Tag: family

“But You Know It’s Fake,Right?”

Childhood, Pro Wrestling, and Being a Mark

Back before “sports entertainment” was a thing, my dad ran an independent wrestling company. Think less Vince McMahon and more flea market Jim Cornette.

He’d book shows in high school gyms, bingo halls, auction barns, basically anywhere that had space for a 16x16ft ring.  Because of that, I spent the first five summers of my life stuffed between my parents in a late 70s Chevy Silverado. This was a time before mandatory child seats, seat belts, and common safety knowledge. We travelled the Carolinas, towing behind us a trailer full of wood and metal. The bed of the truck was full of mats and turnbuckles, 12 packs of Natural Lite and multicolour cable ropes.  At our feet were empty Salem cigarette boxes, beer cans, and a black belt with a big metal plate.

We’d arrive at an empty building around midday and my dad and his motley crew of weekend performers would go to work setting the ring up. I would sit on the bleachers, a few toys in hand and watch the men strain and swear and finally turn a pile of random junk into the fabled squared circle. I’d try to stick around and watch them do run-throughs of the matches but usually, I’d be swept off by my mother to come sit with her and the other women in the concessions area. More often than not, I’d sneak off to go hang out with my dad and the other menfolk, getting ready for that night’s show. It was there I was schooled in the secrets of the business.

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One of the secrets of wrestling is that there are these things called “works”. A “work” is when you get over on a crowd. It’s the act of getting people to suspend disbelief long enough to become emotionally invested in what you’re doing. It’s a grown-up version of playing pretend.  As an example; On April 27th, 1991 during the peak of a white-hot feud, Earthquake (Whose real name was John Tenta. He was billed as 6’7ft 486 lbs) crushed a bag that held Jake “The Snake” Roberts pet python Damien. Damien had been Roberts’ sidekick and was a character in his own right. When Earthquake “crushed” his bag, the crowd went wild. Those fans that lost their minds and completely bought into the story are known as “marks”. With Roberts tied up in the rings, he was unable to do anything but watch this huge mountain of a man crush his pet and only friend presumably to death. Roberts work is some of the best ever to grace the inside of a ring, and that night he was on point. His face full of despair, he yelled and screamed for Earthquake to stop, for it to all not be true. In reality, it wasn’t true. The snake was never in any danger and Jake Roberts didn’t watch his only friend die. The role of Damien that night was played by ground meat shoved inside a pair of pantyhose.

Too many times I was hauled away from the wrestlers and forced to sit still and be quiet in some boring corner, far away from the banging of bodies on the mat and counts of three. In those moments when dad and the crew overruled my mother, I was the official gopher for the night. I’d run the lengths of the gym, hauling beer, towels, cups of water to the guys in the back.  Before the main event, I would usually be out of sight, asleep in the truck far away from the crowd. Wrestling was a constant in my life, and I loved every bit of it.

Growing up in the Carolinas it was kind of hard not to be surrounded by the sport. The closest major city to my little backwoods hometown was not only the home of Jim Crockett Promotions (which would be sold to Ted Turner in the late 80s and become World Championship Wrestling) but also the home to one of the biggest names in wrestling, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

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Arrogant and flamboyant,  confident and animated, Ric Flair was, and still is, pro wrestling. From his expensive shoes to his bedazzled and feathered robes, he was the icon for the sport. His theatrics, his ability to tell a story not only with his passionate speaking/screaming but also his body set the bar for how a professional wrestler should perform. In my eyes, he and the men he faced in the ring were more than human. They were like the Greek gods. But with championship belts and American accents.

And that’s what the allure of pro wrestling is. It’s men who look like superheroes acting out comic book storylines live and in person. It’s bigger than life characters taking part in beautifully violent choreographed battles. Good guys versus bad guys, babyfaces versus heels, heroes versus villains, add some beautiful ladies and it’s the male equivalent of a daytime soap opera. But with way more punching than kissing.

