My Writing Allows Me To Be Just Slightly Braver Than My Typical Wussy-Wuss Self

(photo by roanokecollege, via Flickr)

In the hours leading up to my very first self-defense class, I worried about everything. I worried that my lack of coordination would be revealed within the first five minutes of class. I worried that there would be role-playing exercises, and that I’d make a fool of myself. I worried that, because of the nasty cold I’d had for the past week, I’d have a cough attack that I would be powerless to control. I worried that I wouldn’t find parking or that, because of rush hour traffic, I wouldn’t even get there on time.

Worrying. It’s just a thing that I do. It’s why I don’t do much else. Not anything outside of my comfort zone anyway.

Except when I’m on assignment.

When on assignment, I’ve gone to cuddle parties and porn launch parties. When on assignment, I’ve traveled around New Jersey, visiting vineyards and fancy-pants restaurants and making my own wine. When on assignment, I’ve posed nude for an intimate portrait and taken salsa-dancing lessons. When on assignment, I have ably interviewed people who, in any other situation, I would be awkwardly fangirling over.

I’ve been wanting to take a self-defense class for years. But there were always so many things to worry about. Then I found myself writing about empowerment self-defense for the final chapter in my book, and I knew it was time to suck it up and experience this thing first hand. I registered for a five-week self-defense class for women and transpeople at the Center for Anti-Violence Education and tried to mentally prepare myself for everything that could go wrong. As one does.

I’ll be writing about my self-defense class experience in my book, but what I can tell you is that some of the things I worried about did, indeed, come to pass. At my first class, we were split up into groups of three so we could do ::whispers with horror:: role-playing. When I drove into Brooklyn for my second class, the parking garage I’d used the week before was full and I had to find metered street parking, which made me anxious because I find the parking laws of New York City to be bewildering and inscrutable. Also, my car was broken into years ago after I parked it in Soho, and I’ve been paranoid about NYC street parking ever since. Then, near the end of class, I had a goddamn cough attack that lasted for a full 10 minutes, so I’m pretty sure everyone in class now thinks I’m carrying a terrifying disease they may or may not contract from breathing the same air as me.

Still, I’m enjoying class. And the world does not collapse around me when I’m forced to press up against my fears. And I’m learning how to protect myself. And it’s making me feel more bad-ass than usual.

Maybe this will be the time I internalize the lesson that even my worst fears are not so terrible.

At the end of that first class, we talked about the boundaries we create for ourselves. How we deserve to have those boundaries respected. How we need to learn to trust our bodies when they tell us that something is wrong. “You deserve to be happy. You deserve to feel safe,” one of the instructors told us. And it’s an important lesson to learn. Women and other marginalized populations are forever valuing others’ comfort over their own. Often, it’s a form of self-protection. We just don’t know how else to keep ourselves safe. We haven’t been given those tools.

But it’s tough to know when to trust ourselves when, so often, fear is something we create for ourselves out of thin air.

Here’s to recalibrating my internal spidey senses. And to challenging myself—assignment or no—even more.