I grew in the Bible Belt in the 70s and 80s, and back then spanking was simply a part of everyday life. It was the whole ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ ethos.
If you acted up, misbehaved or did anything to paint your family in a bad light, you could be assured that your backside would pay for it. The instrument of child correction at home was almost always a paddle or belt.
In my own home, discipline was for the most part a private affair. My siblings and myself were dealt with behind closed doors, usually one at a time. If more than one of us was being punished, we had to wait our turn to be summoned to our fate. Seeing my brother or one of my sisters crying their eyes out as they left, my stomach would churn as I knew soon I was to suffer the same fate. Very shortly I would be bared and that paddle or belt would educate me most effectively.
A lot of our life centred around church and most of our friends attended the same one. During the summer, it wasn’t uncommon for us to spend a lot of time at a friend’s house after church. One Sunday, we went to visit my friends – and that day I ended up learning a very painful lesson.
My friend Eddie and I were in 8th grade, so around 13 . Like myself, almost all of my friends lived out in the country. My mom was inside, chatting with Eddie’s mom and us two kids were outside playing basketball in the backyard. The basketball court was little more than an uneven dirt area with a backboard attached to a light pole. We were adolescent boys and like most, highly competitive. Tempers would flare up and get the best of us.
During one of these arguments, things went a little too far and I ended up throwing the ball at Eddie. It hit him squarely in the face and then careered into a window of their shed. My friend’s nose started spouting blood instantly and – as you probably already guessed – the shed window shattered as well. It was one of those slow motion moments where you can vividly see everything play out but are helpless to stop any of it.
Both our moms rushed outside at the sound of the window shattering. All the evidence to seal my fate was plain to see – Eddie’s nose was all busted up, leaking blood, the window was in bits and I looked guilty as sin. Joey’s mom rushed over to him, tilting his head backwards and rushing him into the kitchen.
My own mother, meanwhile, gave me a look that I’d seen a million times before. It meant trouble. She began to scold me and pointed towards the house. “You go and sit in Eddie’s room until you’re called for, young man!”
Going into their house and up to Eddie’s room, I had to pass through the kitchen. Eddie’s mom turned to look at me with almost the exact look that own mother had – the sort that scares you to death and makes it clear you won’t be sitting down comfortably for quite a while.
I had no idea Eddie was a ‘free bleeder’ – it took his mom almost 20 minutes to get his nose to stop leaking. All the while, all I could do it was sit in Eddie’s bedroom and listen to both mothers discussing my fate. Finally the bleeding was stopped and Eddie was sent outside to sit on the porch while I was dealt with.
My mom called me down to the living room. They had cleared enough space to put a kitchen chair in the middle of the living room. Sitting on the chair, awaiting my bottom, was a leather belt. I knew from Eddie that in their house a belt was the preferred method of discipline. Seeing it on the chair and knowing I was going to feel it shortly, all I could do is tremble and start apologising profusely.
The mothers wasted no time and both started scolding me. My mom said: “Bend over the back of that chair and hold on to it – don’t let go, if you know what’s best for you!”
I quickly bent over and gripped the chair tightly. As Eddie’s mom reached down and picked up the belt, my mom came up behind me and lowered my shorts down to my knees. I knew that very shortly I was going to regret my actions, and boy was I not wrong!
Eddie’s mom started wearing out my backside with that belt. After 20 strokes she stopped, but I was already on fire and crying.
I started to get up but my own mom told me to stay in position. She took the belt from Eddie’s mom and then yanked my underwear down to join my shorts.
It was the first time I had been disciplined in front of any other adult and to make it worse now I was now bare bottomed. I just wanted to evaporate into thin air. My mom gave me a further 12 strokes on my bare backside and from the fifth stroke onwards, I was just a blubbering mess. Like countless other misbehaving boys before me, I was learning that it’s best to think before one acts out in frustration.
When she had finished belting me, my mom marched me by my ear and stood me in a corner. After my crying began to subside, but with the fire raging on my backside showing no signs of relenting, I was allowed to pull my underwear and shorts back up – but not before being scolded and informed that I would be cutting our friends’ grass for the rest of the summer to help pay for the broken window.
On the final day of paying my debt, Eddie’s mom put the chair out in the middle of the room and whipped me all over again. I sure learned my lesson.