Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shark Girl Hibernates

Shark Girl is not happy to be where it is snowing. Just last week I was in 80 degree weather sporting a bathing suit. If you don’t believe me, check out my new profile pic. Yes, those of you who know Shark Girl know that I am all about the sun. I’m not quite sure why I live here in the Northeast. Nothing is right to me in winter. That’s one of the reasons I started jiu jitsu—if I had to fight three nights a week maybe I wouldn’t realize that I was freezing my ass off.
 
It worked for a while, especially last year. But this year I am again aware that the cold, dark land has taken me prisoner, making me yearn for the freedom of spring. Husband would scold me right now. We need both dark and light to be whole, Husband would say in his ministerial way. Winter is a time for reflection. He’s right, I know he is. Just as we need night to recover from a long day, winter serves its purpose. But that purpose for me is hibernation, and unfortunately I can’t hibernate through my job in winter. During winter I need even more energy and spirit to motivate my students (many of whom may be hibernating as well).

Even if our modern world refuses to let me hibernate, I try as much as I can. Pajamas go on some nights as early as 4 PM. Some weekend days they never come off. Who needs to leave the house when there’s pancake mix in the pantry? I would make a good bear.

Hibernation periods give me time to reflect on what I have learned, internalize it, make it my own. Last week in Florida I did no jiu jitsu. However, I did raise eyebrows in the hotel fitness center when I pulled out the portable mat and practiced somersaults, forward and back. I suck at somersaults. Maybe I’ll get better if I practice them on my own hibernation time, instead of in front of the whole class, nervous that I’m going to totally flop my roll. Oh, look at that almost-blue belt—she can’t even do a forward roll!! Let’s all laugh loudly at her! That’s what they would say. Right now in my head I am gustily going through my side escape procedure with the vain hope that perhaps it will finally click.

Back from my trip, I notice more light in the morning when I wake up, more light in the evening when I retrieve Son #1 from tae kwon do. This means my hibernation will soon be over. Hooray! Yesterday I went for a glorious run and luxuriated in the rays. They were meager compared to last week’s Florida sunshine, but hey, I’ll take ‘em. I know spring will be here soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Shark Girl Tries to Justify Her Losses

Some time ago I gave a pop quiz. The day before in class we had worked on some grammar. For homework, I asked students to review it. The next day I gave a pop quiz. Afterward, a student said, “I never expected that.”
“Really? I dropped big hints that I was thinking about giving a pop quiz. Did you review for homework?”
“No, I didn’t, because I never expected that.”

I was discussing with my colleague how frustrating it was when students expected to actually learn without putting forth effort. I have heard students sigh, “I failed again,” after admitting that the only studying they did was during lunch . . . for ten minutes . . . at a table crowded with friends and Cheetos. Let me restate that: I have heard students sigh, “I failed again,” while they lament how horrible it was for them because they studied so much . . . for ten minutes . . . during lunch . . . at a table crowded with friends and Cheetos.
Colleague and I went on to talk about how the best students often aren’t the most gifted ones; they are the ones who work hard. They do their homework every night. When these students don’t understand something, they don’t accept it. They ask questions. In a group, they don’t spend ten minutes talking about their weekend and when their teacher comes in earshot say, “Okay . . . number three. . . .” Sometimes these students earn an honest B or C instead of the A. But they stand out to the teacher as having dignity, motivation, integrity. And while their knowledge may be hard-fought, it is theirs entirely and it is hard-lost.

Watching these students has informed my jiu jitsu practice. I am not the best practitioner. But I strive to go regularly, to ask questions, to try hard. I know I never will be (at my age!) the best jitser, and I don’t care. I’m not going to win at Mundials. That’s not the point. Although I sometimes feel like my knowledge is hard-fought and easily-lost, Shark Girl is trying to learn, and that’s a very different thing from winning.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The Weirdest Girl of All


Tonight at dinner, 9-Year-Old Son shared with us that the boys in his class were smarter than the girls.

