The Philosophy of Protection: Fight Night?
There were four of us – myself, a young couple and a lone woman – sitting there at the station, just past midnight; not so late in the scheme of things, but late enough when you’re in some middle of nowhere town, a place seemingly stuck in the BL, before he let there be light. It’s quiet, and oh so bloody dark; the kind of darkness that not only looks like a wall but hits you like one. There we were, still sparking slightly from the concert; the sounds of the encore ringing in our ears while the rest of the songs started slurrying together in our memories. There we were, waiting for a train, feeling a little like the cast of some starchy one-act play, waiting for the drama to begin.
A loud ‘fuck’ from out of the darkness broke the silence, and through the crack it caused streamed forth a plethora of other profanities.
‘For Fucks sake! I’ve been waiting forever! “One minute”, you say,” One fucking minute!” You keep telling one minute, but it’s been one minute for the last fucking hour. You’re fucking me around you cunt.’
We sat there, struggling to restore the quiet that had so quickly sifted through our fingers, trying to hold it again as we waited for the train; hoping that if we ignored this disembodied voice from the far side of the track then it might simply go away, back into its unlit house and back out of our increasingly existential existence. That is, nearly all of us, all of us bar the one woman who decided she had heard enough.
‘Leave him!’ she shouted across the tracks, back into the dark. ‘He just hit you … and he’s a bogan!’ She slowly started to rise up as if anticipating a conflict from the still incorporeal figure; but her boyfriend stopped her, softly putting his hand on her shoulder he whispered ‘Honey … he’s talking to a phone.’ She sat back down again, silent; but it was too late to back down now, she had stirred the spirits.
And so a silhouette sharked, swearing towards us – seemingly afraid of what would happen if his mouth ever stopped moving – from the far side of the station; rattling the chain-link fence (our fourth wall) and yelling for confrontation when it arrived. It got no response from us.
After berating the air the accused briefly begged for his accuser, challenging them to repeat themselves up close and personal – as they always seem to do in these situations. ‘…to my face!’ he screams, As if his face – presumably his winning smile- would instantly disprove her point. He got no response from us.
After another quick bout of swearing things simmered down at the station; But what if they hadn’t?
Once the train arrived and we rejoined the crowds of civilization, anonymous to one another once again, I found myself wondering just this as I returned home. Unfortunately such events are in no way uncommon, therefore tonight had gone down a little differently somewhere out there: Had she been stubborn, had he been more volatile, had it only been a road between our stage and the audience; then what happens? Then what would we four have done? The answer is, we improvise; we revert to instinct, devolution as a defense mechanism.
The mistake most make about improv is thinking that it’s less contrived than that which is scripted. The difference lies only in the fact that the performer doesn’t draw from immediate lines, but instead goes back into their internal archives to pull out ingrained material. Instinct too is not simply a lack of thought; it is instead the inverse of this, the culmination of a thousand odd years of thought rendered deftly into an instant of effort. Underlying both is a set of rules, rules that drive the way we act or react but rules that ultimately remain unseen to us.
Certainly it is great that this woman wanted to stand up for the poor, battered girlfriend she unknowingly imagined, but she only did so under the assurance of these rules. Her boyfriend is sitting beside her and so she is entitled to his protection; it is he that would have to fight off the agro bogan had it come to blows, he that would have to put himself on the line. Now that may all sound great and romantic to you, but isn’t it also just about the most presumptuous thing that you’ve ever heard?
If the trope is true and relationships are all about communication, then this is surely something that should be discussed; I mean kids is one thing, but this, this is important. While I am for chivalry in all its forms, fighting is another beast entirely. The man should be able to opt-out of any unnecessary physicality in advance, before the woman starts something under assumption and it becomes too late for that better part of valor. Of course there should also be the option to encourage such conflict, if that’s your thing.
So guys, I understand that telling your girlfriend you don’t want to fight for her is probably not a good relationship move (even if she claims to be a feminist, post-feminist, autonomous or independent woman), but chances are she won’t hit you half as hard as some of the men she insults, thinking that you are obliged to sub in for her once the round bell rings.
And girls, it doesn’t mean that he loves you any less. If someone threatens you directly it doesn’t mean that he will simply shove you towards them and run. When they are in danger we are driven to protect our women, even the ones we normally don’t like that much. It simply means that he wants to be smart about this, pick his fights so that he can be with you longer.
Couples should really get to know where their partners stand before something happens. Obviously in the moment intricacies will force a lot of our responses to be instinctual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a general plan in place. Mine is to fight LaMotta style; just stand there taking a lot of punches while she ducks behind a corner to put on a wig and trench-coat, later returning to the scene as if a stranger.
So is this cowardly, clever, chauvinistic or something else entirely? What would you have done and – more importantly- why?