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May 2013 05

by Laurelin

I’ve never really thought of myself as a tough chick. I don’t know why exactly, because when I think about it, I’ve always wanted to run wild with the boys. In elementary school my best friend Stephen and I would run around the school yard pretending we were Indiana Jones, swinging sticks as whips and tumbling. The girls played hopscotch. I never did.

When I was a little older I remember watching my neighbors Robert and Anthony wrestling on the playground. I said, “hit me!” but no one would. I yelled at Robert until I was blue in the face and all he said was, “My mother says I can’t hit a girl.” I was enraged. The boys could play rough, why couldn’t I? I ran around outside and turned brown in the sun, had skinned knees and collected salamanders from underneath rocks. I played with matchbox cars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But I was never one of the boys.

This was always my mindset growing up as a tall girl. I wasn’t one of the boys, but I wasn’t one of the girls either. When I was younger, I didn’t notice, but when junior high and high school started people were cruel. Until I developed the confidence to rock my height I was pitifully self-conscious. I tried to hide it, but I cried whenever the girls in the hall in school called me a man. I had never worn make-up or pretty clothes but suddenly I found myself wishing I owned anything besides flannel shirts and baggy jeans; for once I wanted to be girly and it seemed like no matter what happened I couldn’t find my place.

I almost wish now that my parents had pushed me into sports. I was a weird kid with not many friends, and at six feet tall in high school I had the track, volleyball and basketball coaches foaming at the mouth to get me to try out. But the kids at school broke my spirit. I wore black, moped around, and listened to Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine. I didn’t think my height served a purpose being a magnet for other people’s insults and ridicule.

***

It’s been well over a decade since those days…As I slip into the wrestling ring and square up with my opponent he pushes me off almost immediately. “Do it again, Laurelin,” he says. “You’re taller than almost everyone here and you’re supposed to be scary. Stand strong, stand tall, you’re bigger than me. Do it again.” We square up again and grapple, arms wrapped around one another’s necks and I stand tall and look my opponent in the eye. “Good,” he says. “Again, then hit me.”

I hit him, but not hard enough. “Again,” he says, and I hit him once more. “No,” he says. “Like this,” and CRACK, right across my back he hits me. The wind is knocked from my lungs but it doesn’t hurt, exactly. I think of my younger self, screaming at Robert on the playground, “HIT ME!” I don’t flinch and I stand tall, facing my opponent again. I nod and tell him I understand and he takes the hit and I toss him out of the ring. He ducks back in, smiling. “Good,” he says. “Again.”

Waking up the next morning I am so sore I can barely move. I swing my legs out of bed and I stare at them, black and swollen with mat burn. My elbows, purple and scraped, my shoulders and knees, back and hips the same. My cheek is tender from a ring rope snapping back in my face and my upper inner thighs are whipped with rope burn.

I’ll wear these bruises until they fade, badges of honor for finally feeling like I’m able to live up to my height. I don’t play volleyball, I don’t play basketball, I don’t run track. I don’t model. I am the only female in a men’s professional wrestling school, and I don’t get treated any differently because I wear eyeliner in the ring. I stand tall and take hits.

I guess I can be a pretty tough chick after all.

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