Friday, July 2, 2010

Soccer & the Art of Courting

One of the things I love the most about World Cup Soccer season is being treated, on a daily basis, to images of male comradery in the media. Intimacy between men – especially heterosexual men – is not something depicted in the public realm very often, and personally, I get a real rush from it. There’s something about what I see that I think we need a lot more of in today’s world – Nelson Mandela was really on to something. And there is nothing like soccer to inspire it. Though I know very little about the game, what I have seen about the culture that surrounds it fascinates me.

I will never forget my 2002 World Cup experience. I decided I was going to get up at 5am to catch the final match in a large Toronto bar populated by Brazilian fans. There was a massive screen up and a group of drummers poised in the middle of the room. Whenever a player began picking up some momentum on the field, the drummers would start in with a rhythmic beat, gradually increasing both pace and intensity to reflect whatever they were watching on the screen. Women scattered around the room would dance. Then, when an attempt made at scoring failed, instead of deflating or cursing, the crowd would erupt in celebration.

What I learned that day was how important attitude is to developing real skill. It’s less about whether or not you score, and more about how you play the game. No wonder the Brazilians are repeated world champions. Every play was celebrated, regardless of the outcome. Rapture marked the occasion, and the ebbs and flows that are a natural expression of raw passion undulated through the room.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about that experience lately, and about what we could learn from the Brazilian mindset in the way we approach our relationships, especially with someone we’re attracted to. When we’re young, “courting” tends to be about looking good, snagging, ruffling our feathers, scoring. But as we get older, if we learn to go with it, hopefully we know better. We have the capacity to recognize what we’re missing by refusing to grow up. If we’re smart, we treat “courting” as a sort of a deft artistry, less interested in where we are going than we are in how we are getting there. Like the Brazilian approach to soccer.

Of course, we court in all kinds of contexts – not just lover-related. But think of the sexual as a template of sorts, because even those in committed relationships “court” their partner from time to time. One of the perks of aging for those who aren’t fighting it is a growing depth of perception that graces our day to day lives. Our sexuality takes on new dimensions. What we once thought of as “sexy” becomes laughable. We start paying attention to nuance in our social interactions. Conversations happen on more than one level – what we say comes second to how we say it; a pregnant pause can speak volumes. Even the smallest physical gesture can emit subtle, but powerful, erotic energy.

It’s not about ego anymore. It’s about a life lived on poetic terms, and the humbling experience of realizing we’re not important in the way we once thought. That love is not at all what we once made it out to be. And the willful, curious engagement of what comes our way when we’re busy making other plans.


Shauny said...

I agree 100%. Well said

Jesse Mendes said...

Well -- Shauny. If, at your tender young age, you "get" the gist of this post, then you are *definitely* cut out for older women. (Folks don't know this, but you and I communicate on Twitter). Thanks for your comment! Jesse

Rebecca said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this post, beautifully written. Living in Spain through this world cup was such an amazing experience. The night they won was unforgettable. Men and women dancing in the fountain near our house screaming "yo soy EspaƱol" until the early hours.

Loved your closing paragraph. I am going to be 40 in a few days and what you wrote resinated with me.

Jesse Mendes said...

Rebecca, how lovely of you to write. You are entering the beautiful life passage that will take you into the best years of your life -- yet to come! The hormonal changes alone can catalyze a number of "openings" within, my favorite effect being that it becomes harder and harder to waste time on the things that just don't matter. I look forward to getting to know you, and would love to learn of your work. A pleasure meeting you. Jesse