I have been woman-pummeled many times, by girlfriends and women who were friends and (in some cases, sadly) no more than that.
They fist-bump me in the shoulder or elbow me in the ribs, not hard enough to hurt — most of the time, anyway — just enough to let me know that I am being punished.
Why, you reasonably ask, do they punish me?
It’s for something I said or did (or failed to do) ... nothing mean, hateful or disrespectful, but for teasing, being colorful, committing the offense while in the presence of other people and embarrassing her, or all of the above. Just for being me.
You’re old enough to have known better.
I even exasperated my own mother, until I actually did grow old enough to know better ... just as my father did. I am his son in many respects. (Mother never batted an eye when Dad asked me to pull his finger. She reciprocated by crunching the ice in her drink, which she knew rasped heavily upon his nerves.)
Some examples of my transgressions:
My favorite ex-girlfriend owns my favorite restaurant, and she and her late husband became two of my favorite friends. I call her “Jailbait,” which the cooks, dishwasher and waitresses love, because we went out one time when I was 25 and didn’t know she was only 17.
One day, I told her that my lunch was cold when I got it.
“What?” she bellowed. “Who was your waitress?”
Barbara, I said.
“Did she do anything about it?” getting madder.
“WHY NOT?” madder still.
“Because it was a chef’s salad,” I said, and she immediately punched me in the ribs, then got red-faced and apologized ... but continued to scold me.
I have frequently been woman-pummeled in theaters, as it happened during “True Grit.”
Lucky Ned Pepper (played by Robert Duvall) asked Rooster Cogburn (The Duke) what his intentions were.
Rooster said, “I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker’s convenience. Which’ll it be?
Ned responded, “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!”
Rooster scowled and called back, “Fill your hand, you sonofab****!” then stuck the horse’s reins between his teeth, filled his own hands with his rifle and pistol and charged.
That’s when I stood up by myself in the middle of the theater and began to clap and cheer.
My girlfriend grabbed me by the belt just above the seat of my pants, yanked me down into my seat and began to elbow me in the ribs.
We also went to see “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” with Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, who portrayed “flappers” in the 1920s.
They wanted to be fashionably flat-chested so their beads would hang straight, but that was a problem for Millie/Julie.
She strapped on a strap that was supposed to achieve this effect, but the strap snapped and her beads suddenly were catapulted upward and outward. My reaction to this eruption got me elbow-drilled once more.
“Millie” was the last movie we attended together.
Another girlfriend thoroughly battered my ribcage during “Porky’s.”
Every time something cool was about to happen (like the guys going down into the school basement, where they had peepholes that looked into the girls’ locker room), I started howling before anyone else in the theater.
Everything they started to do was something I already knew about. Either my buddies and I had done it, or I had witnessed somebody else doing it.
Another girlfriend called me at 11:30 at night and asked how I felt about bats.
I told her my preference was for a 32-ounce Louisville Slugger, old-school with no batting glove or pine tar on the handle.
Her response was one of silence, so I asked “Or do you mean the kind that’s gotten loose in your house, and you and your kids are terrified because it might get into your hair?”
“That’s the one,” she said.
It was summer, and the neighbors had their windows open, but that didn’t deter me from leaping out of the car and yelling, “We’re Americans! Everybody out and on the chopper!”
She and her kids were looking out the window of a bedroom that had become their panic room. The kids cheered, but she slammed the window shut.
Now, do you see why women pummel me?
It could have happened again the other day.
Two of my women friends met while I was present. My respect, admiration and affection for both of them is unbounded. I adore them, and they know it.
They hugged and began fussing over each other’s tops (but not their bottoms), hair, accessories (necklaces, bracelets, etc.) and shoes — as women frequently do when they’re pals.
One told the other, “I love your cute little booties!”
I came this close to saying, “I love both of your cute little booties!”
That’s when the small internal voice I have learned to heed staged an intervention and said, “Jimmy, these women love you, but they will chase you until they catch you, and with that knee of yours, it won’t take them 10 feet.
“One will start nailing your left shoulder while the other goes to work on your right shoulder, and they will hoot and snort about how naughty you are the whole time.
“Your mischief already has gotten you woman-pummeled enough for one lifetime, so keep your damn mouth shut!”
I keeped ... kept ... whatever.
Having refrained from exploiting the best straight line I’ve been handed in ages, I consoled myself with this thought:
One hallmark of greatness is that you don’t have to keep proving yourself. Sometimes, just the knowledge that you could have done it is enough ... and nobody else needs to know.
Still, I was so pleased with myself that I had to tell somebody, and it might as well be you.
I’ve never been one to leave well enough alone, so a week later when I was talking on the telephone to the one who had admired the other’s cute little booties, I told her what I almost said. I am a glutton for punishment.
She hooted and snorted at me (as the small voice anticipated), but I said, “You can’t fool me. We’ve known each other too long. I actually can hear you grinning through the phone. You are grinning, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” she said, “I am.”
The next time we met, I said, “I love your cute little shoes!”
This time, I got to see her grin in person.