Growing up, I don’t know about you, but I always felt like I didn’t belong. Not in the “I have no friends, I’m an outsider, woe is me” kind of way, but in the honest to goodness, “I think I belong in a different time period” kind of way.
Some people believe these feelings of belonging to a different time are merely remembrances of past lives, like some people think nostalgically about their youth, you’re experiencing memories of having lived somewhere in another time and another place. Whatever. I don’t have the space or inclination to discuss that here and now.
My feelings arose from reading about Conan the barbarian and other sword and sorcery tales. I wished that I had lived in those times. How exciting. How deadly. As the proverbial 98-pound weakling, I’d have lasted all of ten seconds then. Just long enough to insult someone and then be disemboweled before I could withdraw my sword.
So let’s blame those feelings on a poor sense of self and my undiagnosed and untreated ADHD, shall we?
But Even today I think about living in the past, The Migration Period where barbarians descended upon Rome. Or the Viking days of pillaging and plundering. Of knights and chivalry. Or of the Renaisance and a rapier at your side.
I’d still probably live all of 10 seconds, but it would be a glorious 10 seconds. A lifetime of living by the sword, defending your honor and manhood, dueling for pride and country — in 10 seconds.
I’m not interested in guns, but as I’ve said, I’ve had a lifelong obsession with swords. I’ve had guns in my hands and honestly, they just don’t do anything for me. But a sword in the hand quickens the pulse, excites the imagination. Swords were manly, you had to face your opponent, eye to eye, knowing that the only thing standing between you and death was that 3 foot piece of steel and your ability to wield it.
Any punk can pull a trigger. Shooting someone doesn’t make you a man. That’s because, as the saying goes, you have no skin in the game. Most shootings happen from a distance as in drive-bys. Or the other person is unarmed. Where’s the honor in that? There is none. We lost the concept of honor with the gun.
But with a sword, there were rules, rules of honor, rules of etiquette, rules of fair play, and skin in the game. You knew it wasn’t just a game, you knew the odds were equal and you were just as likely to be injured as your opponent was. There were no drive-by sword deaths. You didn’t have punks with swords stabbing people to make themselves seem like men. And there certainly were no mass murders at the hands of a single unbalanced sword-weilding individual.
I admit I have a romanticized notion of what life with a sword was like. Much of it brought on by the books I’ve read and Hollywood’s notion of what sword fighting was like. And yes, I know that much of the Errol Flynn-styled dueling is as far from real sword fighting as you can get.
But still, I have my dreams of those times, of what it must have been like, and of how I’d have fared.
So let us, for a moment, return to those days. I’d like to like to think they had a chain of armoury stores called Swords and Roebuck, and you could go in and handle all their wares, from deadly side swords and curved sabers, to straight double-edged Viking swords and massive two-handed Claymores, to beautiful swept-hilt or cup-hilt rapiers with needle sharp blades. And you’d be able to try on different leather frogs and other scabbard attachments, all the while checking yourself out in the three-way mirrors. You’d be like, “You talking to me? Are you talking to me?” then you’d whip out your blade and thrust toward the mirror with a “Yeah, I look cool” smile on your face.
You’d go up to the register. “I’ll take these.” And the cashier would ask, “You want this bagged?” And you’d say, “No, I’ll wear them out.” And she’d say, “Cash or charge?” And you’d whip out your Renaissance Express and put everything on.
Then you’d step outside, dressed to the nines in all your fancy, creaking fresh leather accoutrements, a shiny new sword at your side that you withdraw and slash it back and forth a few times, smiling as it makes the vwoot! sound slicing through the air. Then, you insult the first likely person, and he runs you through before you can even defend yourself.
Ah. Those were the days.