The overdue demise of Mrs. Nice Freaking America

There are some social rules in sparring that I am trying to absorb, but these rules are competing with 43 years of cultural indoctrination and some days it’s like trying to dig up asphalt with a kitchen fork.

I was actually feeling pretty strong Friday morning, and had planned for a double workout day. My lunchtime workout would be primarily aerobic and interval work, and I expected to be rested enough by evening to do our team’s traditionally lighter workout and sparring. The first part of the plan went swimmingly. I warmed up with 15 minutes on the elliptical, followed that with 10 on the rowing machine, breezed through my upper body weightlifting routine, threw in the obligatory 200 sit-ups, and finished with two solid sets of intervals: 15 minutes of jump rope with sprints, then one mile of sprints and recoveries.

I’m not sure what I ate wrong, but for the next six hours I did time in the women’s room and dosed myself with Pepto and pep talks. By the time I got to the gym I was feeling like a three-day-old french fry in the McDonald’s parking lot. After a rain.

Mistake One
The opening workout with the team felt draining, and when it came time to get in the ring I was whiny, too. I geared up and the trainer told me I would be getting in with Tim, who is a skilled, fight-ready boxer; normally I love to box with him. I slinked over to him and muttered something like “I’m just not up for heat; let’s just work,” but he didn’t respond. Ten points off my grade. Rule one: no whining.

Mistake Two
When we got in the ring, he let me know I was going to feel his punches with a few choice jabs and hooks. That was actually invigorating enough that I sucked together what power was left in my battery and tagged him a good one to the head, causing him to stagger. “Damn, that was a good shot,” he said. Whereupon I lost another ten points by responding “Sorry! Are you okay?”

I am an idiot! You would think I would learn by now. Tim is by far the better boxer and has absolutely nothing to worry about in the ring from me. He can take my shots round after round and call it a warm-up. I am too damn nice! I am Mrs. Nice Freaking America. It’s time to jettison a truckload or seven of my nice.

I ground my teeth and prepared for war.

Mistake Three
And war was what I got. Tim was relentless, shooting that jab into the middle of my face time after time, talking smack, leaning in for body blows. I was getting killed but no so much that I didn’t want to retailiate. My trainer started shouting advice. “Keep your chin down,” she called. “Change the combination — give me a straight right and a left hook.” I did. Shots landed.

Tim grunted and hammered my head with hooks. I stopped to shift my headgear back into place, and lost ten more points. “Stop adjusting your headgear,” Tim growled, “throw punches instead.”

Okay. If your collar is flipped, you fix it. If a button slips loose, you close the gap. If your tag is turned out, you tuck it back in. Boxing without adjusting slipped headgear is like continuing to walk down the office hall with your skirt tucked into your underwear. Mrs. Nice suggests you practice not adjusting your headgear in the ring rather than practice the skirt in the underwear thing.

Mistake Four
By the middle of the third round I was operating on fumes. I took a heavy punch to the solar plexus and suddenly there wasn’t enough air in the room. I sucked for air, swore vehemently and wheezed, “That hurt,” and lost ten more points.

Aargh. When you box, you take hard hits and keep swinging, and I’ve been gaining ground on that one. But a corollary to that rule is that you don’t show your weakness. Ever. If you take a shot and see stars and birdies, you remain utterly impassive and send your next combo out anyway. Like Tom Hanks’ character said in A League of Their Own: “There’s no crying in baseball!” Or boxing. If you show weakness, you better believe your opponent will circle in for the kill.

Bringing the F up to a D
I showed up when I was feeling like crap, I worked my ass off, and I got at least one solid, sweet, staggering shot in on Tim. I was only mostly dead. And I have some goals to keep on the post-it stuck to my computer screen: No whining, no apologizing, no adjusting of clothing, and no shows of weakness. Also known as: Be tougher, meaner, and uglier.

Let me at it. Consider this the overdue demise of Mrs. Nice Freaking America.

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One Response to The overdue demise of Mrs. Nice Freaking America

  1. K May 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    WOOHOOO! I love this.

    Yeah, I think the social rules of boxing are harder for a woman to absorb, since we’ve been trained since birth to be as “nice” as possible at all times, to apologize for hurting people, to be conscientious of our own and other’s feelings. It’s a whole different world ignoring all that.

    Love this post!

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