Beth Mann's Blog

Beth's Urban Tales of Wonder and Decay

Beth Mann

Beth Mann
Long Beach Island, New Jersey, USA
November 11
Hot Buttered Media
I'm a writer and creative consultant. I have years of experimental comedy and strange theater under my belt. I surf. I cook. I love wine, men and song. And puppies. I effin' love puppies.

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MARCH 8, 2012 10:24AM

Lowlifes and HotSprings

Rate: 57 Flag


A final blow to the head and he was out cold, face down, glistening drool seeping from his cracked, nicotine-stained lips. And I was the one who did it. I warned him but he didn't listen. Oh he really should have.

When we arrived at the Nevada desert hot springs for a vacation, we were road-weary and dusty. My friend Amanda and I had planned the trip months ago. The time at the shore had left me feeling vacant, like a burnt-out building. This hot spring would be my rebirth, my scalding baptism.

When we finished the mile-long trek to the hot spring, I dropped my backpack and took in the beauty. Several sizable hot springs, all-adjoining. A majestic view overlooking a green valley. Yes! This will do the trick. Mental health, here I come…dammit.

There were a few others in the pool but no matter. Everyone seemed to be in his or her own blissful, bubbling world.

My friend quickly undressed and made her way into largest pool. I took my time, drinking in the ritual to its fullest. With each article of clothing I dropped, I let go of another "drag me down" element in my life.

When I finally placed my foot in the steaming hot liquid, it felt as if the magic flew through my feet and up my naked body. As I submerged, it was all I could do not to cry. The comfort, the goodness, it almost hurt to take in. I closed my eyes and let the healing begin. Peace of mind and purity took over and I drifted off into a special inner world.

Then I heard him. A gruff, asthmatic laugh.

I opened my eyes and saw a man on the other side of the pool, staring at me in that lascivious and greasy way. No, no...not this now. Please not this now.

I returned his stare aggressively, as if to say, "Leave me the fuck alone right now." But he wouldn't be dissuaded. I couldn't let him ruin this. Closing my eyes again, I tried desperately to block him out but every time I'd open them, his eyes burned my flesh.

"Can you stop staring at me?"


"I said stop staring at me."

"Fuck you. I'll look at what I want."

I looked over at my friend. Her relaxation had quickly turned into concern.

"It's just rude and I'm trying to relax."

"Better try harder, I guess!" he laughed.

"She's got a hot body, man. I can't help it," he jokingly tells his friend.

What a scrawny fuck of a man. Yellowed teeth, broken face, oily hair, glowing red eyes. I could smell the stale cigarette smoke and cheap booze emanating from the steam and drifting my way.


I approximated his size so I could make my decision. He was at least an inch or two smaller than me. Good. It is possible.


As a woman who has studied martial arts for years, I’ve sparred men considerably bigger than me. This guy seemed like an easy takedown, especially because he was drunk.


Some will argue that men will consistently beat a woman in any fight but several factors come into play. For me, the most pressing concern is size. If a man is much bigger than me, then yes, there's a good chance he'll win. But if a man is my size or smaller, then the odds shift. I stand a chance. And after years of fighting in competitions, I stand a better than average chance.

I could have taken him. In my mind, when I go back in time, I do. I ask him to step outside of the pool, where I put on my clothes. Then I plant a sidekick right in his gut. He’d gasp and drop forward. Then I’d grab the sides of his head firmly and repeatedly ram my knee into his bloated face. He’d fall, facedown in a puddle of his own blood and saliva. I’d grab my stunned friend and leave.

But I can't go back. And that's not what I did. Instead I got up and went to an adjacent pool and fumed instead of cleansed.

The only consolation is that little runt of a methhead is dead by now, rotting in a worm-ridden cardboard box somewhere. I hope no one sheds a tear for him. I hope that men everywhere realize that unwanted stares can feel as invasive as an unwanted touch.

