This afternoon I have been trying to teach my Imaginary Son how to defend himself. It put me in my mind of my dad putting me through my paces back in the early eighties after becoming concerned that my then fussy eating meant I might be something of a soft touch. I guessseeing my mum remove the egg white from my egg with some fancy contraption, he grew alarmed and thought, "My God, this boy's going to be in trouble in the school playground if they single him out for the long hair I refuse to let him cut."
My dad taught me how to tuck my chin in when fighting. If I got attacked in our own road, he advised me to tuck my chin in and “Not to scream like a girl.” A scream would alert the neighbours, he explained, and “We don’t want them knowing your shame.” We’d still, according to my dad, have to live in Mayflower after any attack and it might be months before we could move, particularly with him (as I would too decades later) struggling for work references.
Even if the fight was going bad for me, my dad said I should never be tempted to bite my opponent. Not because we were noble fighters, but as he went onto explain, “You never know what disease they might be carrying.” The wait in the clinic to find out if I’d caught Hepatitis would be worse than any beating I might have taken. I’d have to grow a beard to disguise any weight loss if I subsequently fell ill and he had the prescience, even then, to identify I didn’t have the beard depth to pull that off.