“Girl, the jig is up,” my best friend is telling me on the phone as I’m freaking out about my recent discovery that I am not, after all, a born fighter. “Your shit is totally exposed.”
She’s right, and I know it. I rappelled off a 27-story office tower. In the bazaars of Cairo, Egypt, I’ve nonchalantly weaved through cow carcasses hanging from their hooves and dripping blood. I’ve chased a group of punk kids in my former inner city hood. I have a bunch of big tattoos and own three genuine leather jackets. I’ve hiked through the Grand Canyon on trails forged by mountain goats and swam with sharks and barracuda in the Red Sea. (OK, I admit that last one was by accident, but it still didn’t faze me.) I will walk right up to a sketchy-looking somebody hanging out downtown and tell him to move it right along.
But my bad ass credentials have never before been tested as they have in the past three months as I’ve trained to box some of my best friends as part of Dayton Knockout.
I signed up for this charity boxing event ― which will be held this Saturday, Feb. 25, at Memorial Hall ― to be part of something super cool, help a good cause, get in shape and maybe lose a few pounds. I’d been boxing at Drake’s Downtown Gym for nearly two years, and I’ve yet to encounter a workout that makes me feel like more of a bad ass than giving a punching bag a hefty one-two.
Immediately, it was on. My girlfriend and I started trash talking. And texting. And posting.
I hope your bucket list is wheelchair accessible.
They’re gonna find your torso in a corn maze.
I hope you enjoyed your smoothie because after I knock all your teeth out, you’ll only be able to digest soft foods.
I’m gonna snack on your kidney on a stick.
I hope you liked wearing head gear because soon it will be a permanent fashion accessory for you.
I hear they make software now that can help you re-learn how to walk.
Halfway through our training, I missed nearly two weeks of practice after some complications from what was supposed to be minor surgery. She sent me flowers ― a beautiful bouquet of roses, actually ― with a card reading, “Sickness will not protect you.”
Then we sparred for the first time. And she rattled my teeth as if they were shells in a wind chime.
Which took the muscle right out of my trash talking. Truth is, I’m not a bad ass. I’m just really good at pretending.
I even had my friend fooled.
“What do you mean, you’ve never fought before? I thought you said you were some kind of crazy, black-haired punk rocker in high school!”
“Those Barbies wouldn’t fight me,” I explained. “Their Aqua Net puff bangs would have gotten flattened.”
“Didn’t you fight your sister?” She was incredulous at this point.
“My sister is eight years younger than me. The worst thing I ever did was put peas in her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
I did try to up my bad ass quotient after my first Saturday-practice skull crushing. I figured it would help me find my inner fighter.
A friend and I went to a monster truck rally at Hara Arena. I imagined it just like in the commercials: big ass trucks crushing cars and motor bikes daredeviling over piles of dirt. Whoopee! We picked out the perfect outfits, complete with cowboy boots and denim and plaid flannel and bandanas. I insisted we arrive early to have a cocktail at the Hara Pub and spotted an extra five bucks for VIP tickets so we could gain access to a pre-party and obtain a complimentary skull and crossbones flag.
Commercials can be misleading.
“We don’t open the bar for family events,” the woman scanning our tickets tartly replied at my dismay that the pub was closed. The VIP tickets must have stood for Very Ignorant Person, because everyone seemed to be enjoying the “perks” of said tickets. The skull and crossbones flags appeared to have come from one of those little plastic cups in a pizza parlor vending machine. The cars were already crushed, and there wasn’t a speck of dirt (unless you count the grime coating all that is Hara Arena). Some of the drivers couldn’t even get their trucks to spin in the donut competition. Some dude in an ostrich costume as raggedy as an old shag carpet came out and did a 10-minute skit that nearly made us peel our eyeballs out of our skulls.
The best part of the night was when a kid in the row behind us recognized Hell’s Bells two gongs into the song. “Your mother would be so proud,” sighed the woman with him.
