I’m back in LA. I arrived late last night after a fun week in downstate IL with my family. I always miss being on a college campus in the fall, and I miss it more being here in CA because the leaves don’t really turn, and it’s not cold enough to make mulled cider seem like the best idea under the sun, and football isn’t happening in my back yard like it did when I was living in New Hampshire and Michigan. So it was nice to be in IL, even though I am still completely hopeless when it comes to packing: for a one-week trip to a part of the country that averaged about 35 degrees by the end of my visit, I had about 15 t-shirts, 2 pairs of socks, and one sweater.
Perhaps that’s a symptom of my continuing fashion-challenged state. Since Marcel isn’t stepping up to turn me in to What Not to Wear, I may need to do it myself. I am realizing how little difference there is between what I wear when I go out in the world, what I sleep in, and what I work out in. For instance, on a Tuesday, I may wake up and put on a BJJ t-shirt and a pair of leggings and wear that all day till it’s time to train. I wear the same outfit to bed, and then when I wake up for CrossFit on Wednesday, I throw a sports bra on under the t-shirt and switch the leggings for a pair of compression shorts.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I think I want to feel more girly than I have been. I love training. I love the people I train with (mostly guys). But I want to start doing things again that make me feel pretty. (Believe me, I’m bracing for the onslaught of jokes from the peanut gallery, but that’s how I feel lately.) Being a chick in this environment is difficult sometimes. A telling incident that happened years ago, when I was a blue belt, has always stayed with me, and sometimes it bothers me more than other times. Right now it is bothering me.
I trained in Chicago with a very cool guy named Josh. He was a great training partner and a very interesting person--a tattoo artist and body piercer by profession. We were talking one day after class, and headed to the showers. I watched him keep talking over his shoulder to me as he turned right and disappeared into the men’s locker room (the women's locker room was to the left). I stood there for a second to see if he’d notice, but he didn’t come out.
The next time I saw him, he said, “Oh, that was so weird the other day when we were talking. I talked for another 30 seconds before I looked around and saw that you weren’t behind me. I kind of forgot that you wouldn’t be coming into the same locker room.” Translation: In my eyes, you are basically a dude.
Especially when I first started training, I did work very hard to efface my femininity. I joked around like one of the guys as opposed to flirting, I made sure I always wore a t-shirt or rash guard under my gi (some women wear just a sports bra—that’s not a judgment on women who wear just a sports bra, but that was never comfortable for me), I cried in private when things were frustrating. And I’m sure I gave off a “not available” vibe to the single guys.
I don’t know if I did it on purpose, but I do remember wanting to be taken seriously. And since it was basically me on the mat with dozens of guys, I guess I tried to be as like them as possible so they would forget that I was "other." So in Josh's defense, it makes sense that he would have treated me that way, because that's how I was indicating I wanted to be treated. It's not his fault that being treated that way bothered me sometimes. And if he had flirted with me or tried to protect me by not rolling as hard as he did (and he used to work me OVER), that wouldn't have been all right either.
In recent years I think I have learned better how to balance the girly and the tough. But that doesn’t mean the balance never needs adjusting. And especially since starting CrossFit and acquiring new muscles and a slightly different body shape because of it, I guess I’m feeling the lack of the girly. I can only imagine what the guys at the store or the academy would say if one day I showed up in a dress. I might have to try that just to see what would happen or whether they'd recognize me. But at the store I’d have to lug boxes or a stack of rash guards, and at the academy I’d just have to change into my gi or boardshorts. So, realistically maintaining the girly is an elusive goal sometimes.
Wow. I actually didn’t mean to write all about that. But I guess it was somewhere on my mind. Must be one of my priorities. Getting away for a week from what has become my routine gave me a little perspective on those. So, getting back in touch with my feminine side must be one (maybe I’ll spend one day next weekend shoe shopping and seeing a romantic comedy), which I’ve only realized during the process of writing this post.
Not surprisingly, another one is to continue to improve at BJJ. That has been a priority for the past year and a half, of course, but in the past couple months I have been training less than normal, and I want to shift the balance back. I know--I FEEL--that the main reason I’m in LA is to continue to benefit from the amazing instruction I’m getting at New Breed, not to mention the opportunities to compete, and I’m feeling all the more compelled to take advantage of that.
Another priority right now is to make some money. I have started a consulting project in addition to the two online courses I’m teaching. It’s a lot to take in at once because I’ve never done any of it before. So my learning curve is very steep. But it will all shake out. It’s just that it will all shake out around the same time—December 15. That’s when the consulting project is due, when the final grades for my courses are due, AND when the no-gi Mundial is happening out here in LA. And after that I collapse. Prettily.
I still want the other things I keep saying I want (relationship; place to live that makes me happy, whether it’s in LA or elsewhere; dog—have I said that one before?), and those are priorities too, but right now I don’t know what to do to work toward them. At the moment, the course of action for these others is easier to identify: train, work, get a haircut and a kicky skirt. So I'll go with the path of least resistance and trust that the rest will take care of itself.