The first thing to do is take a deep breath, hold it in for three seconds, and slowly exhale as you realize you should have seen this coming. We all should have. This isn’t a phenomenon that emerged overnight; for a while, anger and bigotry have been festering right below our noses. You may live in a bubble of like-minded friends, but it should not have taken the release of GroupMe messages to acknowledge the intolerance of the Columbia Wrestling team.
Still, as a nation, this is the position in which we now find ourselves. You can cry, you can point fingers, you can mourn, but eventually, we all will have to accept this new world. And as we lie in bed tonight, I know that we will all be asking the same question: how do I explain this to my children?
America’s children have long looked to the roster of the Columbia Wrestling team as an experienced, venerable crew. Many of us can empathize with this adoration; I personally remember the poster of Steve Hasenfus adorned in 1989-Ivy-League-Wrestler-of-the-Year regalia that I had hanging above my childhood bed. I spent many a night gazing at that image, imagining myself in his Nike Size 6 ½ shoes, pinning another man to the mat for the mere purpose of sport.
We owe it to our children to explain this situation in a gentle, but stern manner.
Tomorrow morning, I will pour Brandon his Cocoa Krispies, give him a juice box, and sit across from him at the table. And we’ll talk. I’m going to be honest with Brandon—God knows all the kids at school will be talking about the GroupMe messages, so it’s best he hears the whole story from me first. I will tell him that sometimes people act one way in public, and a different way in private. I will tell him that it is never okay to refer to someone as “fish pussy” or an “entitled cunt”, even if she is acting like one. I will tell him that Black Lives Matter deserves our respect and patience. But mostly, I will listen. Children have more opinions than we often give them credit for, especially when the topic is Columbia Wrestling.
Brandon may ask me if it’s possible that the messages were simply a result of autocorrect. He may ask me if it’s possible that the “dude in the wig” was actually a cross-dresser. He may ask me if his mother and I are ever going to sleep in the same bed again. And ⅔ of the time, I will answer Brandon honestly.
I will drop Brandon off at school tomorrow morning as I always do. I will hug him, kiss him on the forehead, and tell him that I love him. I’ll watch as he runs off to join his friends on the monkey bars, as he grins from ear to ear in the way that only a satisfied child can. And then I’ll speed home and delete every single text I’ve ever fucking sent.