Those stares weren't sexual; they were an act of dominance and aggression. He spit on my spirit during a time when I so needed a break from the ugliness of life. One man’s lasciviousness trumped one woman's need for peace of mind. It’s a spiritual crime of sorts.

Oh, you did the right thing, everyone says. It’s best to avoid altercations. And for the most part, I agree. But doing the best thing didn’t alleviate my anger and my need to right things in my own way.


There was no justice that day. There was no baptism.

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It took me seven years of study, sparring, tournaments and broken bones to achieve Black Belt in Okinawan Shito-Ryu Karate.
I don't go to the hot springs in the area because there are always idiots like this present. I wouldn't stand by if someone was being harassed, and next thing you know I'd be the naked fighting guy.
I entirely sympathize.

This is so well written. I understand your desire for justice. We all seek justice in different ways.

I've never hit anyone, and I couldn't imagine myself ever doing that. It's just not me.

I understand feeling the need to respond to a man's aggression though. I really do.

"A sick man's desire to invade trumps a woman's need for peace of mind. And it's a spiritual crime, one that can't be undone, ever."

I've been contemplating the very same thing since last night and again this morning. I still can't understand why a man ever thinks it's OK to invade in those ways, particularly when they sense vulnerability in a woman.

That seems like such a cowardly act on the part of the man.

I think you did the right thing. Violence is best kept in the mind and relished there. Run him down over and over and eventually the vision will fade. Maybe. In a parallel universe you trounced him. In our universe you snubbed him. It all works out. Let him go.
I don't know if I knew you studied martial arts, alsoknownas. Congratulations. It's such a magical process - one of the best things I've ever done in my life, spar none! Ha..

Diary, I don't know why anyone thinks it's okay to invade in those ways's rather the height of arrogance, isn't it? Or its simply aggression. Very real aggression. I can tell you this: it's never a turn-on. I mean, if the goal is to pick up a woman, one couldn't be much further off-base.
Thanks, Zanelle. I like the idea of an alternate Universe where you play out the fantasy and it purges the anger in THIS Universe. Undoubtedly that works to some extent.
Another reason why I love being an older woman of no interest. Encounters with such men cease. Many men do not understand female rage against them. They say, but I would never do this, you shouldn't be angry, trust me. So we try. Still, the world will never envelop and comfort you. Nature is beauty and terror in equal measure. Comfort is our delusion. Truth is we are wild things. That man was a buck who'd lost his power.
Beth, I think there are many people who have some incident in their lives which lingers for them as a moment of being reduced as a human being by someone who has to do that to feel like anything themselves. Regret is the fantasy we're stuck with that it could have been different and the past we drag along is only real because we do, so much as it is the affect in our lives.

I've been there, both ways. Did it, didn't do it. Got stuck with the "could’ve, should've". Fact is, you did the right thing, not because the world wouldn't be better off because he might have been less likely to do that again, but because it's what you did. What you did was the reality and choosing to hang onto the pain of that moment really isn't necessary. What you did is what got you to today and who you are, which seems like a pretty cool person.

I think you are quite right. I think it's also ignorance, willful disregard for others, and intense disrespect too, in addition to the man's arrogance. At least that's what I've observed.

P.S. Everyone calls me V. Please feel free to do so. :)
My sister is just like that guy. Feel free to kick her ass too.

However, justice is the reserve of nature and violence is a self-defeating cycle. There's only one way to win in this world and that's to like yourself.
Trust me when I say women aren't the only ones who live with the "should-have" self-recriminations. That said, I've learned to accept that self-recrimination is preferable to a broken hand or missing teeth, a night in the cooler, or God forbid, having to pay-off some rotten bastard loser for punching him in his much-deserving pie-hole.
"There's only one way to win in this world and that's to like yourself."

Amen, brother, I fully intend to steal that bit of wisdom, hope you don't mind.
Very well written and very true. In this modeern world it seems women can still be treated as inferior shackles.

My 66 year old friend hit a drunk over the head with a snooker cue last week. She had good reason, but it could have backfired and resulted in hell for her. Walking away is difficult, but sadly often the best option.
I hope this is fiction.

