The white girl with the blonde cornrows and the sleeves of tattoos is dancing in the corner, her feet prancing from right to left, blankly appraising the two men swinging at one another with arms and legs in the ring just beyond. Her fight is coming up. We watch as she prepares.
Our group is collectively confident in her abilities, though we have nothing to go off of aside from the aforementioned pre-fight dance, her wide-bodied coach with the mohawk, and, frankly, what she looks like—because what she looks like is something you don’t want to mess with in a bar after you’ve had a couple drinks and are feeling mouthy. Her partner has not yet been revealed, but we already know who is going to win: This chick, because she’s a bad bi***.
For the last year, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting my septum pierced. On account of my general aversion to pain and an overwrought decision-making process that often feels like starting out with a perfectly supple piece of raw bread dough that I’ve kneaded and kneaded and kneaded until the thing turns into an inedible stone, I have faltered on the follow-through. When I mentioned it to a friend recently, he rolled his eyes and told me I wasn’t tough enough for a septum ring, though I don’t necessarily associate with toughness. Since Givenchy put them in his SS12 Haute Couture show, they are, at least to me, strictly fashion. That, and on the inside I am too tough enough! I might be blonde and ineffectual looking, but my spirit animal is Lisbeth Salander! Just like this white girl with the cornrows who looks like a rough-and-tumble Bo Derek on roids!
Upon the eventual revelation of Cornrows’ competitor, we are still convinced we have already picked the winner. The other girl is sturdy in a way reminiscent of professional softball players, with their strong thighs and square midsections. No tattoos cover her tan skin. Her hair is pulled back into a simple ponytail. The rhythmic wail of the sarama bellows from a handful of speakers while she performs the traditional Muay Thai rituals before they begin, bowing towards all points on a compass while ribbons from her headpiece fall about her face. She is easy, benign, a well-fed kitty cat, really. She will be pummeled, eaten alive. Because she does not look tough enough.
But then the fight begins, and the girls are pit against one another, two planets falling towards the gravity-soaked center of inevitable impact. The jittery scrappiness of Cornrows serves her poorly; once in the ring, she exerts herself with needless jabs when she should be conserving her energy, keeping her arms tight and close to her body. Within minutes, her face is a violent crimson, cheeks puffed out like a child’s.
The other girl, both nondescript in form and flourish, takes her time, landing blows at methodically, intelligently chosen times, like a clock hitting its mark right on the hour. Boom. Boom. Boom. Until, finally, the blow that sends Cornrows to the ground, tattoos and sweaty skin and all, her little braided tails like flailing white flags. Victory to the girl confident enough in her badness on the inside to not need to communicate it on the outside.
Once you’re in the ring, it’s not enough just to look the part.