I’m an overachiever. My party trick is arm wrestling. When I learned the Warrior Room, a gym in Milwaukie, holds an annual charity ladies’ arm wrestling match, I was in.
I signed up with the name Abigail Guniway, a play on Portland’s own Abigail Duniway, the prominent turn-of-the-century women’s rights activist. I knew the competition was supposed to be mainly for show, GLOW-style; nonetheless, I considerably stepped up my strength training.
By the time of the match, I could do 20 pull-ups. To promote the event and sell more tickets, I took to social media, promising to “put the suffer back in women’s suffrage.” On game day, I was nervous but ready. In my costume, I looked straight out of 1905. Friends came to cheer me on. However, I was matched against the event’s reigning champ. “This’ll be fun,” she smiled sweetly with a wink. As I walked onstage, I theatrically tore my sleeves off, slammed a glass of tequila ... and promptly had my ass handed to me. She beat me three times on both arms in under five minutes. That woman probably lifts 50-pound bells with her wrists alone, and had the technique down. She beat everyone, heavyweights included.
I consoled myself by saying that I’d lost only to the champ. But, honestly, I was humiliated. I’m not afraid of taking risks, but losing so swiftly was a total psychic embuggerance. After drinks with my friends, I spent the night on my couch, in the fetal position.
I spent days nursing my battered ego (and tendonitis in my elbows). And then I quietly admitted my defeat on social media. Unlike my inner drill sergeant, my friends responded with comforts and kindnesses. My husband bought me fail flowers. “Not winning after a big show of bravado is the emotional equivalent of putting a nipple into an electric pencil sharpener,” wrote one friend. “I still think you’re a badass.” She’s right. The experience taught me two lessons: first, I need more weight training; more important, I can be kind to myself even when I’m not winning.
If Abigail Duniway could keep fighting after women’s suffrage lost in Oregon five times, Abigail Guniway can rebound, too.