The social workers and psychiatrists call it “self harm” but what it really is, is self-mutilation – the inflicting of visible wounds on one’s own body. Quite frankly, it’s an ugly phenomenon I can’t quite get my head around. Makes me angry as a matter of fact, so I thought I’d put pen to paper to air it out. The whole business is extremely upsetting, which I suppose could well be the purpose of the exercise. But what in the world leads to such dramatic displays of self-loathing? In fact, is it self-loathing or is it an attention getter? I rather suspect the latter, judging by what I’ve seen so far. Of course, my first reaction, and I suppose that of most right thinking parents is: “You want a punishment? I’LL give you a punishment to help you out!” – or as Russell Peters father used to put it; “I gonna put a hurt on you”: a perfectly sensible solution.
It’s my understanding that about thirty-five percent of teenagers engage in this sort of self-destructive behavior. So let’s begin with a basic truth that teenagers act irrationally. That’s an irrefutable fact. Well, they’re supposed to start doin’ that as soon as they reach puberty. The world wouldn’t be right otherwise. And they’re not really all that stupid neither. They just act that way. I suppose all the information that’s been crammed into their brains from day one has to sort itself out in an organized fashion one way or another and until that happens, well . . . . .
I got to go back a lot o’ years to remember my time as a teenager. But I can still remember one of my favorite things to think about whenever I got into trouble was; ‘if you give me a lickin’, I’ll get sick an’ die and THEN you’ll be sorry’. Well I knew better than to say that out loud ‘cause they’da laughed me outa the room and I knew it. Besides, in about two minutes I’d forgot about it anyways. It never occurred to me that they wouldn’t give a rip either way. Nobody mourns an idiot. They just pity his sad mental state.
Well let me get right to it. Shrinking family values these days may well have a bearing on this trend. Mom an’ dad are either not getting’ along or they’ve split up an’ now there’s two houses an’ two sets o’ rules. Which one do you follow? Mom hates dad an’ dad hates mom an’ the kids think it’s all their own faults. Well if that ain’t bad enough, one or both o’ the parents finds a new partner. THAT’S when it all hits the fan. Now the child has to play second fiddle to the new partner who by the way starts to lord it over the kid. The way they used to play one parent off against the other don’t work no more neither and they’re left to bein’ a kid again in two separate households, neither o’ which is of their choosin’, and where the new partner gets priority treatment to boot.
That’s enough to send anybody into a depression. But bloodletting and self mutilation is no answer. Neither is self-loathing. In fact it shows the immaturity of the cutter in not having the intestinal fortitude to suck up the whole situation and deal with it within the power of his or her own spirit. Had mom an’ dad done their job proper, the kids would know just how special they really are. They would also know their proper place with each member of the family and the expectation of what they must contribute to the household to be valued as an integral part of it. They would also have learned that entitlement is not a birthright but a thing to be earned.
Instead of making their bodies ugly with mutilation in a cheap attempt at getting attention, they might explore the possibility of putting their shoulders to the family wheel to make things brighter and happier for all concerned. They might teach mom an’ dad a thing or two. Think of all the rewards. “Give to others and it will return to you tenfold.” At least that’s how it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.