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"Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...
The words and the knife-like fingers...take care!Click thumbnail to view full-size
...but words will never hurt me"
“This archaic saying must be one of the most quoted in the English language. It popped into my mind for no reason this morning and I began to really wonder if it is true. I mean, the first part obviously is: sticks and stones have indeed broken many bones throughout man's history, and one only had to watch the TV footage on the demo-riots in Trafalgar Square last weekend to see that they, along with bottles, barriers, clubs and truncheons, were still doing an admirable job of living up to their notoriety.
But..."Words will never hurt me?" That is so blatantly untrue as to be funny. Who hasn't been hurt by harsh and critical words from friends and lovers to the point of nearly being reduced to tears? Perhaps whoever composed this smug saying was thinking of the long-term effect? Well I can confess I still feel the pain from things said to me ten, twenty and more years ago - especially when they were of criticism that was at least in part, true.
I will now reveal one of the most hurtful thing ever said to me. It was said by a Jewish businessman who I had thought was a friend. He said, "Robert, when I look at you, I see nothing." Anyone who says words can't hurt should have been in my shoes at that moment. I literally went into shock, the blood drained out of my face and time stood still for at least a minute. "Sam," I finally croaked. "I thought we were friends" Rage then replaced the feeling of shock and I jumped up and probably said "F--- you!" and walked out of his office - before I lashed out at him. I have never seen this "good friend" again - he died some years ago - and I sometimes wonder if he regretted these harsh words to someone who admired, liked tremendously and trusted him.
The trouble was, or course, that although I was so hurt and bewildered that he would say something like that (I had been really close to him and his wife), when I stood back and thought about it, I could see why he saw me the way he did. part of it was, I think, because I was tall, slim and handsome back then with a really sexy young wife (no more on both counts) and Sam was short, much older and hardly pleasing on the eye. He must have contrasted what I appeared to be and have with the fact I was out of work and selling "fayuca" (contraband) in Mexico I brought in from the States (That will tell you it wasn't drugs!). So I had lots of spare time to sit in his grungy little office drinking coffee in his "taller de mofles" (muffler shop) a few yards from my flat. I think now he must never have liked me although he always made me welcome when I dropped in several times per week over the year of our acquaintance. I guess I should finish this account now before you all go to sleep.
I have also been hit with sticks and even bottles in my long life (and shot at by police and one mother-in-law - they missed!). But none of these physical assaults left the indelible marks of pain like Sam's remark, and others I have received from people close to me.
This is why today I try to never criticise or hurt friends with "mere" words.
I am sorry girls, but some women just can't reign themselves in where correcting we poor men are concerned! I am alone in life at the moment and I have tried dating sites like POF and others. I have done so regularly for the last 5 years and, by choice, have been on ONE date on all this time! But I can't say it's been a waste because I do stand - or sit - well corrected in most departments of my life by the 20 or so women I have corresponded with!
Oh, the date? She was lovely, but turned her nose up at my car, my ideas. She even said on the first (and only) date, "What is the most money you have ever had in the bank?" She was not impressed with the figure. She was lovely and a character all right, but chain-smoked and drank constantly. The weekend cost me a small fortune by my modest lights and put me off internet dating for good. (To this point anyway).
We repeat this flawed mantra about the "Sticks and Stones," but how much trauma, wars, deaths, unhappiness has been caused by incautious mouths? When I was in the RN we said "Loose lips sink ships." That referred more to military secrets, but I wonder how many lives has been lost after the command, "Screw the b-------s, open fire!" Or even "Bover asswipe" in the neighbourhood bar.
In fact, violence is nearly always after dialogue fails and communication is lost. How many conflicts, both personal and national, could have been avoided if kind words and attempted understanding had replaced the "F---k you!" element with the guy at the bar, or, couched in diplomatic legalese prepared by the United Numbskulls, the "You do as we say, or we will begin a no-fly zone tomorrow!" (With bombs and rockets to follow).
Well, I think I have made the point and you will all have plenty of your own examples of how you have been just as hurt with cruel words and criticism - even if it was perhaps true to some degree.
I don't even want to go into the minds of the folks who ammended the old saw to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me," Was it a song lyric?
But perhaps we should say "Sticks and stones and unkind words will often scar and hurt me."