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I Almost Got Into a Fist Fight

fist fightDid I tell you about how I almost getting into a fist fight?

It didn’t happen in a Starbucks, or over the last pair of half-priced boots at Macy’s. It was on the football field. That doesn’t make it ok. But still. I was wearing cleats.

I don’t pick fights on the field. When I’m playing in my touch football league, which I do on Sundays in the spring and fall, I apologize when I step on a foot or bump a shoulder harder than was intended. I’m not interested in conflict. This is supposed to be for FUN.

But.

During game two of the playoffs, the championship game, there was one aggressive little sprite (I’m trying to use the kindest words I can muster because the others are not appropriate) who saw fit to get quite physical — with everyone she came into contact with.

She pushed my teammate Kristina and dared her to push back (which she did, and then this brat called foul on her). She pushed Andre, who outweighs her by about 80 lbs. And then she pushed me.

We were ahead by a slim margin and I knew that she was a solid receiver; we were one misstep away from losing the game. I’m not great at defense as a rule, but if we’re playing man vs. zone,  I’m relentless and will make a nuisance of myself.

She didn’t like it. Not one bit. And as I chased her downfield, trying to get ahead of the ball, I might have ridden her a little too close.

“Get OFF me!” she yelled, shoving me, and I chased her into the end zone where the ball came sailing (knew it) straight into her arms. Despite my lame attempt at tackling her, which I’m sure is illegal, I fell to my knees as her team cheered.

“How do you like THAT,” she said, like the brat she is, trotting back to the line with a vengeful spring in her step.

Dear reader, I’m not proud of what I said next.

But I was absolutely boiling with rage. My knees burned from the turf and if I could have shot flames out of my eyes I would have.

“You’re such a little bitch.”

I shocked myself in saying it, the words peeling out of me like bitter rinds, spat out onto the field at her feet.

I was rattled and wild and despite my teammates suggestion that I might like to take a break, I said, “NO F*&! WAY.” Because, well, no way.

When our team got the ball, I ran straight at her and felt her hard, mean little shove. Oh, it’s on.

On the next play, she flopped (it’s a thing; I looked it up).  She basically tipped over like a paper doll, on purpose, as I ran toward her, to make it look like a foul on my account — and in doing so, took me down with her.

“WHAT IS YOUR F–NG PROBLEM!” I was really, really losing my shit now. Ben, a tall, even-keel guy with a voice like a cool compress, attempted to keep me level. “It’ll feel so good to win,” he said. As in: Calm down, we got this.

And he was right. Moments later, we had in fact won the championship, and beat the other team by a handful of points. I’d lost the battle, but we’d won the war.

Despite the thrill of the win and the effects of a post-game hard cider, I vibrated with rage. I couldn’t believe how angry I was, how beset by something, and someone, so silly.

I walk around like the classy lady I imagine myself to be, but scratch that well-groomed surface and you find, well, an animal. It reminded me that for all my cultivated, considered ways, I’m this close to unfettered fury, spite, and the potential to physically hurt someone else.

That is, to say the least, alarming. I don’t know if it’s internal stress or that palpable thermometer of threat soaring upward in this city, this country, this age. We’re all on a hair trigger — not just me.

I often wonder what I would do if someone took out a gun at a movie theater or a shank on the 2 train. How would I get away? Could I take down an attacker?

I am forever envisioning acts of heroism, self defense, planning paths of escape. I know there are people out there who break the rules to the detriment of everyone else.

I’m not proud of how I handled myself on that field. Acting rash does no one any favors. And I realize that my rage wasn’t a factor in winning that game — it was a side effect.

The thing I don’t know is this. Am I afraid of my rage? Or am I comforted that I have that capacity for defense?

On the home stretch of this season and this year, it’s easy to get triggered, whether you’re on the football field or at the mall or in your mom’s kitchen. The holidays have to go “right” and be perfect. Out of nowhere, one of the many unseen wires connecting you to your sanity gets tripped, and in an instant you’re riled and furious, over something so silly—a passing comment, a roll of the eyes, a veiled insult.

