Saturday, August 22, 2009

Game On: A Tale of Passive-Aggressive Competitiveness

Tonight is date night, so this will be quick, simple, and random. I have a glass of Boulevard Sixth Glass waiting for me upstairs and a movie queued in the DVD player ("Public Enemy" or "Public Enemies." One has Johnny Depp and is recent. The other stars a young James Cagney in the pre-code days. We're watching the latter. I get the titles criss-crossed).

We had a crazy day today, and I found myself mowing the backyard for the first time since we moved back to Missouri last year. In my bachelorette days, I mowed my own yard and really enjoyed it. When Mark and I got hitched almost eight years ago, he took over the mowing duties. I think it had something to do with the fact that the yard always looked like Mr. Magoo's Lawn Service had serviced our yard when I finished. I mow similar to how I vacuum. It drives Mark crazy. So, he pretty much always mows.

But today I found myself mowing the backyard and was pleased to discover that I still love it. For me, mowing means a stretch of solitude, time to think through problems, plan a schedule, work out aggressions. It's the good kind of sweaty exercise.

It also renewed a long-dormant spark in my spirit. When I offered to mow, Mark followed me into the garage so could start the mower. He said the machine was hard to start and that I wouldn't be able to do it.

ALERT! ALERT! The phrase, "You can't do it," puts me up a tree and has me pulling on my mental boxing gloves. The thought that someone thinks I'm incapable of something - anything - pulls my competitive streak front and center. By nature, I'm really not competitive. But when someone blatantly makes it a competition or slaps me with a challenge, watch out. You are toast. I love that about myself.

Some examples:

College, Freshman Year: My dorm mate and I made it through the first semester before we decided we really didn't like each other. She waltzed into our room one day (post-friendship) and bragged loudly about how many sit ups she did in PE. She fancied herself an athlete and knew that I didn't have a sporting bone in my body. When it came my turn for the sit up pre-test, my only goal was to beat her by one sit up. And I did. Actually I beat her by quite a few more than one. College algebra? She got a "D" and had to retake the class. I signed up for the same professor and eeked out a "C." SNAP. BURN. Is that toast I smell?

College Graduation: After my second year of college, I decided to ditch the idea of becoming a teacher (long story). Instead, I earned a B.A. in English. My parents fretted endlessly over my decision. I could tell by their casual comments and blatant criticisms that they thought I had morphed into their loser daughter who would live with them for the rest of their lives. After all, what can a person do with an English degree? Game on. I built a successful corporate career that brought opportunities I never thought I would experience. I've since traded that life in for one in the public sector - as a teacher.

Life in General: There is a downside to having a passive-aggressive competitive edge. The one downer that comes to mind involves alcohol. In my younger days, if someone tried to cut off the flow of adult beverages before I thought I was ready, all hell broke loose. It took many quite a few years and quite a few doozy hangovers before I listened to the little voice in my head that agreed with alcohol cutter-offer.

I hadn't felt that spark of confidence and competitiveness for quite awhile. It poked its head out today. I marched out to the garage in my orange Saucony perfect-for-yard-work sneakers, yanked on the cord, and sneered a sneer of satisfaction when the mower roared to life. Game over. Now move along. I have some mowing to do.

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