Sadly, a real-world workplace injury brought our wrestling adventures to an end not long after I turned six. The ring was broken apart and not put back together. It’s corner post used in the fencing for our merger herd of cattle. The hefty Silverado replaced with a smaller truck. The walls of my dad workshop stopped getting promotional poster stapled to them. It was over.

But my love for professional wrestling continued on.

It wasn’t until middle school that my love for pro wrestling, or as the regional accent in my head says “rasslin'”, became socially acceptable. But still, it wasn’t something that many girls my age were into. Along with my ill-fitting boys pants and at home butcherblock haircuts, my excitement for wrestling set me further apart from my female peers. Nevertheless, I was enthralled. What I lacked in a social life, I made up for with being a wrestling fan. No matter how many times my interest was discouraged with “But you know it’s fake, right?” I continued on.

High school and college came after and with them, more adult responsibilities than I should have had to take on. The schedule I was keeping kept me away from the TV for most of the week. Still, when I could, I would sit down Monday and Thursday nights and watch wrestling with my dad. Like keeping up with the Atlanta Braves, wrestling was how we bonded. I’d watch the spectacle of The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and DX with glee. My dad, in typical grumpy old man fashion, would complain about how wrestling had “gone to hell” and was nothing more than “a bunch of hogwash”. With the space between us filling up with more and more things, it became our last avenue for connectedness.

But like all storylines, that too would end.

The day of my courthouse wedding, it was a disagreement centred on the name of his old promotion that kept my dad from coming to witness the event. Someone had decided to use something close enough to his promotion’s name and he felt slighted they hadn’t consulted with him first.  At least, that’s the story that hurts the least to believe. If I can believe he missed my wedding for something he gave numerous years of commitment to, it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

After all, I know what a work is. And I’m a big enough mark to believe it.

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Inheritance

My family medical history reads like a Cause of Death report

Any one of the illnesses I’m set to inherit

Would be the case close decision

For any dead body in any morgue

Anywhere

And if the high blood pressure, diabetes,

And likelihood of breast and/or ovarian cancer

Doesn’t clock me out early and in excruciating pain

Those genetic mental illnesses will

Double dipped chicken fried depression

Enough borderline to go over the line

[see what I did there?]

With more than a dash of attention deficit disorder

And some potential schizoaffective disorder for good measure

And I’m not even including those addictive personality traits

that course through my family tree

Like sap in the spring

Not that I was ever given any assistance

In learning how to deal with these second-hand things

No one taught me about eating right or exercise

Or even addressed calming techniques to quiet

My brain speeding around like an energy drink loving hamster on a wheel

But my mom did teach me

That chewing up Vicodin makes them work faster

And that drinking beer with a Twizzler is super funny

Both of those lessons came before I turned fifteen

I also learned that it’s okay to throw up after you eat

Its okay to do that in the Ryan’s Steakhouse bathroom during a rare family night out

And that its ok to take so many Oxys that you don’t hear your daughter calling

Or remember how to sign your name on her brand practice logs

I know I won’t be inheriting anything grand when my folks die

At most a couple of used cars,

Maybe an old goat or two

And a trailer overflowing with pill bottles and dust.

And that’s okay,

They’ve already given me enough

 

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Keep Your Village, I Have My Witches

Before we start, I want to be honest. While kicking around the idea for this post in my head, the working title was “Keep Your Tribe, I Have My Witches”. It was a response to how the word “tribe” is used in popular culture.The more I thought about it the more uncomfortable I was with using that word. I don’t want to offend or insult anyone and I know the usage of that word does both. I don’t want to add to the appropriation.The word “village”, especially in connection with witchcraft lore, works just as well.

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Aristotle said, “Man is by nature a social animal”.  Our need for comradery and connectedness is genetic. We, as animals, need each other. But sometimes it’s not that easy. Connecting with others, especially the “wrong” type of others, hurts us more than it helps. Finding the right crowd, the right circle to surround yourself with is so very important. And one of the hardest things you will ever do.

While I pride myself on being a nice person, I am not gregarious by nature. Not only am I a homebody, I’m an introvert who struggles with social anxiety. Honestly, maybe I am a homebody because of those things. Either way, I am not a social creature.