The confidence in knowing you beat him. And the aftermath, standing over someone that is injured. It changes the calculation.

A major beat down creates its own elements of intimacy. Backing down out of a sense knowledge is the exact opposite of backing down from fear.

There is enough ambiguity and complexity in this to make it thought provoking.
I was with you every step of the way. I really wanted you to deck him. Maybe that's why I am in my retreat for a few days of river gazing and solitude. I am a physically powerless, fat, arthritic old lady, but I still have the mouth that has gotten me in SOOOOOO much trouble for many decades. I am most vocal when someone else is being dominated, but as I get older, I jump in more often just for myself. A few days ago, my mouth brought two lowlives--probably cousins of your hot springs nemisis--into my life in a parking lot. They almost charged me, but I kept right on giving it back to them. As they slipped into the store, two security guards told me to take it down a notch, so I gave them a few of my thoughts. I/they ruined my whole day--week. Maybe I am not meant to live in a city--even if it means being closer to my kids and grandchild. At least I have a choice...I packed up and retreated to my retreat for a few days. I resolve to keep my mouth shut more often when I return to the city.
nah, your first instinct was residual anger. you needed to be healed and alone and the fucker was imposing on you, his greasy shitty dominant creepiness.

but your second instinct was your better one because you were smart not to engage him in any way.

I'm not talking man/woman. I'm talking one: engagement, which meant ramping up your involvement with him. and two, violence. you open that door and anything can happen.

in either case it's kind of like opening the door to hell.

but yer a woman after my own heart. I'd have wanted to stomp that piece of shit.
I just love how you write.

If this were me in real life my mouth would have done something stupid before my brain could notice that was a bad idea and then it would have been some kind of situation. I've noticed even when you say "just the right thing" or (I imagine) punch somebody, you still don't feel good. You still shake and feel jittery and unpleasant. It's just a different unpleasant. No win situation, which I suppose is why I avoid places where I foresee this sort of thing happening. Justice after the fact in a hollow victory.
Great story, well told, but be careful. If you deck someone, that's technically assault and battery, and you will definitely be handcuffed and arrested, especially if your victim's only crime was staring. I'm not belittling the impact of his rude behavior -- I'm just saying it probably wouldn't qualify as self-defense, not with a jury anyway. You're looking at a possible jail sentence and an expensive civil suit. You were smart to avoid a physical confrontation.
You articulate these feelings so well. It's like, "Goddammit, isn't there anyplace I can go and just be me, without having some pig ruin it?" And you're right, it's not sexual, or not only sexual. It's intimidation and aggresssion.
This is so nicely written, nice job.

Personally, I think you should've kicked his ass.
i don't contest what you say, but before leaving america i visited more hot springs over three decades than i can recall. i have to say what you describe would have been rare indeed. american hot springs tend to have carers, if you will, regulars who look after them. an out of line drunk harassing a woman would have been warned and, if necessary, ejected by force, if necessary. of course, you could wind up at a site alone and only have the drunk for unfortunate company. the only disagreements i observed at hot springs were a few times when people would visit well known clothing-optional sites and complain about the nudity that they knew to expect from the get go. but that's sort of an american thing; go someplace where you know someone will be doing something you don't like so an argument can be staged. i'd be curious to know what hotsprings are depicted in this article. chances are i've been there.
My guess is that you got something out of this even though it may not be what you thought you needed. Anger you may have been feeling came out and you took away his power by speaking up and leaving. You can rewrite the ending, but I don't think you need to. Well written piece.
At the end of the day, I'm glad that I didn't act violently in a particular situation. I empathize with how violated you felt. It should not have happened.
Horribly difficult to read this. So sorry you had evil creeps around.
Thank goodness all of my experiences of hot springs and tubs in the wild in the Pac. NW have not only been absent the creeps, but filled with wonderfully smiling strangers and friends...
Good piece Beth. Also good that you didn't do anything else to encourage the dirt-ball. The heartbreak of an assault charge towards the original victim could spoil things for years. John is quite right in his comment.
I was hoping you decked him for woman everywhere who have these sick fucks mess with them but your right and you did good I'm just sorry it ruined a beautiful day...Congrats on the EP :)
I wonder why the other people didn't call him out on his behavior. He doesn't sound that intimidating except for his attitude.
I am not sure what I would have done. I would have loved to have the skill to punch his lights out, I don't. Well written and I completely understand your frustration.
It makes a great story but how miserable to seek cleansing and rejuvenation and come upon this seedy and depressing creep. You desire to avenge with violence is understandable, but never smart in reality -- jail, bail, LAWYERS, judges, all sorts of types that resemble the hot springs pervert.

