Sticks and Stones

“Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.” I am old enough to remember a time when parents taught this pithy little rhyme to their children, and society at large believed it. We live in a new day, in which many Americans consider emotional injury as deadly, and more enduring, than physical injury. News accounts of emotional abuse, cyber bullying, and their mental health consequences such as depression, anxiety, and even suicide, pull at our heart strings. Girls, the lonely, and the young are at greater risk. Colleges, including those which my children attend, have safe spaces, trigger warnings, and strict rules against insensitivity and inflicting emotional trauma.

When I was bullied as a second grader at Mulberry Elementary, Mitch routinely followed me across a large grassy field to the back gate in the chain link fence. He called me bad names, of course, but what I remember was being pushed back over a kneeling co-conspirator who had slipped in behind me. My awkward, backward fall was followed by a pummel of fists, and riotous laughter. My assailants ran away, and I was left to walk home, let myself in, and spend a few hours alone thinking about what happened, and how to prevent the same fate tomorrow. Mulberry’s administration couldn’t stop it, so I learned to avoid him, and to defend myself. Eventually my parents transferred me to a private Christian school.

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Third Date Sex?

The Unrecognized Tragedy of Extramarital Sex.

As family physician, minister, father or friend, I am privileged to talk to a wide variety of people. I recently met a young woman, not long divorced, who is struggling with past abuse, present financial difficulties, and future uncertainty. We talked many times about the challenges she faced. Shortly after her divorce became final, she started dating another man. This young woman wanted to see if they could have a future, but worried that he didn’t seem interested in her work and other key parts of her life.

Years ago I was the team physician for the US military women’s soccer team at an international competition. One of the players came to me for a gynecological exam, concerned that she might have contracted something from her new boyfriend. We had long and personal discussions about her and about their relationship. She wanted to share her most intimate feelings with this man, but did not dare for fear of losing him.

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