Most people wouldn’t think that tough comes in a package that looks like a Victoria’s Secret model but is sweeter than honey, but that’s okay – I know better. Not only does tough have a womanly figure, tough also has a great sense of humor, a keen sense of discernment, and some of the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen.
And by some quirk in the universe, she married me.
Yesterday reminded me of just how tough my wife, Rachel, really is. Not only did she haul both of our kids down to the pool by herself (a feat of epic proportions when you factor in the number of pool toys we have to take to keep Jonathan amused) but while they were at the pool, four teenaged boys started making trouble.
Rachel put a stop to it.
When she tells the story, her personality comes out: details, timing, not one thing said or recalled incorrectly. She tells it very much like the teacher she is, and it sounds fairly straight-forward: some teenaged boys were attempting to trespass at our neighborhood pool, she called them on it, they cursed at her, she called the cops, the boys ran. Simple, neat, end of story.
It’s a terse account of what, in my mind, was a situation filled with potential disaster. In fact, she takes what is a great story and turns it into a book report.
So I’m going to tell it.
First of all, some context. Our pool is a half-sized Olympic pool surrounded by a chain-link fence with two deadbolted gates. To get in, you have to have a HOA-issued key. If you don’t have one, the rules of the pool are explicit: you cannot come in. We’ve had several issues with vandals trying to circumvent the rules by doing such things as cutting holes in the chain-link or breaking the locks. So our neighborhood has a heightened sense of paranoia about the pool. We even have signs posted around to encourage members who spot trouble to call our HOA president so he can call the cops.
Secondly, Rachel was there with our kids, but there were also two teenaged girls laying out by the pool in their bikinis.
Now, if you have never been around teenaged boys then you don’t know that they tend to run on two types of fuel: testosterone and stupidity, both of which the teenaged male produces in copious quantities. Put teenaged boys around three attractive ladies in bikinis, and they’ll produce testosterone and stupidity like the government produces false promises.
In other words, this was a situation primed for something bad to happen.
If there had been only one teenaged boy, this is no problem; teen boys are easily confused and can be rendered quite harmless by an attractive woman. Three women in bikinis would pretty much render him incapacitated. But this wasn’t just one boy, which brings me to my next point.
Teenaged boys in a pack take on a pack mentality, which is dominated by the pack leader. In Rachel’s case, the pack leader was a boy with a muscular build and an utter disregard for the clearly posted rules of our pool. It was the pack leader who began the whole confrontation by leaping upon the fence and trying to climb over it. Rachel yelled him down off the fence, and his buddies gathered around to see what he would do.
Muscles stood there.
My wife, undaunted, pressed him for information. “You can’t come into the pool unless you are a member of the pool. Are you a member?”
Another boy raised his hand. “I am.”
“Okay. Where’s your pool key?”
He grunted. “I don’t have it.”
“Okay,” my wife said, “why don’t you go home and get it, and then come back. It can’t be too far to your house.”
“Someone forgot to give me the pool key,” the boy lied.
Rachel’s warning bells went off. “Who forgot to give it to you?”
“Uh, someone,” The Liar said.
“Someone who?” she persisted.
At this Muscles, The Liar and the other two boys walked away from the pool fence and back into the shade of our pool pavilion. Rachel could hear them barking at each other, their tempers flaring, but she walked away and back to where the kids were eating snacks.
And that’s when Muscles lost his freaking mind.
With his back to the fence, he screamed out, “BITCH!”
Here’s where my wife telling this story has it’s benefits. It’s at this point where she makes a face that can only be described as her version of the female, “Oh, hell no” face, which is a mixture of severe perturbation and outright masochistic violence.
If you’re in a committed relationship and ever forgot an important event or deadline, you know this face.
Anyway, after the boy curses, Rachel immediately grabs her cell phone – and here’s where the toughness kicks into overdrive – marches over to the fence nearest where the boys are sitting and dials the HOA president. They overhear her side of the conversation with our HOA pres:
“Hello, Dennis? Hi, this is Rachel Brooks…(she gives him our address)…yeah, that’s me…well, I’m down by the pool, and there are some boys causing a problem…well, first of all, I don’t think their members to the pool because they don’t have a pool key and were trying to jump the fence…uh-huh…well, I hollered at them and kept them from jumping the fence, and to their credit they climbed down…yeah, but then they sat down under the pavilion and started talking, and one of them screamed out a curse word at me…I’m here with my kids, and there are two teenage girls down here too, so what do we need to do…okay, so you’re going to CALL THE COPS…okay, I’ll wait right here…thanks, Dennis.”
The boys immediately get up and split into two groups: the weaker pair, the ones who’ve said nothing and were probably halfway between panicked and pissed at the other two, get up and walk away as quickly as possible. They did not pass “GO”, they just bolted the scene.
But Muscles and The Liar do not leave in a hurry. Instead, as my wife goes back to put her cell phone away, the duo takes a slow stroll around the fence towards Rachel. This idiot pair tries to menace my wife by walking towards her in a semi-threatening manner. They don’t come all the way to where she’s at, though – they turn and walk towards the woods, but they make sure to keep eye contact with Rachel for a long time. Finally, they disappear between the woods and some houses on the other side of the neighborhood.
When the cops finally show up, Rachel tells them what happened, and in her words, “they didn’t seem overly concerned.” But the show of force had been made, and if those boys were anywhere near the vicinity of that pool, they know that my wife meant business.
And that’s what makes me proudest. My wife, for the sake of her children, went Mama Bear on some punks and the punks backed down. Rachel roared and came away the victor. Could this situation have gone badly? Sure – with some kids these days, provocation like that only fuels their rage and leads to sometimes violent ends. In fact, I’m cognizant that my stereotyping of teenaged boys is rather dated, and built upon what the world was like when I was a teenager. Boys today don’t have nearly the same inhibitions I had as a kid.
And I’ve seen enough of the local, state and national news to know that teenagers can be some of the most cold-blooded and quick-tempered killers around.
But yesterday, thank God, that wasn’t the case.
My wife will probably read this and cringe. “You’re embellishing!” she’ll say. “It wasn’t that bad.” And perhaps my imagination does create mountains out of molehills from time to time. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that my wife is one bad mother. Three kids, a radical surgery, and a showdown with some teenaged punks is a pretty impressive resume of resilience and toughness. And she’s showing my daughter that women don’t have to be cowed by the stupidity of aggressive men, that women have power too, and don’t have to put up with boys’ crap. It’s a beautiful thing to be around.
I’m just glad she’s on my side.
But I’m going to take the trash out just to be safe…