You wrote about it, and your wrote about it so well. That should account for something, in my book
[r] beth, what a powerful read. hmmmmm. a lot to consider.

you know, as i think of it, there is that quote about not wrestling with pigs. you get dirty and they have a good time.

men like this who taint a woman's spirit with their misogynistic malice are all around us. we who are open and alive and self-affirming are attractive targets for them.

for so many years when i received an inappropriate creepy advance from such a man, faux-flirtatious but really diminishing, I often blamed myself for encouraging it by being open and not shielding myself from the victimizer when there was no way I could have readily anticipated their behavior. But so much blaming the female victim in this culture made many of us take it up against ourselves.

Your feistiness of spirit inspires. Kicking that guy's ass, well, that would have been the yang-way. I think women do need to experience the yang-way, to know it is an option, but not the only or best option if others are available. Sometimes they are not.

I once watched a friend take first and then I took a wonderful psycho-drama self defense course with men covered with padding to faux-attack us women and the women to fight like hell with all their might to protect themselves.

I took the class because first watching it with my friend doing it empowered me so much that I honestly fended off a burglar with a knife who broke into my apartment one night by just bluffing using the pscyhodrama techniques I had witnessed and came to trust even without doing the actual physical phase of the class.

When I later took the class (it was called "model mugging") I got to experience physically me with the capacity to defend myself and it was a defining life moment for me.

You know, we as women and from all the bullshit movies and tv that show women as paralyzed victims to threat, have got to NOT prematurely surrender and let the crazies coming after us cue us as to mollifying behavior! To be at the mercy of those sociopaths incapable of mercy. To get that and be our own champions!

Don't blame yourself for having to get through those feelings of disgust and frustration from that bastard's abuse. Open people get hurt, get abused at times. We learn from it, grieve it, and move on, even teaching others from it, like you are now. thank you.

best, libby
Justice will be served when Karma reincarnates him as a cockroach or maggot.

A truly powerful piece, my OS friend.

When I was 13, I had quite the rack. How I hated having big boobs. On my way into a drugstore, a group of adult men hanging out front took one look at me and started leering at me lasciviously and made sucking noises and gyrated their pelvises at me. I was utterly humiliated. I felt so dirty. Their behavior made me hate my body even more.

I think these non-physical acts of violent, sexual dominance are just as violating and humiliating as being raped.

But it's a good thing you didn't karate chop him, you might be in prison for murder writing instead of Jersey!
Thank you all for your comments. It's amazing how much your feedback shifts my perspective...OPENS my perspective. Smart people, you are.
Powerful piece, and so well written. I hurt that you carry regret for what a scumbag did. That's the problem with any kind of assault, a wise woman told me, everyone else feels ashamed except the person who did it.

Thank you for sharing this today, and reminding us why we observe this day, and all the work we have yet to do.
libbyliberal makes a good point: premature surrender often invites worse behavior. (hopefully i understood you correctly.)

so while I understand many points about the possibility of arrest, etc., I must agree with her. (And hope that I pointed this out a bit in the piece.) It's not about being concerned whether you are arrested or not. It's about defending yourself in a very real manner in spite of the consequences. It's about matching aggression if needed.

as women, we're often ONLY concerned about the consequences, to a point where we come across as weak and non-threatening and pandering. i don't regret what I did (or what I said I did) but it's IMPORTANT to know what the other options are...and can we handle those? Can we be as audaciously aggressive as the aggressor? What's that feel like, in our bodies? Women are practiced at retreat...and that can be much deadlier than being arrested or sued.

