An old pair of gloves

It’s been a hell of a lot of years since I saw that aged gym, as a young man. The morning sun had not even cracked the sky, and I had already seen five miles of city, while I wore down those black sneakers, trying to reach a place most of the guys I knew were running away from.

Gene’s place looked like it had seen too many demolition crews, with the dry wall cracked off old slats, and Plaster of Paris crumbling through the holes. The smell of stale sweat was enough to make a billy goat want to lose it’s lunch, and I would be lying if I said I did not have to steel myself before walking into those ancient wooden doors. The only thing worth saving in the entire place was that beautiful hardwood floor, shining and mopped every day. That and the ring, with faded blood stains from fights years passed; still etched into the canvas that showed them off like precious trophies.

Stepping into a solitary soft light over the heavy bag, my taped hands would sting from the old black leather, and somewhere behind me, that old man would speak in a voice that had been gargled in gravel for a good 70 years. “Go to the body Matty, take that bag’s wind.”

Some memories you cannot get to fade away, and some moments haunt you until your last breath. But the one moment that defined that old man and my friendship came down to one sentence, “If you do not get in the ring Matty, you will never know what you are made of and I wont either.”  The trouble is, that was the very thing that led me to that gym in the first place, to learn how to steel myself against the fight that was coming. We all have to face down a bully once in our life, and that was why I was there, because I was never really good with living with fear. The truth is, that fear was the motivation behind courage and action, so maybe I learned how to shake hands with it, at least in the short haul.

In today’s society, what I was doing would be considered unacceptable on multiple levels. Certainly fine young civilized boys do not learn the “sweet science.” It is a barbaric, aggressive, and uncivilized display of male physical dominance. At least, that is what my ninth grade teacher, an early feminist, had said to me when she saw I had my boxing gear in a gym bag. The comment was made to me in the middle of class, “Maybe you want to box so you can learn to hit the poor girl who is foolish enough to marry you, harder, after a night of drinking?” This got a lot of chuckles from my peers, and I just sat there, thoroughly confused and embarrassed. This certainly was not the beginning of the routine indoctrination and humiliation that young boys must deal with when being raised in a feminist education system. It certainly was not the end, either.

To state that western society is a male dominated society, is a foolish representation, at best. You can see it everyday, that foolishness, when you see a man in the grocery store, being ceaselessly berated by some woman who stripped his individuality from him years before, as the weeks groceries are purchased. He walks with his shoulders slumped, and the tired resignation of the forlorn. Perhaps if you would slowly watch the shopping trip, you would see him smile softly at the child with him, a sign of life still behind those eyes, while he endures the emasculating barbs his master throws at him.

You can see it in the man cleaning the floors, as some mid-level feminist master orders him to take the few pieces of paper from the trash as he walks by, making sure she says it in front of others as she demonstrates her power. You can see it in the unemployment lines, where a man who could build a house, or run power through a skyscraper, waits quietly for his place to talk to an employment counselor. His eyes are lifeless, save for the desperation that comes from knowing you have no income, there are mouths to feed, and more barbs to endure at home.

In my first amateur fight, it took me a moment, standing outside the ring, under the lights in an old arena. It took a moment, to fight back the fear, and go from standing outside the ring, to standing face to face with an amazing young fighter. Sooner or later, you have to stand face to face with that opponent. Sooner or later, you have to tape up your hands, so you can trade punches with Goliath. In the third round of the fight, that magnificent fighter fell, and was counted out. As I stood there, feeling battered and worn, that old man said to me “Now you know what you are made of, kid.”

Somewhere along the way, I hung up those old gloves. I spent more time hitting the books instead of that weathered bag. I miss that sport, though many would argue it barbaric. I have never made any apologies for getting in the ring, and I sure as hell wont offer any today. Another truth is, that every single individual in this movement is staring down Goliath. Take a good hard look, and realize how big the monster is that you are fighting. Every time I stare at that monster, I wonder if I have enough inside me; if, at my age, I have the one good fight left in me. Then I realize the string of fighters before me that this juggernaut has beaten down. It has taken good men, decent men, and whipped them like animals in the court system, until they were empty shells. It has left them buried under the rubble of wars, and early deaths at the hands of hard labor. It has left them on the streets empty, stripped of their lives, their possessions, and even the dearest of things, their child’s smile.

I have been standing outside the ring for a hell of a long time, and I just watched it. I watched it happen to some of the best friends I have ever had. I have watched it happen to men behind a computer screen, and felt the beatings they took as they wrote of their struggles. I just watched as the bully pushed well meaning and honest men into the worst of despair and desperation, lost in alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression. To be even more honest, I watched it happen to me, as well.

There comes a time when a young man has to find what he is made of, and there comes a time when an older man has to remember what he is made of. I have been outside the ring too long. At my age, and after everything this bully has done to me, I have nothing left to lose, and everything to gain. It is time to stare down the Goliath called the feminist movement, and that sound in the distance of the mountains of Colorado is a bell ringing, and I am coming to fuck your shit up.

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