Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hot Arms at the Expense of a Haggard Face: A Life Lesson

Maybe it is the real giveaway that you're now over 40. Maybe it's genetics kicking in--Grandma's naso-labial folds as deep as the plowed furrows on her farm, or Uncle Joe's paunchy chimpmunk cheeks, as red as the homemade wine he loved. Maybe it's divine retribution for all those hearts you shamelessly broke when you were cute and your features could cut air. (The fact that I was usually the one heartbroken is beside the point).

Maybe, just maybe, it's the fitness side-effect no one ever talks about: intense exercise makes your body look good but your face look like crap.

Since your face can't exactly do pull-ups or push-ups or punch the bag (and oye vey, in sparring it's often the thing getting punched!), it just sits there, like the kid who could never take gym class and just watched from the bleachers. Or, maybe more accurately, like the less developed of siamese (excuse me, co-joined) siblings, the one who just flaps there while the other one, bigger and stronger, has all the fun.

The other day, looking through my Gaiam catalogue, in all its wholesome organic capitalistic goodness, I saw a gadget whose ad claims it actually exercises your face. It lists for about as much as my grad school budget weekly grocery bill.

I'm considering it.

Maybe I should bring it to the dojo in place of my mouth guard.

Of course, after a week without food but continued kickboxing and hot-arming, I may not have much face left to work with.

But that's better than the flaps, right?

I've been in a funk about this face thing for a while. If it's true that you wear your life on your face, then by the looks of of mine you'd think my life is ready for the Salvation Army bin. Then last night I had an interesting experience.

I was in the drug store across from the dojo to buy bottle of water before class. As I stood in line in my uniform, the middle-aged guy next to me, resplendent in low-slung wife-beater, hairy chest, beer gut, and shorts one generation too tight, asked me, "Hey, how do I get an outfit like that and look tough?" He was dead serious. I was almost flattered. No one has ever called me macho before. I kept my composure, however. With a Chuck Norris gleam in my eye and a cock to my head, I responded, "Go to the karate school." Then I added, wondering whose voice was coming out of my mouth, "Besides, it's not the outfit. It's the attitude."

As it turns out, there were also two baby dykes in the line in front of me. They kept stealing glances at me. I acted aloof (like I would have 20 years ago had I actually broken hearts just by being). The guy who asked for macho advice must have inspired their confidence, cause they were still outside when I left the store. The butchier of the two stopped me and asked shyly, "Are you a teacher in the karate school?" When I said no, I was a student, she persisted, as if she wanted some, I don't know, confirmation or something. Her friend smiled at me, eyelids, I kid you not, lowered. I encouraged them to check out the school for themselves, said goodnight and strode off like Shane in a gi.

Sure, almost two years in the dojo has made my body toned, sunken my cheeks, and made me look hungry (cause I am). It's also given me something else.

Now I've just got to just face it.