To pop2006, I couldn't help but be annoyed by your comment. You're wondering how this could have occurred based on your experiences with hotsprings? As a man? I too have been to many, all across the country. That was the first experience I had like that. And no, there were no overseers there. And no, none of the other people did anything to help. That's a common phenomenon as well. It's called bystander effect.

(Though several people told me, after the fact, that they would have done something if it "escalated" anymore. Gee, thanks.)
From the Wikipedia page I mentioned:

"Moseley preferred to kill women because, he said, "they were easier and didn't fight back".
Arrg, another asshole guy. And though I'm really not one myself, it makes me uncomfortable knowing I can never really get just how awful that kind of scene is for women.
I think that the point of view as the strong, agressive, powerful woman against the weak, sniveling man is interesting, especially as I am a woman afraid of confrontation of any kind,, but especially physical. I truly admire you for that - but I caution you not to undervalue your spiritual strenth, the part that rose up in you to walk away. That wasn't weakness or cowardice, but a different kind of strength. Had it been me, it would have been in fear, but in you I sense a different kind of bravery that you aren't allowing tyourself credit for. Wonderfully written, especially the juxtaposition of the opening scene to the end. R
It's so easy to fall into your stories, imagine your word in y own head, coming out of my own mouth. It's because you write from a place that's as honest and brutal as the core of a person can be. There isn't a woman who's been around a while who hasn't felt something like this, the fear, the rage, and wondered if it would be worth it just this once to ...
Yes. Too common an experience. Agree about the bystander effect. People should take responsibility for what they see going on in front of them, not just think it's someone else's problem. Even if physical violence, as appealing as it is, would have been a bad idea, a chorus of ridicule would have also been a satisfying outcome.
OMG the lower the life the hotter the spring...I am going back to the hotsprings of Pamukalay a three thousand year old spa. Thanks for sharing this and more...
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............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx & Smiles (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
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Here's to all the unlanded punches in our lives. Sometimes I want to so bad, but civil rational thought always wins out. Damn it.

(I really enjoy your perspectives.)
I have never been to hot springs before. I guess, I too, had a naive and idyllic view but now that I read your essay, of course this must be a haven for people like this man and those men are legion - and at the hot springs, they do not have to pay for the view - trained from birth to view a woman the way that man viewed. Playboy, Hustler, Movies, TV, Strip Bars, Breast Implants, Advertisements, Internet, Prostitution - if anything, we are more objectified than ever before and on a grand scale in almost every popular cultural venue and imagery. I really liked the old movies where the couple passionately embraced and kissed and then a fade out to next scene... we are a culture of the super graphic with nothing left to the imagination and our mass media constantly trains people how to view women as one thing. As long as men have the vast majority of economic and political power, we will be viewed that way. In this case, this man was down and out but there are men in high places that are just as lascivious and willing to do anything to sexually gratify themselves.
This was so good I rated you after reading the first paragraph. The balance of the piece was just a good.
I'm only sorry for you and your companions that it is not fiction.
Yet another reason why I like your writing so much . . . it puts the reader right there, right where you want the reader to be. You share your strength, and your vulnerabilities, with equal measure - sometimes in good humor, and sometimes in smoldering anger/rage. Sometimes there is no justice . . . but I'm glad that you're still here, and still fighting . . .
Stink. Stank.Stunk. There is a special circle of hell for people like that guy. But there's a special circle of heaven for writers like you, Beth. Thanks so much!
What a scum. I hate fuckers like that. But you have already had your revenge, in your revulsion toward him.

