How to be the Heel: Teaching Girls the Lost Art of Losing, pt 1

Been thinking about this a lot, and this is the watered-down version I wrote as an op-ed to get published in a newspaper, then totally forgot to try to get it published, so now I’m posting it here. Part 2 is more in depth.

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In pro wrestling, you’re either the heel (the bad guy) or the hero. If you’re the heel, expect to lose. A lot. Always, even. From 2000–2002, I wrestled in an all-female league under the name One-Eyed Wanda the Pirate. While some of the girls got a kick out of playing the goody-two-shoes princess, who invariably won every match no matter how many times you made them “walk the plank,” I chose to lose in a glorious ball of flames, and it taught me everything I know about individuality and success. So why aren’t we teaching our girls how to be losers?

Take a look at the playground and see the hundreds of little boys who prefer miming their tiny bodies being riddled by bullets, rather than pretending to shoot the gun. At a princess party, rarely do girls break from the pack and dress as the witch, or they’re never even given the option. The witch is the loser. So what can choosing to lose teach us about succeeding? Among many benefits, choosing to lose teaches us to take chances and to be original without the constraints of the boxed-in winner’s circle.

For me, being the heel, the eternal loser, meant I could be creative, maybe bring in a henchman against league “rules” to ham it up when we would inevitably get bashed in the head with a prop. Because the simple truth of the matter is that there’s only one way to win, which is Gracefully (as evidenced by Richard Sherman’s incorrect manner of winning). But there are a million ways to lose, and they’re all a handful of fun. Applied to everyday life or business, when the idea of “winning” is removed and all that’s left is how to make a splash, you create a culture of creative risk-taking, where the new ambition isn’t winning; it’s making an impression. Further, knowing how to be the heel also means you know how to collaborate for the greater good. Wrestling fans aren’t just cheering on the hero. They’re cheering on the collaboration and the sacrifice made to make the best entertainment possible.

For a culture that either sways to cutthroat tactics to win (“I’m Not Here to Make Friends”) or to eliminating the titles of winners/losers from competition altogether (We’re all winners!), the art of losing is forgotten or never taught at all, especially to young women. But maybe it’s time we reclaim that lost art for our girls, because it may also hold the secret to success, or, at the very least, to fun.

Screen shot 2014-01-28 at 10.52.08 AM

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