Dating and Jiu Jitsu
I recently cancelled a date I was supposed to have with a guy. We both like to run, and he rock climbed. He had a vague interest in the fact that I train jiu jitsu. One day he asked how my training that morning had gone, and I told him that I was worried about getting cauliflower ear because swelling had started and it was very painful.
He proceeded to tell me that I'll have to keep my hair down around him 24/7.
Cue the sirens. Red flags everywhere.
All of a sudden I realized I was too busy and couldn't make it for our plans. And no, I couldn't reschedule.
He. Had. Insulted. My. Potential. Cauliflower Ear!
I took a minute to check myself: Was I offended out of vanity, or was I offended because it demonstrated a lack of appreciation for something that I love so much?
Now, I like to look nice, and I have no shame in being a "girly girl". So yes, I was slightly terrified when I realized why it hurt so much to put my head on my pillow at night. After repeated blows, blood was collecting in my ear and without draining, was affecting the cartilage and would soon create scar tissue and deform. Lovely.
Even so, I realized there was no question. I would choose jiu jitsu, and my burgeoning cauliflower ear, any day, hands down, over a dude who doesn't get it. Not that non-jits guys are bad, cause they're not. But I would much rather just train than to have to continuously justify and apologize for what is happening to my ear. I got over it pretty quick when I decided that permanent disfiguration of my ears is, in the long run, a price I am willing to pay to continue doing something that I love so much.
I already knew that jiu jitsu was affecting my life in various areas (in a good way). It was this instance, however, when I realized that jiu jitsu was, in a very real way, affecting my dating options.
I have encountered only two responses when a guy finds out that I am into BJJ:
1) "That's hot, will you choke me?"
2) "I'm scared of you now."
You know what I would really like to hear instead? "That's really interesting, how did you get into that?". Or, "That's cool, why do you like it so much?".
But no. It simply tends to go back to either sexualization or whether or not I'm tougher than he is. Neither of which are excellent grounds for building the kind of relationship that I would have in mind.
Now, I'm not saying cauliflower ear is something anyone needs to find attractive, but I will say that I shouldn't be asked to hide it.
Since starting jiu jitsu, I have taken out all of my piercings. I refrain from sculpting the long, beautiful, French-manicured nails that I love so much. In fact, I have gotten rid of all of my nail polish (except for one bottle that I couldn't part with!). I have pared my makeup bag down to the basics, because I barely wear makeup anymore since it barely seems worth it to put it on and then just take it off for class. Which, for someone who loves lipstick and mascara and highlighter, can be kind of sad.
I feel like I'm constantly playing a game of priorities. Which do I enjoy more?
Sliding the mascara brush up between my lashes, or sliding my leg over someone's shoulder to catch them in a triangle?
Pushing my contour brush into my bronzer palette and under my cheekbones, or pushing my shoulder into my opponent's jaw and/or neck?
Deciding which shade of lipstick to play with that day, or deciding which choke to go for when I have someone's back?
It's been interesting to explore my identity as a woman, and what that rests upon, while being involved in BJJ. I asked for some people's feedback about the situation with the guy who said I'd have to keep my hair down around him. It seems like most people felt it was good that I had dodged a bullet, and it reflected the possibility that this particular guy felt intimidated.
That's the part that bugs me. The idea that my priority should be to make him feel comfortable by hiding the fact that I regularly engage in jiu jitsu training.
No amount of lipstick or hair or perfume is going to make some people comfortable with a woman who could potentially submit them.
So, the inciting incident: When anonymous rock climbing guy told me to keep my hair down to hide the cauliflower ear, was I offended out of vanity, or was I offended because it meant he cared more about how I looked than about jiu jitsu and my involvement in it?
I'm not going to lie - the fact that some people are going to find it gross and will find that reason enough to dismiss me doesn't feel good. But then again, giving up jiu jitsu would feel ten thousand times worse than their transient rejection. And perhaps it makes my job easier; being real means you're going to polarize. People will filter themselves out of my life on their own volition, and if they do that because of jiu jitsu, then I'm almost certainly better off without them.
I don't need someone to find cauliflower ear attractive. But I do need someone with something better to say than, "Put your hair down".