashed use of household weapons: anything sharp, heavy, and deadly that can be swung, thrust, or thrown is used by this she-devil when in attack mode. She will think nothing of hurling a steak knife at the victim’s head, and she will not flinch when the blade skims past the face of their four-year-old child whose only “crime” was wandering into the kitchen in search of Mommy and Daddy. At best, the Face will remove this blindfold and replace it with another mask — one of shock, and then another — a look of righteous indignation. Once again, the toxic cloud fills the room as the Face says, “I didn’t do that. You’re crazy.” By now, this demon’s victim will do anything to bring back the beauty he once knew; but by now, her porcelain mask is starting to crack, and the vibrant paint and delicate gilding are fading fast.

Beneath her many veneers lies the Face’s true nature, and it’s one of pure evil. This hideous monstrosity is a rarity, only showing herself when she genuinely feels confident in her power. The victim might experience this after he comes home to find his best friend in the clutches of this evil beast. It is here that her pantomime of normalcy begins to fail, revealing something so vile, so wicked, and so depraved that seeing it forever changes the victim. With venom dripping from her fangs and tongue, the Face relishes her hateful words, saying, “That’s right, I’m in love with him and he loves me. So why don’t you just leave so we can be together!”

While demonic sadism is the true nature of the Face, she has other disguises. Desperation and panic blush upon her cheeks when her true nature has been discovered. Pale-skinned and wide-eyed, this grasping jackal digs dark talons into her victim’s skin, drawing blood while shrieking, “Wait! I … I didn’t mean it. Don’t leave, please!” In this state, it’s easy for this succubus to transition back to the thing of beauty she started out as … but only if her victim chooses to stay. If he keeps walking, he’ll shatter her magic, leaving the Face forever trapped in her most monstrous form. This is why she tries so hard to prevent her victim’s escape.

A mistress of camouflage, the Face’s final incarnation is her most deceptive. Like a snake shedding its skin, she transforms into the form of Eternal Sufferer; then, by fang and stinger, she spreads her poison. Between tears, she details the horrors she suffered under his brutish hand. A virulent toxin to his reputation, this substance is sweet nectar for police, prosecutors, and judges, and soon it’s their faces that he’ll be seeing with all their naked hatred and contempt. As the Eternal Sufferer, the Face also turns the Victim’s friends and family against him, including his own children. The youngest of the Face’s victims, they won’t remember all the times the monster attacked their father; the victim, however, will never forget those chilling words the Face spoke just before she attacked him for the last time: “Daddy’s hitting Mommy! Call 911 just like I told you!”

So, what more do you need to know about the Face of Abuse … except that this it’s the face society doesn’t want you to see?

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.