Friday, July 24, 2015

BJJ: Breaking Down Stereotypes!

Last week, I took my son to summer camp in another part of the state. It was at an elite, private school frequented by highly educated liberals. It was tucked away in the intricate byways of a small, rural New England town. 
I wasn’t familiar with the school’s neighborhood. I was looking for a right-hand street sign that I had seen on Google maps the night before. When I came to a bridge and turned left, I realized I had gone too far, but surely there had been no street sign!
“I think we got to turn around, Honey,” I said to Nine-Year Old Son. “We passed it.”
I went a bit further and switched back on the street. It must have been one of the side streets without a sign that we passed, I thought to myself. But I didn’t see the sign!
As we neared where I thought the turn had to be, a school bus was picking up children. I stopped for it. It was the last day of school in this community. There were a bunch of kids getting on the bus, and I noticed one parent turning back to his house from bus duty.
The man was shaven-headed, bearded, muscular and stocky. He was wearing shorts which exposed his tattoo-covered legs. He looked pretty tough.
I flagged him down, and holding up the traffic behind me.
     “Hey,” I asked him, “where can I find [this elite private school]?”
       Here I was, a suburban mom in an outlet store dress, driving a family vehicle, looking for a high-priced school where people send their kids because they think they are too good for the public schools and they have no idea what else to do with their money. I was lost driving in his neighborhood, probably another one of those tourist types.
     “It is right up here,” he said. And pointed down his street. 
     “Thanks! I didn’t see the street sign.”
     “It just came down this morning.” And he motioned to the sign, knocked over on the side of the road.
I executed my turn and dropped off the kid. Then I went to a high-priced spa nearby and spent the day getting a facial and a pedicure, drinking cucumber water and soaking naked in a big pool of hot water before returning to pick up my son at the end of his day. 
Aah! So refreshing! Especially when there are no children around!

I saw the man on the way back, picking up his kid from the bus. I beeped and waved. It seemed like the friendly thing to do.

***

The next day, I dropped my kid off at camp and visited a local jiu jitsu class. I walked on the mat and said hello to a very welcoming bunch of folks.
”Hey!” One guy said. “Were you looking for [the elite private school] yesterday?” And there he was, my man on the street, gi pants covering up the tattoos that I would have recognized.
A mom from suburbia is also a Jiu jitsu player; a big, tattooed jiu jitsu strong man is also a suburban dad. Aren’t we all the same really in the end? We are human beings making our way in the world. Jiu jitsu can show off our differences, but more importantly it can highlight how we are the same.
What we look like on the outside . . . may not be what is on the inside!