Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What, Fisticuffs?

I've mentioned before that my friendship with PigPen is based largely on mutual antagonism* which primarily manifests itself verbally, but it occasionally manifests physically as well -- if a rubber band enters into the household, the question is not one of "if" one of us will launch it at the head of the other, but rather "when" and "with how much success**" And, of course, the launching of a rubber band*** is frequently followed by a mad scramble and shoving match as we each try to retrieve the projectile before the other.

Yes, I am a nearly-32 year old Sunday School teaching librarian with a Master's degree -- why do you ask?

Anyway, one day last week I awoke consumed with the urge to ratchet this physical antagonism up a few notches. Now this is far from the first time I've fallen into such a mood -- many's the time I attempted to engage Flunky and G'ovich in battle back in my undergraduate years -- but this is the first time in ages that the fightin' mood has coincided with my having a viable opponent/target for my rampant aggression. Why that particular morning? Who knows? Maybe it was a result of the stress of having to deal with the storm and flooding and all the after-effects of the previous week; maybe it was a result of my having watched way too much UFC/IFL/Bodogfights/etc. over the last several months; maybe it was the combination of allergies, sleep deprivation, and mucho medication playing havoc with my internal chemical balance; maybe I just have a death wish. Whatever the cause, all I know is that I was in the mood to pick a fight, and what better person to pick it with than my good friend and constant nemesis PigPen.

Now, when I say "fight," I don't mean "beat each other to a pulp," of course -- especially since odds are pretty danged good that, in such a situation, I would wind up being the pulp. Instead I mean good ol' fashioned rough-housing – you know, the kind you expect out of teenage ruffians and not thirty-something librarians -- which is why when these "must hit something!" moods hit me I don’t go out looking to bust some heads, but instead seek out one of my good friends who I feel doesn't mind exchanging a punch or two from time to time and who I can trust to, at worst, bruise me but not break me -- I may be crazy, self-destructive, and deluded, but I ain't stupid.

But I digress.

This odd mood struck me on the day that PigPen and I spent restoring our house to livable conditions following the installation of our new carpet. I don't even recall what my attempts to goad PigPen into a physical altercation were, exactly -- probably a launched projectile here, a shove there, a slightly-less-than-playful punch in the arm or two for good measure -- I just know that at one point he stopped, looked at me curiously and said "You're in a violent mood today, aren't you?"

"Yes, yes I am," I replied.

"Do you ever get in a mood where you just want to punch some--"

"Yes!" I said quickly, cutting him off mid-thought, and then punching him.

In the arm.

After he offered.

And then I let him punch me in return.

Because, maybe I am stupid after all.

But again, I digress.

Having been found out in my oh-so-subtle manipulation, I told PigPen that he should feel free to either tell me to back off or just knock me the #!@$&# out, whichever he saw fit. Trooper that he is, PigPen put up with my needling behavior with good cheer and the occasional bit of retaliation but, outside of a brief scuffle or two****, I ended the day never getting a chance to fully exorcise the need for violence which had bubbled up to the surface.*****

A few days later, one of PigPen's pals was telling us about a local bar which has started up a boxing night on Thursdays. Supposedly, the bar charges people for the chance to put on boxing gear, climb into the ring, and beat up on each other for three one-minute rounds. PigPen's eyes lit up, and he immediately started trying to talk Peanut and me into it. "You could work out all of your aggression that way," he told me, trying to tap into my violent mood from a few days earlier. For the next couple of days, when PigPen would successfully land a verbal jab, I would often respond with a mildly threatening "So, what time on Thursday?" type comment while cracking my knuckles of punching my fist menacingly into my palm. A real tough guy, I am. Of course, the odds of me actually getting into the ring with PigPen were slim and none; the reasons are threefold:

  1. PigPen and I are in vastly different weight classes; unfortunately, this is because the bulk of my bulk is housed around my gut, which is not exactly effective in a boxing situation; I make a big, slow moving target.
  2. Long-time athlete PigPen has a commanding edge on me in strength, speed, and stamina, all of which, if I'm not mistaken, are kind of important factors in the whole boxing thing
  3. PigPen: knows how to box, owns his own boxing gear, and has been in his fair share of fights in his life, both for fun and for real. Me: not so much. And by "not so much" I mean "not at all."
In other words, while I have become resigned to the fact that PigPen is going to kick the crap out of me pretty much consistently in any and all sports, and I went into my trying-to-goad-him-into-a-fight mode knowing full well that if I succeeded he would totally thrash me, I really don't feel like paying money to have him beat the crap out of me in front of a room full of people.

