I have thrown exactly one punch in my life. I was 12 and in eighth grade. After some pushing and shoving, my fist connected with another classmate’s nose in a school hallway during passing period. I was so amazed at how much it hurt to punch someone that I dropped my hands long enough to leave my nose exposed and become the recipient of exactly one punch. That hurt more.
Since then I have avoided physical conflict whenever possible. Yes, there was a near incident in a Palm Beach, Fla., watering hole back in the late ’80s when an overserved patron approached and made some inebriated comment about my on-air mannerisms. I was a local television news reporter at the time. My friend, noticing my hand tightening around a half-full beer bottle, wisely intervened and led me away.
At some point, physical brawling between adults looks and sounds ridiculous unless it occurs in an octagon-shaped fight ring and requires a pay-per-view subscription. Want proof? Look no further than Twitter and YouTube to see daily videos of adults hurling expletives and wildly swinging fists at Little League games, Trump rallies and even Disneyland, where three members of one family are facing felony charges stemming from a July brawl that occurred in … wait for it … MICKEY’S TOONTOWN.
Which is why I reacted with a mix of laughter and incredulity when I attended a reunion of fraternity brothers that culminated with one member, in a heated disagreement with another, suggesting the two “take it outside.”
It began with one brother, in a useless attempt at humor, loudly uttering the name of a female anatomical part during a group photo and then, as uncomfortable silence filled the room, following it up with, “That’s ALWAYS funny.” Perhaps it received chuckles and catcalls in 1980, when the group members were 19 and actually in the fraternity. Not so much in today’s society and certainly not among this party’s mixed company — yes, wives were in attendance — where the median age was pushing 60. Just prior to the photo shoot, the primary topic of conversation was retirement. That’s what near-sexagenarians talk about when we aren’t discussing which of our limbs will soon need replacement.
Following the photo-op, another brother, of a slightly different era, approached the anatomical jokester and voiced his displeasure. Words were exchanged and, as I was sampling what remained of an exquisite bruschetta dip in the next room, I overheard the frustrated comedian demanding to “take it outside.” It’s possible the entire incident was alcohol-driven; the party’s host had secured fine wines of both red and white varieties.
I have always wondered why threats of physical violence invariably include the suggestion to first move to an open-air environment. Once someone is stupid enough to turn a quiet gathering into an Ultimate Fighting bout, who cares about manners, decorum or fear of damaging furniture and glassware?
Over the years I’ve heard this strange phrase many times but have never actually seen the combatants excuse themselves and venture outside, with one holding the door for the other and saying, “No, after you. I insist.”
In this instance, the two actually DID take it outside but, thankfully, no punches were thrown. Being the bigger man, the brother who was threatened walked away and left the party. It was an act that I repeatedly yelled from the safety of the street, as in, “C’mon, let’s get out of here!” Remember, I shun conflict whenever possible. Besides, earlier in the evening he had offered to give me a ride home. In his Tesla! I wasn’t about to miss out on that opportunity.
I haven’t talked to any of the frat brothers since the dust-up, save for a few texts. But we were in agreement that the entire incident, and the “take it outside” threat was utterly ridiculous. Thankfully, the antagonist left shortly thereafter and the evening returned to normal.
Should a disagreement occur the next time my frat bros get together, I suggest that we remain inside and settle it in the same manner we used when we all lived under one roof.
With water balloons.
Greg Schwem is a business humorist, motivational corporate comedian, corporate emcee, nationally syndicated humor columnist for Tribune Content Agency and creator of the web series, “A Comedian Crashes Your Pad.”