Someone said to me that I had to participate in feeling demeaned (he said it better though). I think there is some truth to that - that our rage at those situations is an expression of our feeling of helplessness, and as you say, the injustice, the invasion, of an unwanted forcing himself into our space.

You didn't kick his ass when you could of - I think showing restraint is an act of nobility, I think it raises us up, I think it raises up mankind itself.

You must have looked like a goddess, angry and rising up from that steaming spring, striding away to claim your solitude. All the worse for methmouth dude, to which I say, to him, nyah. nyan nyah nyah.
Good post and comments. I visualize a scene where you allowed him to get close, reached down and squeezed his nuts with all your might and left him puking up his guts. Next time, OK?
What a vivid recounting Beth. it's probably best all around that you withdrew but a part of me was hoping you were going to beat the living shit out of him. I really liked how you told this.
One thing sensei told me early on was to never, ever think a woman could not hurt you, and how truly stupid it was to think otherwise. Pretty much everyone in my family is a black belt, but, I have to say the toughest guys, and some wahine, I know have never gone to class, "Karate this!" as the old saying goes.

What I can say, and have said here before, is that while it is not joy or pleasure there is some satisfaction I've always gotten in the way a bully's eyes twitch when they see you coming right straight at them and they realize there's nowhere to run or hide.

Auwe (Alas)
You did the better thing. No point of risking going to jail, for decking a creep!
That kind of stuff doesn't just happen to women though. I'm a 63 year old gay man, who looks younger. My "Little piece of Heaven" ( check my blog ) has turned into my little piece of hell for exactly the same reason. Some men, just think they have a god given right to play with themselves and stare at you. Especially old gay men!
"Instead I got up and went to an adjacent pool and fumed instead of "cleansed." " - I have never been to this geographic place, but I've been there emotionally. I'm sorry the trip was ruined for you.
Well shared story. You're absolutely right ... this type of attention is not appreciation of the female form. Staring like this is an expression of hostility and aggression. Sorry your hope of solace turned into violation.
Just a little anger there...
Here's your anger, Jeff.
I'm sorry he spoiled a time you'd looked forward to. He was indeed a lowlife, and a rude one. But he wasn't worth getting into trouble, for. Evidently, no woman ever told him it's rude to stare.

you have balls...maybe that's why he was staring.
I am glad you didn't respond physically, if only because someone like that was likely to want to sue if you had kicked his ass. But by all means, beat the shit out of him over and over in your head for awhile.

Revenge can sometimes be a dish best served in our imagination.
Knowing enough people like that, my guess is he forgot the whole encounter about five minutes later.
I so get this. A little respect goes a long way. Best to you, Beth.
hey beth you clearly have more testosterone than a lot of men. & you should seriously question that haha :p
A good story that hits home with a lot of people. The best part about this exchange is I guarantee you the anxiety level of the jerk you confronted was tripled. He ruined your day, but he didn't get off, he was scared and embarrassed. You did good not letting him get by with his behavior.
This kind of stuff makes me feel like apologizing for the entire male gender. Wish I'd been there... my martial arts are psychological more than physical... a few chosen words, spoken in the appropriate tone and vernacular and framed as a question, can cut deep to the gut and inflict devastation that remains with the abuser man or woman. Then they live with the experience. If your chosen words provoke an attack, you have the option to kick ass and defend yourself with a clear conscious.
My problem is that if it gets physical, I don't have the skill set for a fair fight. First thing I go for is the eyes, then I start looking for something heavy. Haven't been in a fight in 35 years... lost a one sided knife fight and ended up in the emergency room. Ironically I was playing the Good Samaritan, intervening to keep the peace.
If that's an actual picture of Nevada hot springs, they're scary-beautiful.
I'd pay good money to get beaten up by a woman. Just saying.
a spiritual crime.....

interesting thought.....

"There was no justice that day. There was no baptism."
Stunning, raw, visceral writing. Love you Beth, your spirit, your fight, your passion for yourself. I agree with you. A stare can be as damaging as a punch. Just as violent. Hard to explain unless you've been there. You helped us all be there.