We left at intermission. I think my bad-assery actually dropped in value that night.
Then I took the grand opening of Rock Star Wrestling on East Third Street for a spin. Now, this was some bad ass I could get behind ― men in singlets and Captain America-esque costumes jumping on the ropes around the ring and tossing each other like salad. Hell, YES, that’s what I’m talking about! Complete with kids heckling the wrestlers from the front row!
I definitely ingested a nice womp of bad ass that night. Problem was, I drowned it in beer and Long Island Iced Teas and was left with only blurry pictures on my phone.
I have been humiliated by the realization I’m lacking in the bona fide bad ass department before.
The first time I went to a Gem City Roller Girls bout, I was convinced it should be me out there zipping around on skates, hunched into the breeze created by my own speed, elbowing and snarling and falling-but-getting-right-back-up. Oh, the girl power! The striped socks and black skirts and skulls! The clever yet sinister names!
Then I went to Skateworld of Vandalia with my rock star girlfriend. She’s trotted the globe playing searing guitar with bands and always has been much cooler than I am. It was the same in the skating rink.
My feet had not known a pair of roller skates since Members Only jackets were in style, you did the Hokey Pokey and Space Invaders was the game to beat. I decided I should warm up with a spin in the kids’ practice area.
At first, I figured the floor was warped in weird ways that were preventing me from getting my Pac Man Fever back. Then, I decided I was just too tired and sloppy from an exhausting week. Next, I concluded that I was just being sensible, as the place was jam-packed with little kids’ birthday parties. If a big girl like me fell on one of these 3-year-olds, that youngster could be smushed like a cupcake. Why risk it?
Finally, my friend ― skating backward and doing spins ― convinced me to make my way to the big kids rink. By then, I was too paranoid to let go of the side railing. As I clunked and slithered my way around the ring as if I were walking on an oil spill, I felt a poke in the small of my back.
I turned to find a little girl, probably five years old, her hair in pig tails. “Excuse me, miss,” she asked in her pip-squeak voice. “Can you move? You’re blocking my way.”
“No,” I said, the word falling from my mouth like a brick. I grabbed her hand and ― still desperately clutching the railing ― swung her around me.
I then proceeded to get the hell out of the rink and take off those damned skates as fast as I could. On our way out, my friend handed me a brochure about skating lessons. I shoved it in the bottom of my purse.
I haven’t given up on becoming a boxer as I did with becoming a Gem City Roller Derby Girl. I have been practicing my jab to the point where my knuckles are bruised. I’ve watched Rocky I, II and III, along with YouTube videos of real-life boxers, to observe in-the-ring moves. I’ve been listening incessantly to “We Are the Champions,” “Eye of the Tiger” and the song I chose to play as I make my way to the stage at Memorial Hall, “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
And I’ve been spending a lot of time envisioning myself as a fighter. Faking it. Which I know I can do. After all, these days, when I tell people I’m clinically shy (I am! Like turning a bowling ball in your stomach to talk to a stranger kind of shy!), they don’t believe me. They are totally faked out.
I realize now that becoming a bad ass is like aging: It’s less about the number of times you’ve toasted your birthday or the number of years you’ve been giddy about the arrival of spring. It’s just a a thought you create and control in the mechanics of your brain.
At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I walk into that ring. I may be wearing a costume of sorts, but it’s genuine boxing garb, the same the pros wear. And I will be feeling like a genuine boxer ― and bad ass.
Dayton Knockout benefits AIDS Resource Center Ohio and Dayton History. The event takes place at 8 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 25, at Memorial Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. Buy advance tickets online or at Drake’s Downtown Gym, Ghostlight Coffee, Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery, Brixx Ice Co., Square One Salon, and the Dublin Pub. Food and drinks will be available, and an after party featuring live music by Funky G and the Groove Machine will be held in the Memorial Hall basement after the fights.