And yet . . .

And yet . . .

And yet, there is this small, self-destructive part of me which finds the idea of getting in the ring and swinging away incredibly appealing. And while all the logic in the world tells me that doing so would be a horrible, horrible mistake, there's that primal part of me that screams at me for shrinking away because here I am, less than three weeks shy of my 32nd birthday, and I've never been in a fight in my life. Ever. Sure, I've done the usual horsing around with the guys, wrestling and trading punches and the like, and I know that getting in the boxing ring with a friend wouldn't be the same as a knock-down-drag-out fight -- but at the same time, I have this feeling that, even if we might think it's just a friendly little sparring match, once the gear is on and we're in the ring surrounded by a room full of people, the mixture of adrenaline and fear of embarrassment and desire to win would take over and all decorum and restraint would fly out the window. I find the thought of this both appealing and appalling; I really need a shrink.

While I told PigPen -- who is, by the way, pretty determined to go to this place and box somebody, he doesn't really care who -- my "don't want to pay money to let folks watch you kick my ass" reasoning, I also told him that if he wanted someone to spar/train with, I would gladly serve as his punching bag******. So on Sunday night he got out his boxing gear; he put on the gloves, I slipped on the hook and jab pads, and he started working through combinations. After a while he offered to switch it up and we traded gloves and pads so that I could flail blindly at them like a drunken monkey. PigPen slipped into coaching mode, trying to give me pointers on the basics; I have yet to decide if this was a return of his attempts to break me of my negative self-image, or if he's trying to build up my confidence so that I foolishly climb into the ring with him as part of his incredibly intricate plan to kill me following a long string of psychologically scarring experiences: As the details have been laid out to me so far, Phase One involves unleashing a pack of wild dogs on me; Phase Two involves forcing me to imbibe great amounts of alcohol and have unprotected, pre-marital sex with a woman of loose morals; Phase Three is still cloaked in secrecy, but humiliating me with a public beating that I paid for seems about par for the course*******

But, once more, I digress.

By the end of our brief boxing session, a few things had occurred to me:
  • Throwing punches in Coach PigPen's general direction was highly satisfying; not as satisfying as actually landing punches on The Coach, true, but satisfying nonetheless.
  • Boxing is one heck of a work out: in almost no time I was sweating like Peanut after he eats hot wings********
  • At this point in time there’s pretty much no way I'm going to get in the ring with PigPen unless he has both hands tied behind his back, his feet shackled together, and a blindfold on********* -- and even then, I'd be leery. And yet . . .
And yet . . . when he jokingly suggested we move stuff around to give ourselves enough room to actually spar, that death-wish part of me wanted to say “Hells, yeah!” I’m obviously sick in the head.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: I want to learn how to fight. Boxing, wrestling, karate, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Carggite tri-jitsu -- although that last one might be a bit hard for me to pull off -- I don't care. It’s good exercise, a potential release for stress, and, to be honest, I hate feeling like I’m the only guy I know who doesn’t know how to defend himself.

Plus, if there’s a small chance that it could result in me actually landing a punch on PigPen someday . . . well, then the resultant beating I receive in return will be all worth it.

*Yes, PigPen, for the record and for all the world of blog monkeys who actually read these foot notes to see, I fully cop to the fact that I antagonize you as much as you antagonize me -- except for those times when it amuses me to play the victim and paint you as the devil. Which is, I admit, about 90% of the time . . .
**Quick answer is that my success rate is inversely proportional to PigPen's, i.e. I'm a crappy shot and he's not
***Or couch pillow or rolled up straw wrapper or nerf ball or plastic bottle or . . .
****One such skirmish ended after my thought of "I should probably take off my glasses" was followed swiftly by PigPen accidentally sending my eyewear flying across the room; I was game to continue half-blind, but then we got an invite to dinner and the violence was sadly cut short
*****Although, going to see
Hot Fuzz that evening did go a long way to quenching my thirst for confrontation: gunfire, explosions, serial killings, old women getting kicked in the face --everything I could have wished for and more!
******Not sure if "punching bag" is a step up or down from "whipping boy"
******* The amount of detail being put into these plans to kill me is worrisome. I mean, my plans for *his* death have no psychological warfare in them at all; I need to step my game up!
********A trait that earned him the nick-name “Sweaty” from our waitress last weekend
*********Oh, and his mouth wired shut, but I think that's pretty much a constant, unspoken wish with most people dealing with him