I also am not a collector of people. I know people who pride themselves on collecting friendships, like dead butterflies pinned in shadow boxes. I am not like that. I don’t need a huge chorus of yes wo/men. I feel like this does two things. It either feeds into a cult of personality or it devalues the quality of the friendships. I don’t want a group of fans following me around, regurgitating everything I say. I’m not Jim Jones. I don’t need a fellowship.

What I have, and what I’m exceptionally grateful for, is this small little circle of people who love and cherish me the same way I love and cherish them. What this group lacks in numbers, they make up for in true honest emotion.

From a young age, I was taught by my mother that love comes with strings. Every relationship was a maze through spiderwebs of obligations. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I learned that friendship doesn’t come with prerequisites. You just love each other. You support each other. You want the best for each other. It is not a tit for tat set up. No one keeps score. You both strive to be the best you can be and help the other person when they can’t be.
I’m lucky enough to surround myself with magical ladies who inspire me constantly. These women are my support network, my therapist, my comedians, my teachers. They surround me with love and set my creativity on fire. It’s because of them I’ve dived into researching and truly living my Craft. From books to articles to tarot cards in the mail, they have helped me find my true self.

It’s also because of them and their belief in me, I’m writing again. Their support and never-ending cheerleading is a huge part of why this blog and my recent accomplishments have happened. With them at my side, I’ve been able to trust in my abilities and pursue something I’ve enjoyed since I was young.

So while you may have a village, I have my coven. And for me, a tight group of inspiring and motivated friends is all I need.

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Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Dear Toxic Friend, This Is Goodbye.

I don’t know how to start this. Perhaps my hesitation is from this not being easy or enjoyable to write. So here goes.

This is my goodbye.

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This fragile relationship of ours is no longer good for me. You are no longer good for me. Your passive aggression taints every conversation we have, like second-hand smoke in a sweater.  Somehow, no matter what our conversation is about, you warp and bend it until it reflects light onto that one time, more than a decade ago, when I fell short in your eyes. Our friendship does not make me feel good about myself. If anything, it makes me feel like a scapegoat. I’ve worked really hard to grow as a person and to cast off the shame, guilt, and self-hatred that I carried from my childhood. I can not allow you to undo what I’ve accomplished.

I’ve tried to be a good friend. I’ve tried to honor your feelings and allow you to hold them. But you used your feelings as a weapon. It’s obvious that you still hold on to the anger and pain that befell you in the past. It’s obvious that this hot coal burned its way inside your body and took residence in your heart. While I am not one to tell someone to let go and move on, I feel that for us to have worked, you needed to calm that burn. I supplied apologies as a salve, but they never seemed to soothe enough for you.

You throw shade (as the kids say these days) and make remarks that seem to have no other point than to paint me as a villain and you my victim. They seem to suggest that all your hardships are because of the perceived slight you think I performed. Just to put it to bed, my actions back then were never malicious. You know this. I acted on what my soul called me to do. It was what I personally wanted for once, instead of what was wanted for me. I explain this to you so you understand, I was just trying to live my life. No one should be kept from that OR be made feel bad because of that. Its exhausting explaining time and time again that my actions were not personal attacks. I just wanted sovereignty.

I understand your life has had ups and downs. So has mine. Everyone’s has. I will not say that anyone has had it easier or harder than anyone else. We’ve all made choices and we all deal with their consequences. That being said, you really seem set on winning some imaginary Misery Olympics. I do not support and will not take part in such games. We should be celebrating each other’s successes, not trying to impress others with who hurts the most. Pain is not something that is measurable like that. While I am sorry that your experiences haven’t all been positive ones, I don’t feel that they should be things you wave at me in an attempt to make me feel bad for or to discredit my own.

For my own mental health, I can not allow you lay your sins on me and send me out into the wild any longer. I do not hate you. I do not dislike you. I would very, very much like for us to be close again. I would like for us to have the relationship we assumed we would. But I simply can not with things in their current state. I’m sorry we can’t be the friends we imagined we would always be.

Please have a good life. I wish nothing but the best for you. But I can accept nothing but the best for me.

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