When I was growing up, I was—unfortunately—a little guy. Eventually I grew to almost six feet tall (never quite made it, had to settle for 5-113/4), but my growth spurt didn’t hit until the teenage years. This meant that as a youth in sports I was always small. How small you ask? Consider the following. In elementary school in Montgomery, Alabama, there were several levels of football leagues, depending on weight. There were leagues for the big guys, the medium-sized guys, and the little guys. The little guys were called the Pee-Wees. Amongst the Pee-Wees, there were the big Pee-Wees (Blue) and the little Pee-Wees (Gray). However, down below the Pee-Wees were the Termites: big Termites (Blue) and little Termites (Gray).
Well, I was a Grey Termite for all four years of my football career—from ages 7-10 inclusive. I never even made it to the Blue Termites, much less to the high, exalted Pee-Wees! This meant that for several years I was constantly getting beat up on, run over, mashed into the ground, stepped on, stiff-armed, bruised, and shoved aside in every practice and every game. And I loved it! I loved the contact, the physical battery, etc., even if I was usually on the receiving end. I must admit that in my fourth year as a Grey Termite (age10), I was finally bigger than most of my 7 and 8 year old teammates, but I don’t recall that year being any more fun than the others. It was the physical contact I loved, and the power and force of it, whether I was hitting or being hit, whether I was leveling the other guy or being leveled.
Similarly, I took several years of boxing lessons from about ages 8-10. I still have the old mimeographed outlines of the moves and counter-moves. (My dad was in the Air Force and wanted to see to it that I was toughened up.) All those years, I was usually fighting—in practice or in matches—someone who was 11/2 to 2 times my size and weight. So again, I was usually getting pummeled, and again I loved it. Even if I was getting beat up, I was happy. One time in three years, I remember a single great moment of triumph. I was fighting a fellow twice my size, but he stumbled on his own big toe at one point and while off-balance, I landed a right-cross to his jaw with everything I had. More due to his own momentum than to the power of my punch, he careened toward the ropes, neatly went through them instead of into them, and sprawled out across the gym floor. For all the world it looked like I had knocked him out of the ring. Everyone looked at me with new respect, despite my diminutive size, after that one! But, as in football, such triumphs where not essential to my happiness in the sport. I thought it was great to get knocked around and up and down. Why?
It showed that I was a man. I could take a hit—and occasionally give one. This taught me a lot about life, since we often have to take more hits than we give—and we have to live and learn from it. Early on, I learned that we will lose many times in our lives. Our dreams of championships and glory will come true only rarely; often we will get beat up, run over, mashed, stepped on, stiff-armed, bruised, and shoved aside in life. Yet we can endure, get up again, and nobly continue—like a character in a Faulkner novel. "They endured."
This gave me a feeling of maturity and confidence. I could take the blows (and the failures and the disappointments) and realize that didn’t mean my life was over (or worthless). I could get up again—to fight another day! This in itself was a victory—to endure and to take the field of battle again tomorrow. That’s why I was happy even when getting pummeled. It showed I could take it; it showed I was tough. One of my favorite memories, at about age 8, was playing a much bigger football team in the rain and mud, and getting steamrollered on every play, offense or defense. It was 49-0 at half-time. My one bright moment was being the player who officially accepted a 5 yard off-side penalty against the other team (about the only yards we gained that day).
Now my question to you girls is, are you the same? Do you take pride in being physically pummeled and showing up the next day to take it again if necessary? Is this a primary way in which you learn about life? Or do you learn the same life-lessons in a different way? My impression is that there is a significant difference here (whether attributable to nature, nurture, or choice is a further question).