T here are lot of things about a person, physically, that help shape how others view them. And many of us spend out entire lives tweaking our personal presentation through the way we dress, or by the types of exercise we do; and of course, through our hairstyle. But there’s one area of personal attention that I’ve always paid close attention to, and which, I might add, is sadly lacking among young people today. This area is in how a person carries him or herself.
Ages ago, before it was widely recognized that women held talents beyond those of the household variety, young ladies were taught how to walk, how to sit, and generally how to present themselves to company (and young ladies, nothing is less attractive than a woman who slouches all the time. Be proud, be strong, pull your shoulders back and look men in the eye.
Men, on the other hand, have never had formal training; rather, we learned to pattern ourselves after our heroes, and those we thought cool. For a man, a large part of the way he carries himself is in the way he walks.
There’s the Peter Parker, “Maybe if I don’t look up, nobody will notice me” walk.
And then there’s my personal favorite, the Obi Wan Kenobi, “…move along, there’s nothing to see here” walk that tells people, “Hey, beneath this calm exterior, lies pain you don’t wanna mess with. Feel free to admire from a distance, but generally leave me alone.”
So, when I was in my early teens, my father and I were walking through the mall together, something we rarely did because he hated shopping. While walking, he casually mentioned to me that I should, “Stop bouncing.”
When I asked what he meant, he explained that I was strutting and that I had a bounce to my walk.
Well, being a short feller, I had been the object of many a bully’s attention. Most times, I’d been able to avert those attentions, sometimes through implied aggression and other times through simple avoidance, but the last thing I wanted, was to draw attention to myself through a bouncy, strutty, “Hey, come take my lunch money!” kind of walk.
So, over the years, I have strived (striven? strove?) to remove all traces of a cocky bounce from my gait, and instead turn it into a smooth stride that says, “Ignore me if you’d like” even if it wasn’t terribly graceful. I like this walk in the gym especially, because, while I’m not a powerhouse, for my size, I use a lot of weight and as I move around, I like the economy of movement it provides, while also making me appear humble, and not like some muscle-bound roid freak! I’ve found that what I’ve strove to achieve, is very much like what Tai Chi teaches about walking, though I never made the connection until recently.
But since my latest back injury, my smooth walk has gone out the window. I’ve become this flat foot landing, leg dragging hunchback instead. What I’m finding now as the pain starts to dissipate, is that my body still wants to walk like this, even though the pain isn’t really there. It’s become my new walk and it IS NOT a graceful thing of beauty. I am not a gazelle!
It’s taking me real effort to attempt to walk normally, because somewhere in my head, my brain is telling my legs and feet that if they try and take a full step, and if they try to land heel to toe, it’s gonna hurt. And while the pain isn’t all gone, it’s certainly not like it was.
So if you see someone walking down the road and your mind vacillates back and forth over whether he looks like Quasimodo or a really cool martial arts dude that could probably kick your butt, it might be me (but I probably could not kick your butt).