My grandmother often reminds me of an incident that happened long ago when I was about 6 or 7. I was staying the weekend with her while my parents were out of town. My grandfather worked in a factory and was gone for most of the day leaving me and Maw to play, and sometimes battle, with one another. According to Maw, on one particular occasion I got in trouble for one thing or another and was met with a scolding. In response, I went out into the yard, found a sturdy stick, and beat the hell out of her tomato plants.
The next thing that happened, I do remember this part clearly, was my grandmother discovering my act of reciprocation and chasing after me with the intentions of whipping my ass just as I had done her recently deceased tomato plants. I climbed a tree to escape her wrath. She demanded that I come down but I did no such thing. Why would I intentionally walk into an ass beating? I was just fine up in the tree.
She waited patiently for a while, then without speaking turned and walked back into the house. The Tennessee sun began to sink low and the mosquitoes reared their ugly little heads. After deciding the coast was clear I climbed down from the tree and went up to the door. I could see the TV on through the glass door and knew she must be watching her shows.
“Maw” I called out.
“Yes” she said calmly.
“Can I come in?” I asked.
Again in a calm voice she said “Yes.”
“Are you going to whip me?”
“Yes” she said in the same manner as before.
Dammit. What the hell is wrong with this woman? Is she going to hold onto this grudge forever? Apparently so. She often tells that story and ends it with the same line. “You were such a spiteful kid.”
The word “spiteful” has a negative connotation. However, acts and attitudes that I consider to have virtually the same meaning in certain situations get different labels. Determination and perseverance sound good and while they don’t exactly mean the same thing, spite is what I’ve got and I’ll take it.
As a young man in a small town, at times I couldn’t help but notice opinions that I never would amount to anything, or that I was bad news. In fairness, many of those opinions were at least partially warranted at any given time but that didn’t stop me from wanting to make people wrong. At least for my own sake.
As a young Marine there were more than a few times that I found some standard reasons to continue on with the miserable acts that I was engaged in, but when those reasons weren’t enough, I simply kept on out of spite.
I love being told that I can’t do something because “it’s just not the way things are done.” Challenge accepted. Not only will I do it, I’ll let it take me down if I have too. Yeah, it doesn’t always work out in my favor but when there is nothing left to pull from, spite is better than nothing. In fact, it might just be better than most things.
Out of Spite
written and performed
by Coty Davis