“Really?” Husband and I asked. “Do you think that’s true?”
“Yep,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s true.”
“What’s your evidence?” we pressed, ‘cause we’re those kind of parents.
“Well, when the boys raise their hands, they’re always right.”
“And what about the girls?”
“They don’t raise their hands that much.”
“Hmmm . . . did you know that there have been studies done that show that boys raise their hands more often than girls? Then they get called on more frequently.” That’s Husband talking. He’s a Harvard grad, so it’s all about the research.
“That’s right, Hon.” (Sometimes I call Husband “Hon.”) As the person at the table with the advanced degree in Education, I felt the need to validate this statement. “Son, the next time you see it happening, you should say, ‘The girls are awfully silent. I wonder what they think about this.’” It’s fun to teach your children subversion! It's best to couple it with self-defense classes.
“Yeahhh . .  . I don’t know,” Son slurred and tilted his head skeptically. “To be honest all the girls are kind of . . . weird.”  
Excuse me?” The Shark in Shark Girl came out and gave the death stare to 9-Year Old. “Girls are weird?”
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
“I’m a girl. Am I weird?” This was one of those set up questions. There’s only one right answer.
“Mom! You’re like the weirdest girl of all! You do jiu jitsu!”


Friday, February 3, 2012

Shark Girl Is So Effin' Feminine


Shark Girl is officially glomming on to Stephanie’s post.

About a week ago Stephanie wrote that when she invites other ladies to try jiu jitsu, they often decline with a comment like, “I’m too girly for that.” Stephanie’s point was that she, too, is girly, and if I’m reading her correctly, takes offense that people would box her into being less girly than they are because she grapples, and that more girly equals better.

Shark Girl does not ask other women to join her in jiu jitsu. After reading Stephanie’s post, I wondered if it was to avoid the “No, I’m not as manly as you” comments. I don’t think it is. I never invite anyone to exercise with me unless they show an interest. Way back when I started exercising, I often heard the advice that one should include a “buddy” who could help you stay honest in your pursuit of fitness. I heard that, but thought, “If I need a buddy to keep me honest, then I’m not really exercising for me and at some point the whole thing is going to break down.” I firmly believe in not regularly exercising with a buddy. I learned to enjoy my solitary runs and training in the gym by myself. Occasionally my brother or a friend would join me and it would make me happy. But I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s fitness and I surely don’t want to nod and say, “That’s okay, really,” if a friend gives me that pity-filled, it’s-hard-for-me-to-say-this-because-I-know-how-much-you-love-it-but-I-hate-it-and-can’t-figure-out-why-you-do-it speech.

I still felt Stephanie’s pain, even though it’s not from an invitation snubbed. Just telling someone that I do jiu jitsu can bring that “Oh, so you’re a manly woman!” reaction, and a step backward.

After reading Stephanie’s post, I went to Nine-Year-Old Niece’s talent show. (She was awesome, by the way!) I saw elementary school girls devising reasons to dress in scanty clothes and wear clownish make-up. I listened as the audience of parents tee-heed when their daughters gyrated suggestively to sexualized lyrics. (“Isn’t that cute?!) I saw gymnasts contort in ways that are similar to grappling positions. I am certainly not against sex or sexualized behavior. I am not a prude; for God’s sake I grapple with men—I put my head there, as Stephanie would say. But where is the other side of feminine? Why is it feminine when it’s dirty dancing and there’s make-up involved, but the same moves in jiu jitsu are manly? Someone commented on Stephanie’s post that jiu jitsu was like “dry humping” (okay, I’m taking liberties in the interpretation there). But I’m confused. Are sexualized moves feminine or not? Why can’t grappling be girly, too? Not in the frills and bows way, but in a way that says, “This is another possible side of being a girl.”

I don’t expect that everyone will agree with me. And it’s okay if you don’t. However, I am interested in what you think constitutes femininity. Because I submission grapple, God-damn it, and I’m a freaking girl’s girl. I’ve got the pink dresses and frilly underwear to prove it.

Shark Girl Faces a Change

It is a turning point for Shark Girl. I haven’t written in a while. When I was a white belt, everything was new and curious. And being ...