In 1970, when I was 6, I lost my first fight. I was playing by the pond behind my home. I had my sweater pulled over my head so that I would resemble Spider-Man. I was alone, narrating internally my various heroic deeds. Then someone snuck up from behind and pushed me down with quite a bit of savage force.
I figured it was my older sister, and, staring through my sweater, I saw that she was fleeing. I chased after her, pulling my sweater down so that I could see better, and then I realized it was not my sister but some older boy, who was at least 9. I hesitated. Then I remembered I was Spider-Man and kept up my pursuit.
He stopped running and faced me. I brazenly pushed him. Next thing I knew he was sitting on my chest. He reeked horribly of peanut butter, and he pounded my face until I began to bleed. He leaped off and ran away. I staggered up to my house, wailing.
My mother heard my cries and came to me. “Your sweater from Israel!” she shouted. She thought the blood all over me was mud from the pond. I could hardly articulate what had happened, but she quickly caught on and held me in her arms. I had to be taken to a doctor—my nose was fractured and wouldn’t stop bleeding.
In 1974, in the fourth grade, I had my next loss. Two boys, after school, called me and my friend “dirty Jews.” We chased after them, which was insane. They were the class bullies and must have run simply to lure us into the woods by the school.
In the sylvan shadows, we paired off. I began with the ...