Why? Because we project meaning onto those gestures, and weigh ourselves in their balance. And fear we’ll come up short.

So I say this to you and to myself:

Pause before you react.

Think before you spit words you can’t take back.

Pull a few punches now and then.

Not because the other person doesn’t deserve it, but because you risk lighting a fuse that will burn you from the inside, and the smoke makes it harder to breathe.

And you must, above all, breathe.

It’s not Romantic; It’s Ridiculous: Don’t Wait 20 Years to Make a Move

I've heard of shy, but this is nuts.

I’ve heard of shy, but this is nuts.

I like to occasionally check out the West Side Rag, this local blog listing all the restaurant openings and closings and health code violations and weird crimes that happen on the Upper West Side. And I saw this story, about a woman who had a crush on a neighborhood guy when she was 19 years old and new to New York City. She thought he was so hot. She dubbed him “Teen Idol.”

And then she did not a damn thing about it for 20 years.

That’s right. The occasion for the story isn’t just that this woman stalked him all over town, but that she wistfully watched him from afar, living his life, until one day, like a year ago, she spotted him in a building where he was working, and where she would be coming regularly. So, you know, she finally got up the nerve to introduce herself. Two decades later.

And just the other day, they got married in Central Park. That’s great! It’s also a crying shame.

Seriously?! Maybe the journalist took some liberties; maybe the woman thought he was cute but wasn’t that interested. Maybe she was involved with someone else 15 of the past 20 years. The story doesn’t say.

But what I do now is this—she waited until she was 39 to grow a pair. OK, so maybe she might have made a move when she was 22, and he may not have been ready for her, or ok, they could have gotten together, had a hot thing going, and flamed out before either of them hit 30. Doesn’t matter. You can call it fate, but I call it crazy.

My problem has always been that people say, “Ah if it’s meant to be, it will be.” But I couldn’t disagree more, because that’s like playing a chess game with fate and deciding that in order to win you won’t move any of your pieces around.

(Read more of my strong feelings about fate. Strong language advisory.)

Say something! 

My question to you is this: You see someone who appeals to you, even a little? What on God’s earth are you waiting for? This city, and most cities, are crawling with people, and the continual churn of randomness of it all is such that you just may not get this chance again.

You say, “Oh but I don’t want to have to ask a guy out.” (Men, you have no excuse. Man up.) But ladies, you don’t have to do that. But you do have to swing that door open so he knows you’re there and that he’s welcome to walk through. And I can’t tell you how many times it’s paid off (many). Including my last serious relationship, which happened because I left my card behind and he followed up.

Ok, I’ll admit, even I choke sometimes: I was playing touch football in a Zogsports league as I do in the spring and fall, and I spotted a cutie, but was like, Jesus, what the hell do I do? Walk up to him at 3pm on a Sunday and ask him out? That’s weird. Hit on him in front of his friends as they change their shoes? No. So I didn’t do anything. Like a dummy.

Then…last game of the season, guess who we’re playing. Yup. It was a tense game, overtime, the whole thing. We win. Long story, I was late, so I hadn’t played this game, but you better believe I jumped in to do the whole “good game” hand shake thing. And when I got to this handsome fella, I shook his hand and smiled and said quite simply, “You’re so cute.” I said it with a big smile and a silly energy, since it was a high-energy game and I just went with it. “You’re cute, too,” he said. “Well, I regretted not telling you that the first time we played you,” I said.

His reply? “Want to get a drink sometime?”

Yes. Yes I would.

Truth is, he could have said, “Oh, that’s sweet, but I’m married,” or “Why thank you,” and then nothing. Who cares? What do I lose by doing that? Nothing. How am I supposed to know what his deal is. It’s the most blissfully ignorant moment of all. Worst case scenario? He is blushing and flattered and you made his damn day.

Bottom line: Do not wait around and stare at people from afar. Make yourself known. Or you’ll find yourself hobbling toward some old hottie in the nursing home, saying, Didn’t you used to eat at Ray’s Pizza in the 90s? And then your dentures will fall out of your head.

(Read also: How to happen to the hottest guy in the room.)