The Coming of Age Story

Today in my class we watched a short film that I actually liked. WHAAA? And not just liked, but loved!

It was based on a true story of an experience in one of the director’s life. I loved it the first time through, and then we discussed it with both of the directors and the producers, and I loved it even more the second time through.

It was the first screening ever of the short, so unfortunately I can’t link you to it. But I will just describe it to you in great detail, and maybe if you stumble across it at a festival or eventually on the internet, you’ll remember this blog post and the film will have a bit more meaning to you.

Exchange and Mart

Set in a boarding school in the Scottish highlands, Exchange and Mart is the story of a young teenage girl who faces loneliness and no outlet for the changes in her physicality and mentality. Men are rare, and most of them are adults. The girls in school are obsessed with men and understanding sexuality. The school mandates a rape defense class, in which the final test is a walk through the woods, where their male teacher (dressed in pads) will leap out and attack them and they must be able to defend themselves. The girl is anxious about this test, partially because of the possibility of getting hurt, but also because she doesn’t know what it’s like to have contact with an actual man. During the attack, she successfully escapes her attacker, but also realizes that men aren’t as scary as she thought they were. She now has a new self image and confidence.

A few reasons why this story struck me so well:

  1. I’m a girl
  2. I very clearly remember being a teenager with very little understanding of sexuality and that my girl friends and I were quite obsessed with it
  3. I’m a martial artist

This may be kind of embarrassing and a bit personal, but hey, I’m a writer. Everything’s personal.

When I started taking karate classes, I had a very similar experience as this girl. One of the senseis was only two years older than me (I was 24) and he was a pretty attractive man. A couple of decades of martial arts plus other workouts made him rock solid. So when he attacked me as part of class, I was conflicted. He smelled good, and I didn’t necessarily want him to let go of me. Sadly, that’s kind of not the point of the exercise.

But this came at a point in my life where I was kind of a man-hater. They were dark days, and I find man-hating very unnatural. But even just the physical contact required from self-defense classes….and being taught to defend myself, essentially from men, by men was really paradigm shifting for me at that point. Some physical contact is good, some is bad. But it’s up to me to filter what is acceptable to me. Somehow I hadn’t figured that out in all the sexuality chats I’d had with my girl friends as a teenager. It is one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned.

Maybe I’ll make a film out of it. 😉


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