Monday, April 25, 2011

The New Girls


 Tonight I stepped onto the mat and immediately pulled my foot back. Was I early? It looked like I was walking into the kids’ class. Right in front of the door were three girls, one looked quite young, 9th grade tops. After a second glance I recognized the two women who tried out a class about two weeks ago, and what looked like their younger sister. This is good. Almost half my class had two X chromosomes. So, yea, Team Women, tonight!
After the women tried out a class and did not return, I was disappointed. As the “matriarch,” I felt a responsibility to represent. I thought, Maybe I should have given them my number to call with questions? Did I do a good enough job promoting BJJ to them? But then they did return and since there were three of them, I was partnered with them doing basic drill while my male classmates, some who started after me, learned a new armbar. When it was time for rolling, I again started off with one of ladies. But when the buzzer rang, the guys switched among themselves.
I took this all in stride. On the one hand, I want the New Girls to feel comfortable and welcomed. I want them to continue. But, damn did I want to learn that new armbar! I want to help the New Girls integrate and feel successful. But I want to get my roll on, too. Not only for BJJ’s sake, but I need a certain amount of exercise or . . . else. When I first started BJJ, I ran before class because my mat time was not very vigorous. Since about February, I have given that up because I’ve been getting a great workout. Crazy, Exercise-Addicted Shark Girl’s mind was racing tonight: I’m happy to work with these nice, young ladies, but what if I don’t get my workout in?
It’s ironic that I am feeling these sentiments. As I reflect on my own BJJ practice, I remember being that new person and feeling like I was the “consolation” roll. I know if they stay around, these women will challenge me. I know I have much to learn from them. However, I was thinking, They are looking to me as the experienced one, and frankly, I don’t feel qualified to instruct.
There’s a part of me that feels like I’m losing my place. Will I no longer be the lone (shark) girl in the boys’ club? Then I caught myself saying to one of the guys, “Crap. Now I can’t swear anymore!” Perhaps I’m not the “girl” I thought I was!
I am excited that the New Girls are coming. I am very happy to help initiate them into all this grappling fun. I recognize on some level I am the best person to help acclimatize them to the class. And I look forward to getting to know some new friends. My real concern is that I don’t want this to turn into segregation. I want to learn and work with all the class members. At some point the New Girls will need to cycle into the class. When I walked onto the mat as Lone Shark Girl, I took a deep breath and learned to be fearless as I faced large, hulking men.
This really is all new and I am hopeful that my instructor is savvy enough not to segregate. I hope the New Girls are fearless enough not to want that segregation. And if that’s not the case, I hope I can find a way to get what I need without making the New Girls feel like the consolation roll.
If you have had any similar feelings or experiences, I’d love for you to share them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What Can $500 Buy?


  •  Half of a visit to the mechanic for my time-weathered Volvo Wagon
  • A week at summer rock’n’roll camp for 8-Year Old
  • Almost 5 months of BJJ classes
  • My father once said, “I can do a lot of steering for $500.” He was haggling for a car and that’s how much extra the power steering cost. Of course, he said it in an Italian accent, so that made it funny.
  •  5 Stub Hubbed tickets to the Chris Cornell concert that Husband was too sick to take me to. Yep. Those 3rd row, aisle seats sat empty thanks to bronchitis.
  • 7 pairs of running sneakers
  • 5 Pokemon Blacks and 5 Pokemon Whites
  • 10 spa pedicures, without tip
  • 33 pounds of prosciutto di Parma from my favorite Italian store
  • 45 pairs of frilly underwear
  • One hundred foofy Starbucks coffees
  • 335 containers of Greek-style yogurt

And . . . one mouth guard custom-made by my friendly, neighborhood dentist.

Shark Girl just got the notice that, no, her insurance did not want to kick in any money, thank you. So, unless Shark Girl wants to continue risking dental gaps, she’s got to fork out 500 smackers for a mouth guard. (If you recall, Shark Girl is much too dainty for the commercial mouth guards one can buy in the local sporting goods store. Sigh.)

I broke the news to Husband gently. He frowned.
“$500?”
“Yup. I know, it’s a lot.”
“Do you really need one? Really?”
Now, one of the things I love about Husband is that he’s not really concerned that I meet some beauty standard. If I never shaved my legs again, he wouldn’t say anything. It would be a non-event. “You shave your legs, you don’t. What’s the difference?” He doesn’t quite understand why I like to hide the blossoming gray population in my hair. If I look like I just stepped out of a salon, he doesn’t notice. But what he would notice, and care about, is missing teeth.
“What if you don’t get it?” he asked.
“Well, I could lose a tooth.”
Not a moment’s hesitation on his part: “Oh. Okay. You need to get it, then.”
“It will be my birthday present,” I assure him. And after a pause, “And yours, too. You can’t have a toothless wife.”

Happy Birthday to me.


PS: Spellcheck just suggested I substitute “prostitute” for “prosciutto.” Since I don’t know how many of those $500 can buy, I think I’ll leave the prosciutto.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Bull on the Mat

Vergil is one of my favorite Roman poets. I have the pleasure of reading his epic The Aeneid with some very talented and insightful high school seniors. Today, as I was preparing for this class, I read the following passage. It describes the seasoned warrior, Turnus, attacking a young noob to the battlefield, Pallas.
 
desiluit Turnus biiugis, pedes apparat ire
comminus; utque leo, specula cum vidit ab alta
stare procul campis meditantem in proelia taurum
advolat, haud alia est Turni venientis imago.

“Turnus leapt from his chariot and prepared to go on foot at close quarters, just like a lion flies forth when it sees from a high vantage point a bull standing far off in the fields, thinking about battles; not at all different is the image of Turnus coming.”
                                                            Vergil, Aeneid X. 453–456

 Yep. That’s me on the mat. Not the lion. The bull. While I think about what my next move should be, while I run through options in my head, while I start to move one way then switch another, while I try to recall how I’m supposed to defend a position, the lion I am sparring with flies forth and attacks. The lion does not have to think. The lion has done this so many times, it’s natural. The bull, well, I think you know what happens to him.

Although death was certain for Pallas, when he faced his “lion” he said, “I will either be praised for the rich spoils I’ll take, or I’ll be praised because of my distinguished death” (aut spoliis ego iam raptis laudabor opimis/ aut leto insigni, X. 449–50). I can only hope to face my lions as bravely as Pallas faced Turnus, even though my chance of winning is almost non-existent. I am grateful to all of you who have helped me have the courage to enter the battle in the first place.

So, let's hear it for us bulls. Maybe somedayif we survive long enough to think things through thoroughly—maybe someday we'll get to ROAR!