Thursday, May 08, 2003

Twas the dark of night. A chill was in the air. Dampness clung to the earth like a used Huggy on a 3 month old baby. The clock on the gymnasium wall told me it was 10:30PM. My instincts told me it was midnight. The opposite of "high noon." At high noon the good guys win. They come out with guns blazing and the bad guys fall face first into the dusty street. The locals and the shop keepers return to their stores and saloons to talk about the latest guy who needed killen and how he had got what was a'comin to him.

But this was my midnight. I was the bad guy. The good guy was my wife. She stood opposite me, in the huge, inflateable jousting pit. Together we hovered 4 feet off of the hardwood floor. The pit was surrounded by similarly aged adults. We were all here for one reason. It was prom night and our children were juniors. That means that we... the parents of the juniors... were in charge of "after-prom." It was going to be a safe night for all high school students involved. There would be no drunken brawls. No back seat, estrogen/testosterone charged lovers. Just fun in the gym served up with food and music in the commons. But for the moment all eyes were on Mr. and Mrs. Woods. At the prodding of other scaredy cats we had tossed our shoes and jewelry into a corner and picked-up our jousting thingys. (Not the technical name.) And here we stood... facing each other. She had a smile on her face because she knew what I knew. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I, on the other hand, had nothing to gain and everything to lose. No matter that she is a trained aid in a behavior disorder classroom. No matter that she's had hours of training and experience in taking down unruly young people. I am a man. She is a woman. I am suppose to win. She is suppose to lose.

But there was a problem. This dainty little blonde standing on her perch several feet from me was my wife. I have sworn to protect and honor her. I promised her father 25 years ago that I would do an admirable job in replacing him as the primary man in her life. And now here I stood with a padded stick in my hands... and my job description was to knock the living daylights out of her. Every man in the room cringed for me. Every woman in the room glowed with expectant anticipation.

As I thought about these things I felt the air rush by my face. I looked up to see a red padded jousting stick fly by my head. It was in the hands of "Debbie the Crusher." She didn't even slow down before a "whump" landed on my knees and I staggered slightly backward. Women cheered gleefully. Men were silent.

I remember thinking that I could not do this. I can't hit her. My children nursed at her breast. I pray with her every night before we fade off to sleep. (Ziiiiiing... another violent thrust caught my left shoulder.) I walked into her classroom one day to find her back turned toward a charging young man with pointed scissors raised above his head. He was intent on having a substitute for the next day. I took him out without even blinking an eye. He looked up at me and said, "Hey! You can't do that to me! I'm a kid!" I drooled on his face. (Swish! The bill of my hat went cock-eyed as she almost took it off my head.) She got desperately sick once with a furious case of mono. I nearly carried her into the doctors office and then nursed her back to health. I fed her Chinese carry-out that year for our wedding anniversary and then tenderly tucked her into bed. I spent the rest of the night with Moe, Larry, and Curly. (WHAM! This time it was my right shoulder.) I looked up. She was smiling at me. I could tell she smelled it... victory. Bragging rights.

Suddenly, in the theatre of my mind I watched a video. I was in my rocking chair and "Gramma Debbie" was in one next to me. She held our little grandson on her knee and told him the story of how she decimated me in front of a crowd of my peers back in our younger days. He looked at me... with disdain. He hugged his gramma. I excused myself and went to take a nap.

Across the pit she took careful aim. I let her. She swung her stick even harder than before. She missed cleanly and her momentum caused her to lean to the left. I decided to help her out. I grasped my padded stick more tightly, took careful aim, and swum from my right. My blow caught her mid-section and helped her regain her vertical stature. It also caused her to take her eyes off of me. For just a second. A short second. Just enough time to swing one more time... at her shins... hard. This swing was from the left. He upper body was still moving toward her right when my latest swing sent her lower body to her left. You don't have to be a physics major to figure out that this is contradictory movement.

What I remember most is the groan from the females in the crowd. The men didn't cheer. They didn't dare. This time they had nothing to gain and everything to lose. The crowd quickly dispersed. Nothing to see here folks. We climbed back over the edge of the pit and onto the gym floor.

Nothing more was ever said. That's ok. That's more than ok. It's a relief. You see, in the world of masculanity vs. feminity you do not have to win. You only have to not lose.