Skinny, but not enough of a bitch

I shouldn't even been trying to write right now, my head hurts so much, but you know me, always a glutton for punishment. Why? Why do I do this to myself? Don't answer that, there isn't really an answer. All I know is...all I know is that I fenced really well yesterday, better than I've fenced almost ever...and I still lost. Worse. I didn't just lose, I was destroyed. By an opponent whom I was beating until the very last touch. But she got inside my head and I just couldn't shake her. And then, afterwards, when I was talking to my friend Ed and he was asking, "What do you think happened?" (luckily, he was there on the side of the strip encouraging me during the bout, so he saw), I was just too embarrassed to be able to say. But now I think that I can. She wore me down. She got inside my head and wore me down. And I let her. I let her. Why?

I just posted this status on Facebook: "I don't think that I am nasty enough to be any good at this sport. I keep thinking that it is about the actions, when it is really about getting inside your opponent's head and destroying her." Which, I now realize, is really and truly true. The women who are up there on the podium event after event aren't necessarily technically better fencers, they are just bigger bitches than everyone else on the strip. And guess what? They don't care. They don't care about being nice or setting up the action properly or making an elegant touch. They only care about hitting you. Again. And again. And again. And then, there they will be, back up on the podium again where they belong, while all of the rest of us dream of one day being them.

I'm not so sure anymore that that is such a good dream. Sure, I've been up there a couple of times, but only when the competition was thinned out a bit. Yesterday, the bitches were out in full force and even some of the ones that are usually up there wouldn't fit. I didn't even fit in the top 16, nevermind the top 8. Which is fine, because there were a lot of good fencers there. But good only gets you so far. To be up there on the podium, you have to be ruthless. And then act as if it is the most natural thing in the world for you to be there. Over and over and over again.

Maybe we should just all go home and let the top 4 (the same ones nearly every time) fence by themselves. They don't need us--do they? They're the ones that everyone is going to be fawning over, wanting to be friends with (except they don't have friends, just people they beat), giving awards for "supporting the sport." Yeah, right. We're the ones who "support the sport," all those of us at the bottom of the stupid pyramid. The ones who come to tournament after tournament and never even make it into the top 32 (in a 40-odd person event). The ones who practice and practice and practice and then win maybe one more pool bout after a couple of years. The ones for whom it is a great victory to complete an action well and make the touch that they didn't think they could. The ones who maybe get a lucky break once in a while and have a better day than they have had before. They--we--are the ones who "support" the goddamned sport, not the ones who use us to crawl their way back up on the podium over and over and over again.

Maybe I'm not giving them enough credit. Maybe they do realize this and I'm being unfair. But, see, that is exactly the kind of thought that keeps me off of that stupid podium. Why would they care? They're the winners. Just like universities who only look to the institutions that are ranked higher than they are and who couldn't care less about the thousands of schools ranked below them. "Who, them? We don't need them, we're the elite." Elite of what? Guess what, you need that pyramid under you to be "elite." Nobody cares if you are in the top 4 if there are only 4 of you.

Good grief, I am in a bitchy mood. I bet it won't last. I bet when I get back on that stupid f*cking strip this afternoon that I will still be worrying more about being nice than about destroying every ounce of self-respect my opponent has ever had about her ability in this sport. I can't do it. I just can't do it. I'm not that much of a bitch.


  1. Dear Bear:

    You are personalizing too much. "Six times falling, seven times getting up." The match is not about "ruthless" or "fair" etc. You must stop thinking about such things while you are fencing (and afterward). You should have nothing in mind. Your foil is your mind. Let every thought and energy flow into the point of your instrument of destruction. You must not "try" to be anything because when you are you are not fencing, you are thinking about fencing. When you separate your effort by even the thickness of a sheet of paper you are not fencing any longer - you are bemoaning ethics, your childhood, your girth, your shopping list, did you turn the gas off?, thinking about everything but fencing. Quit "striving for result." Josho saw a monk sitting in meditation with a self-satisfied, pious look on his face. He asked the monk, "What are you doing?" "I am trying to become a buddha," said the monk. Josho picked up a brick and began rubbing it with the hem of his robe. "What are you doing?" asked the monk. "Oh, I am making a mirror!" said Josho.

    No wonder you lose! You shackle yourself with distractions galore. Just fence! Don't think! Don't whine! Perhaps, after a while, you stop doing those things after a match as well - you "just fence" and then pick up your gear and maybe a medal and go home. Your best aid right now is your new health regimen because it actually promotes better fencing and it is a "doing" not a "thinking."

    BTW, have you read David Knowles' THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIEVAL THOUGHT, and his description and analysis of ancient and medieval education. I'm sure you probably have, but if not you should take a look at it.

    Yours, a fan waiting patiently to applaud your next triumph - Marche ou crève!

  2. I know you've probably talked yourself out of the hole you were in when you wrote this, but.... you know the "bitches" aren't out to get you, right? I mean, I wasn't there - maybe there were some "Mean Girl" sneers and glares - but when someone gets in your head when you're competing it's not personal, just ruthlessly practical.

    Which doesn't make it suck less when they're in your head, but even so...

  3. Darn it, I just deleted the ever-so-eloquent comment I was writing in response to both of you! Try again: yes! You are both right: I am taking all of this much too personally. But not, I should clarify, because I think that my stronger opponents have anything against *me.* Maybe occasionally someone does (although if she does, she generally loses because I can tell when she loses her focus and starts worrying about beating me rather than just fencing), but most of the time it is clear that there is nothing personal going on, except in my head. I was using "bitches" ironically, if purposefully: in our culture, we tend to consider women "bitchy" simply for standing up for themselves, never mind women who have the presence of mind not to get all caught up in worrying about what other people think. Thus the (somewhat bitter) joke about being skinny but not yet a bitch: "bitchiness" is simply self-confidence, the steadiness to stay in the moment and not get distracted by worries about whether I'm good enough or deserve to be doing such-and-such. If I am jealous of the "bitches" still, it is because I've watched them so many times keep absolute focus in their bouts--and I can't (not yet, anyway).


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