Last week, at the end of my Foil Fencing class, I got to duel with the only group member who I’d not previously battled with – a short young woman, who seemed to be a broadly happy person. Following our regular instruction in technique and theory, and with good humour abounding, I pointed at the young woman from afar and… she knew. We had what proved to be an unusually tricky battle, this opponent’s target area (the torso) being much smaller than previous opponents’. This reminded me of childhood football when some kid would move the jumper-goalposts in a bit – just not sporting. Anyway, we duelled and I… well, I won – not that that was important of course. We shook hands, removed masks, saluted our instructor and left the arena.
ShortBird: You were good – fast.
Shane: (unthinking – oh so stupidly unthinking) Mm, and you were inconveniently short.
ShortBird: (a bit shocked, I saw the jaw drop) That’s not really a compliment, is it.
Shane: (counter-shocked, I suspect ShortBird could hear me scratching about for a recovery one-liner) …And wily. Yes, very wily… like a… tiny wily firework.
She seemed offended. Our motley half dozen fencers left the building. I noticed a young man – boyfriend presumably – waiting for ShortBird in the car park.
Before this week's class, I felt that it was important to have some positive interaction with ShortBird – though I wasn’t in the mood for apologising for her having shortist issues.
Last night, on entering the sports hall, I noticed ShortBird chatting to Daniel – a quiet man with an untrusting gaze, and a similar age to me, one redeeming feature being that he had previously laughed at the right moment when I’d made self-deprecating remarks. ‘Now’ I thought, ‘strike early – get in there, be positive, show ShortBird that you think she’s ok and be nice to young Daniel too’. I had no right to think of Daniel as especially young, but it felt airy and jaunty and carefree and light – just what you want before trying to stick a steel spike into someone.
Shane: (approaching, to each, consecutively, with a nod and eye contact) Young hound, young hound.
Daniel: Alright, Shane.
ShortBird: You calling me a dog?!
Shane: (unbelieving) …
ShortBird: Only kidding. (Amused) I think I might have been a bit sharp with you last week.
Shane: (thinking ‘PMT’) Is that a bit of fencing humour, right there?
Daniel: (laughs) Sharp – swords, good one.
Shane: Mm. Thanks, Dan.
ShortBird: Oh yeah, sharp – fencing, good one.
Seamless, these interactions are, truly seamless. The term ‘my people’ springs to mind.