That's me on the right, shortly before heading out to the battlefield.
I like to hit people with sticks. But, we won't be talking about my sex life.
There was a time in my undergraduate studies when I decided to reject everything considered masculine. I had just started learning about feminist philosophies and the associated feminine ideals: pacifism rather than violence, gentleness rather than strength, and love and the erotic rather than pain and competition. My readings convinced me that maleness was something to diminish rather than champion. The patriarchal structure of societies seemed to be the root cause of oppression and warfare. Matriarchal societies, as illustrated in my books, were about cooperation, farming, and a communal society of ideals. Matriarchal religions, worshiping a feminine goddess or the sacred feminine, were more about love and the erotic, and less about hellfire and beating the loving snot out of heathens.
Additionally, I had a thing for scarily smart women (still do) and a lot of them were getting into that avenue of philospophy.
I learned a lot about gender and women during that period of my life, but I remember feeling disquieted, like I was hungry and wasn't feeding. Riding wildly through D.C. on my motorcycle provided some sustinence, but it wasn't quite my thing. A ticket for reckless riding stopped that sort of nonsense quickly.
One evening, while drunk, I received a text from a friend that set me off. I don't even remember what the text was about, but I do remember pounding on my dorm door until it busted off the hinges and bounced off the opposing wall. My hands hurt. The door was trashed. People were coming out of their rooms to find out what the hell was going on. And, I felt good. Real good.
I've always been a violent sort. My mother used to joke that our phone number was on the principal's speed dial. Weekly meetings with school staff about my fighting became routine for both my mother and I. The kids in the school yard had a deal - they'd get to make my life miserable and in return, I'd get to beat the snot out of them.
My mother tried her best to channel this aggression into sports. I played ice hockey, but preferred bashing people into the walls instead of playing with the puck. In middle school and high school, I wrestled. I also tried football, but found that my size hadn't caught up to my aggressive tendencies. The bigger boys made short work of my knee and that was the end of my sporting career.
Hellspawn's birth sent my Bedmate into the maw of severe Post-Partum depression. It was bad enough that some Psychiatrists labeled it a psychosis. We weren't living with my parents yet and I was holding down a full time job while working on my graduate degree. I had become thin ice. The baby needed me. The boss needed me. My Bedmate needed me too, although any attempts at helping were met with gnashed teeth and a wounded stare. I still had homework to do and keeping it a priority made life rather interesting for awhile.
I needed an outlet, otherwise I was just going to take Hellspawn, put him in the car, and drive off without telling anyone where we went. Getting into tussles at parties helped a bit, but it ruined my clothes and there was always the risk of hurting someone badly and being on the hook financially.
While flipping through the net some time in the early morning, while taking a break from watching Hellspawn sleep and doing homework, I stumbled on some pictures provided by the Society for Creative Anachronism. The pictures showed folks in full metal regalia pounding on each other with sticks.
I looked at the pictures, and corresponding movies, for hours. I wanted to do that. I needed to do that.
A few months later, I found myself at a a local SCA fighter's practice, learning the safety rules. Fighting in the SCA is inherently dangerous. Fighters can be over 6 feet tall and 300lbs of solid muscle. One fighter I know can put a dent in a 11gauge steel helmet with a stick of rattan. Rattan is a member of the grass family, chosen as the weapon of choice by SCA fighters for it's softness and flexibility. SCA fighters, at a minimum, need groin protection, joint protection, head and neck protection, and kidney protection. Most fighters tend to wear leather and steel, much like the warriors in olden times. Some idiots get by with the bare minimum of protection.
Being the competative snot I am, I decided to forgo chest and shoulder protection during one intense practice. For weeks after, I enjoyed the pyschadelic colors of very large and very ugly bruises on my body. And, I have always since worn the most gear than I can without looking like the Michelin Man.
Not my ass.
Fighting in the SCA is G-d's best stress relief. There's nothing better for me to do than tear through a group of people, banging on each as hard as I can until I reach the other end, panting, exhausted, sore, and feeling alive.
Can you find the Jon? (Hint. Look for the DEAF helmet)
At 26, I've come to terms with my violent tendencies. But, I've tempered them, and redirected myself to the appropriate activities. That's ultimately the crux of being a man - knowing the strength and dangeousness of the masculine and using them wisely. A real man doesn't beat his wife and kids. He beats other people with sticks within a structured environment. A real man embraces his competative nature, but cautions it with humility and a bit of chilvarly thrown in.
I'm grateful to the SCA for keeping me sane.
Hellspawn shows some of the same affinity for violence that his ol' man has. I intend to teach him to balance his feminine and masculine - not allowing either to dominate the other. And, when he's old enough, I'm going to put a stick in his hands and show him how to pound other people into the ground. Lovingly, of course, and without breaking any of the safety rules.
A view from a field battle at Pennsic 36