For those anxiously awaiting the latest in my ongoing series of reports on my minor fencing injuries, wait no longer. My newest ailment is a scratch on my left cheek. It could almost be a tiny Renommierschmiss, the kind of dueling scar that was the goal of German academic fencing. When you see an SS officer in an old WWII movie with a scar running down his cheek, it’s not necessarily just to make him look sinister. It’s actually historically accurate. In academic (or Mensur) fencing, German students in duelling fraternities would trade blows with sharp sabres while wearing chainmail shirts and gauntlets and steel goggles that left their cheeks unprotected. A scar thus acquired was not only a badge of honour testifying to a duelist’s stoicism and bravery, but also a sign of high social rank, and it was therefore highly attractive to women.
That’s not how I got mine, though. I wear sensible protective equipment after all. I got it when I stuck my finger up inside my mask to relieve an itch and accidentally sliced my own cheek with an untrimmed fingernail. So it’s certainly not a badge of honour — just stupidity.
I was able to use it to amaze some women, though, if not attract them. “Look what little Alex did to me!” I said to one of them, pointing at my cheek, and then to the 13-year-old boy in our club. “He didn’t even wait for me to put my mask on!”
“What?!” she exclaimed, drawing closer to inspect my scratch, appalled at this apparent example of dangerous tomfoolery.
“Only kidding. I did it myself.”
“Oh.” She sniffed. “Jesus Christ, Peter. Wash your gear! You stink!”
Update: Coincidentally, a thread on academic fencing popped up on Metafilter only a couple of days after I wrote this.
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