All I’ve ever wanted from Ronda Rousey was a normal conversation — one not filled with hyperbole and bravado. She’s more than capable. I know it. She’s superhuman in her physical feats but so grounded otherwise. The one thing I wanted from her was shelved in place of her rise to stardom. Her superfluous rants meant to agitate people into action were devastatingly effective. She was so cognizant of the fact that attention didn’t land on those that politely took their place in line. I was not convinced.
I’ve always been the girl that sat quietly in the back of the class. Even with my concerted efforts for attention through a niche YouTube show, I took the easy going route. I played the dorky best friend that had snarky observations and happy go lucky conversation pieces that touched a minor audience. I couldn’t be the villain. I couldn’t go out on that limb. But Ronda had already lived a majority of her life on that limb. Feeling as though she was never content with the trunk of the tree, that’s where she thrived.
Her no holds barred desire for attention made me nervous. I never wanted anyone to love me that fast. I lived a lifetime with best friends who discovered their attraction to me only months or years down the road once they got to know me. I’m the girl with the great personality. I’m not the girl that demands the attention of millions. I’m the girl that wrangles the love of only a few, and only the ones patient enough to get to know me. Those I did land were loyal and loved me for who I truly am. It’s easy for me to hide behind that perspective. It’s simple for me to have that expectation that everyone should strive for that behavior. It’s a safe assumption because I am only exemplary in my ordinariness.
Ronda has evolved dramatically. Our knowledge of her, and our relation to her, has changed. She is our indisputable champion. In the safety of her championship belt, her movie deals and lucrative sponsorships, we finally get to see a relatable friend. For years, her fears and concerns were hidden behind masks of arrogance and truly noteworthy performances that will go down as some of the absolute best in the history of MMA. Now, every time she perfects another skill, my patience with her grows. I watch in awe as she executes amazing and agile control over her body, and my patience grows. She spends an inconceivable amount of time taking pictures and signing autographs with her fans, and my patience grows. I step out of a dirty stall in a shady bathroom in a questionable casino down in the depths of LA and Ronda reaches out to shake my hand, and my patience grows.
That overconfident bully who stepped out of turn.
That petty child that flipped off her rival during the full descent of a rock climbing wall.
That hypocrite that routinely called out a fighter for steroid use but befriended other users regardless.
That person that had previously amounted to a pile of frustrations finally managed to make me stop and re-evaluate my stance.
I sat there with my average burger in my average Red Robin on my average afternoon. I’m having a conversation with a work friend from a place I no longer work about the complexities of gaining trademark permissions for card art usage behind a double-factor authenticated site. Cause that’s what I know. Those are my day-to-day experiences. And then there she is. Ronda’s flashing across the TV screen with her familiar smirk. Her movie trailer plays before one of the most watched sports in the world. That’s her day-to-day. That’s what she knows. And it hits me hard. I don’t live in her world. I don’t see her options. The idealism of believing that rules don’t change with circumstance is where I falter.
And it doesn’t matter that in our youth we were both ostracized — me for being the new weird southern kid in a west coast town and her for being the beefy Olympic girl that didn’t fit the SoCal scene. It doesn’t matter that we both arrived to the place we are now due to a relentless passion for the growth of our sport. It’s inconsequential that three years ago she appeared on our radar seeming as mortal as everyone else. That’s where our stories branch. She was sacrificing an ordinary life to be exemplary. And I was not. She can be a relatable friend AND a crass, edgy entertainer. I can not.
Because the truth all along was that she was capable of my approach, but I was never capable of hers. Our realities were vastly different. The rules of survival were not the same. And my desire for a normal conversation was always out of line.