“To be tender minded does not become a sword.”


Does this lame make me look fat?

When I grow up, I wanna be a fencer. Not a person with a sword and a spacesuit who just happens to find herself on a piste, not somebody who really likes hanging around fencers and volunteers as a pincushion three days a week,  but a real, hardcore, honest-to-goodness fencer who knows what she’s doing and can kill you with nothing but brains, talent, speed, and a long, thin, steel rod if circumstances so require (not that I have any funny-or not so funny- ideas).The trouble is, contrary to my usual vulcan-cool personality, I seem to transmogrify into a proverbial wet hen the minute the ref calls, “fence!”. It’s a vicious cycle, unbreakable once it’s begun. The wet hennery tends to begin and progress thusly:

REFEREE: Fence!

MYSELF: (aside, to self, in head) HOLYCRAP! Ok, well, what should we do? Umm, here, let’s see…

SCORING BOX: Beeeeep!

REFEREE: Attack arrives, touch (insert side on which I happen to not be)

MYSELF: (aside, to self, in head) Well, that was not a very good plan. This time, let’s try attacking the other person.

REFEREE: Ready, fence!

MYSELF: (aside, to self, in head) Here we go! I’m attacking now, I’m going to go forward, gonna keep going forward… wait, why aren’t they doing anything? What am I going to do? What do I do? What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?!!! OHMYGODTHEY’REGONNAHITME!

(OPPONENT counters)

SCORING BOX: Beep!

REFEREE: Attack arrives, touch (insert side on which I happen to not be)

MYSELF: (aside, to self, in head) Ok, well, how about this time we HIT after we attack!

REFEREE: Ready, fence!

MYSELF: (aside, to self, in head) Here we go! I’m attacking now, I’m going to go forward, gonna keep going forward… wait, why aren’t they doing anything? What am I going to do? What do I do? What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?!!! Ok, it’s ok, just, umm… I don’t know, beat their blade or something- wait, they’re going forward now, oh my god THEY’RE GOING FORWARD NOW!!

At this point, the wet hennery has gestated and accelerated into full-on Smeegal-esque internal warfare, and a new character emerges, a character I will call My Long-Lost Mind, OR LLM. Of course, I am the only person who can hear or respond to said character.

LLM: Of course they’re going forward you idiot, you just gave up right of way!

MYSELF: (aside, to LLM, in head) OOOh, right. Why did I do that?!! Oh my god, I’m almost at the end of the strip, Oh my god! (flails arms wildly, waving foil in various unpredictable patterns before body, to no avail)

SCORING BOX: Beep!

…etc., etc., ad naseum. I think my problem stems mostly from self-conciousness- a vice I’ve fought furiously to overcome, and which I’m proud to say I’ve left behind, at least in most other aspects of my life- to a large degree anyway.

I thought fencing would develop LEAN muscle!

Self-consciousness, aside from being one of the most hateful and limiting and base of all states of being; is the last thing you want to drag onto the strip with you. Self-conciousness is the mother of all idiotic, girly, volatile emotion. And there’s nothing like self-conciousness to shatter your vulcan-cool facade. But it will tag along. Especially when you’re fencing small children- or anyone smaller and/or more graceful than yourself. You feel unwieldy, stupid, slow, bumbling, humongous. And as much as I strive to be an exception, the last thing a teenage girl wants to feel is… humongous, stupid, and unwieldy. And there’s nothing like the bareness of the strip to make a girl feel unwieldy. But the only thing that can make me stop feeling unwieldy is to be graceful. But I can’t be graceful until I stop fussing over how unwieldy I feel. Still more troubling is that fact that I’ve noticed that there’s something about being physically bigger than someone else that makes me very nervous- even in contexts other than fencing- and that really troubles me. I try very hard to think as little as possible about my appearance, and especially my weight, not because I think there’s anything wrong with either, but because I don’t want to be a person who concerns herself with such trivial matters. I mean, I did go through a very long period of time during which I just felt so sad and ugly that I didn’t even care that what I looked like was all I thought about- which, I’m sure, 99.9% of all teenage girls have; but I’m happily over that now, and even then, I never made much of an effort at changing myself, and I never felt fat. I have always ranged from underweight to the low range of healthy- and I haven’t ever had to worry about watching my diet, when I was underweight it was never because I had been purposefully eating less than usual, or even more conscious of my size. I still don’t feel fat, or too tall- at least not consciously- but there’s still that inexplicable nervousness around smaller people (even people who are overweight, but just shorter than me). I used to think that it was a fear of breaking them- and I think that may be true to some degree, especially when I’m fencing younger kids. But there are two other components to the issue, and I think one of them is a feeling of needing to have something to show for every square inch of my volume, and the other is just feeling clumsy, knowledge that my movement is ugly. In the words of Fencing Bear, one of my heroines of the blogosphere:

And then something strange started happening. The longer I fenced, the more fencers I encountered of all body sizes and shapes. Often, more often than I would like to admit, I would end up on the strip against a woman much bigger than me and find that, for all my thinness (relatively speaking), she could still beat me–and well. I might be proud (in those early years, at least) at how slender my legs were, but hers could move faster and be in the right place at the right time, while I found myself bumbling and missing the attack. And when she moved, it was invariably beautiful.
Beauty, it would seem, was not in the shape of the body, but in how it moved. Gradually, still hampered by tabloid images of slender stars, I started looking at all of the fencers I encountered differently. And, eventually, something wonderful happened. I started seeing my fellow fencers simply as different shapes, all equally beautiful, not “fat” or “thin” but simply themselves. My husband had commented to me once that this was the way he looked at women and I didn’t believe him. Now, I was starting to realize how what he said could in fact be true.

My problem is that, rather than “seeing my fellow fencers simply as different shapes, all equally beautiful, not ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ but simply themselves”, I see them as “pretty fencers” or “ugly fencers”, I judge them by the beauty of their movement; and I subject myself to the same standards. While I recognize that beauty of movement is a necessary element of fencing, It’s still wrong to let that form your opinion of a person’s intelligence, confidence, or any of the other things we erroneously associate good looks with.

Anyway, so that’s another dragon for me to slay. And, as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword- at least when Kimya Dawson is wielding it; so I’ll leave you with her word-sword for the vanquishing of this very Dragon, I Like Giants:

Advertisements

1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    […] this friend because of her earnest kindness and because of how… comfortable, happy, and not self-conscious she is. I have always hoped that maybe, because she was older than me (by a little over a year), she […]


Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: