I'm a smart, funny, fit, educated 33-year-old divorcee who is actively involved in martial arts. The guys at the dojo aren't afraid of me -- they're as tough as I am -- but they're all married. Guys outside the dojo are afraid, even though I rarely discuss and never display my self-defense skills in public. Where can I find a date who's self-assured enough not to care what kind of belt I wear?
Dear Hidden Blossom,
I wonder what you mean by "afraid." Do they tremble when they see you? Do they hide under a table? Do they beg you not to hit them? Do they wet themselves? Or is it something more subtle: Are you saying that men outside the dojo seem wimpy to you, that they don't display the kind of athletic confidence you find attractive in a man?
If it's the latter, I think you can rest assured that there is a man out there who fits your qualifications, and your job is simply to find him. Ask the married men in your dojo about their lives. Do they have unmarried friends who are also accomplished in martial arts? Work to build your life around this pursuit, and widen your circle of acquaintances who share you passion for it by entering contests, attending matches, or taking classes at other dojos. If it's something you're happy doing, and you are good at it, you are probably at your best there, and so it's a good place to be seen by men who might be interested in you.
It helps to leave yourself out of it when you speak of the qualities you want in a man -- to say you want a man with courage rather than a man who is not afraid of you. However, there may be specific reasons why it seems to you that men are afraid of you. Perhaps in the dojo you relate to other men in a way that involves physical challenges; perhaps there is a good bit of spirited pushing and shoving, or a kind of comradely trash-talking that men outside the dojo don't seem to respond to. It might be that men outside the dojo haven't learned the aggressive responses you expect when you challenge them, either physically or verbally. Perhaps they were taught to treat women with gentleness and deference. It might not be fear, but politeness, that you see.
One deep-seated fear men have is about their ability to protect a woman from aggressive males. Your strength -- specifically, your ability to fight -- may trigger such fear and shame in men. What you sense may be not so much fear of you per se, but rather a man's troubling knowledge of his own vulnerability to the violence of other men.
It would behoove you to try to discuss with men the concepts of fear, courage and shame, and how they feel about women fighters. For instance, you might ask a man: Would you hit me? Would you box with me? Would you fight me? How would you feel if I threw you to the mat? How would you feel if we were attacked and I defeated the attackers and saved you? If nothing else, it would make for some interesting conversations.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read yesterday's column.