Friday, November 04, 2005

It's a Guy Thing pt.3 - Talkin' Trash About Trash Talkin'

Now, as much as I miss Hanging Out With The Guys, it's not all fun and games; sometimes its intense frustration and games, or psychological torture and games, or even murderous rage and games; can you spot the commonality in all of these?

After 18 years of couch-potato life, I was finally dragged off my lazy butt and pushed into athletic activity during my time at Parker; in the beginning, it was primarily basketball and volleyball, but other activities would later creep in. While the exercise was definitely needed, and I was enjoying the opportunity to finally Hang Out With The Guys on the courts, there were a few factors that kept me from fully enjoying the experience at the time.

The first was my total lack of skill, about which I couldn't help but feel self-conscious; this was a big part of the “embarrassing self on purpose vs. embarrassing self on accident” discussion between G’ovich and myself. Going out, trying me best, and falling flat on my face was never fun; I don’t care how often people tell you “trying your best is all that matters,” it never rings true to the recipient of the advice, who feel patronized; or, at least, I usually did. Yes, as I played more and more, I started to improve; the only problem is, as I improved, so did my friends; the gap between us might have shrunk a little, but it was still pretty significant. And no matter how much they might try to tell me that they didn't care, that I didn't have anything to prove, I still felt like I did; I didn’t want to Hang Out With The Guys and feel like I was a dead weight.

Part of this was due to the second factor: my competitive nature. While I might not have inherited a full-blown case of over-competitiveness from my dad's side of the family (my mom swears she once saw his cousins nearly get into a fist fight over a game of charades), I still pack a pretty large dose. I don't necessarily have to win every single time; I just have to not lose every single time; or, at the very least, not get beaten down like a dog every single time. And, since I knew all of The Guys were at least as competitive as I was, and most of them probably more so, every time I started to feel like I was sucking, I felt like I was dragging them down with me, earning their eternal contempt, so on and so forth, you know the drill by now.

And then there was the third factor: trash talk. By now you're all familiar with Dr. G'ovich's powerful ability to mess with my mind, his uncanny ability to echo the negative self-images that were bouncing around in my head; it was on the field of athletic competition that his abilities were at their most destructive. I know to him it was just part of the game, just a way to psyche out the opponent to gain an advantage; to young, unstable, manic-depressive Cap'n Low Self Esteem, it was an affirmation that he was the suckiest player to ever disgrace the field of play; no matter how much I might be able to accept it wasn't meant as a personal attack before or after the game, in the heat of the moment it killed me, every time; sometimes it manifested as anger at him, sometimes anger at myself, sometimes both; I honestly think the self-directed anger often won out, with the trash talk triggering factor two and its “Why aren’t you good enough?” spiel.

You may be wondering to yourselves why the heck I would be missing something that was obviously such a horrible experience for me; very good question. The answer is, of course, that it wasn't always horrible; I had plenty of fun times playing ball; those good times just don't stay in the memory as well as the bad ones; now, that trait I got from my great-grandmother, who held a grudge until the day she died against a girl who ticked her off when she was in kindergarten.

Out of all the different sports we played, basketball was probably my least favorite, the one I was least confident in, and therefore the one where the trash talk bothered me the most; I enjoyed volleyball quite a bit more, mostly because I felt I could see more improvement in my game play than I could in b-ball. I was also introduced to the joys of racquetball by Zinger, although it would be a while before I would really come to enjoy it whole-heartedly, since the Stonehearted one refused to take pity on me, and stomped my butt consistently (see earlier comment about hating to be beaten down like a dog); it wouldn't be until I taught J.D. to play several years later that I was able to fully enjoy playing the game, even after the danged quick study started to also stomp my butt consistently; the secret of said enjoyment being that our semester of playing coincided with one my the year I roomed with The Old Man, which was one of my more mentally stable semesters.

One other form of competition I enjoyed when Hanging Out With The Guys; beating the crap out of each other. Wrestling, trading punches, trading kicks, swatting the heck out of each other with plastic swords from the dollar store: it was all good. Now, this might sound strange coming from Cap’n “I’m a Lover, Not a Fighter”, but it’s the truth. I suppose part of it was me finally getting in touch with the aggressive part of myself which I had suppressed for so long, or, perhaps more accurately, the aggressive part of myself finally breaking free of its restraints during my time of near mental-breakdown; another part of it was feeling like I could almost hold my own with G’ovich and Flunky in the “beat the crap out of each other” arena at the time (although the You realize you’re not hurting me at all incident (for more of which, see the latest entry at Curse You G’ovich) seemed to put the lie to that theory, which (man, is this a bunch of parenthetical comments (just like Princess Bride, eh, Cap’n Disaster) or what?) is possibly why it bothered me so much at the time), which I really couldn’t say about any of the other competitions of the time; and then, of course, there was just the satisfaction of being able to hit the Eeeeeeeeevil one repeatedly in an attempt to inflict on him the same amount of pain physically he inflicted on me mentally; who wouldn’t love that?

Following the Great Parkerite Exodus and J.D. moving to Arkansas, I fell back into slug mode (not to be confused with S.L.U.G.S. mode: Single Liking Un-Gravy-ed Stuff), and would not come out of it until I started working out with Bizarro-Zinger and The Trumpeteer in ’03; unfortunately, once they both moved out of the picture, and I started grad school, I became spud-like yet again; here’s hoping that now that school is all over I can finally get myself back on the work-out wagon; but I digress.

I know that my intense self-consciousness playing sports has led to a lot of problems over the years (see the account of my volleyball self-destruction for a prime example), but I have high hopes that, if called upon to play sports while Hanging Out With The Guys, whether Parkerite Guys or not, the more stable version of myself will be able to just focus on having a good time, not worry about not being the best, and take any trash talk in stride; if G’ovich were to taunt me with a patented “You realize you aren’t hurting me at all” today, I’d like to think that I would not respond in a explosion of anger and frustration, but would instead calmly redouble my efforts to show him what hurting really is; because that’s what Guys do.