Mud Wrestling in Middle Age

This has to be the most click-baity (not to mention misleading) title ever.

If you were looking for pictures of yours truly in a bikini throwing down with other middle-aged women in a pay-per-view mud rink, brace yourself for disappointment.*

In preparation for a weekend away from my son, I sent out my traditional call to arms for like-minded women to gather in unruly pleasure sans kids.**

I turn to Facebook for recommendations about how to spend our wild night out and get many, many suggestions…

“You could go to an Escape Room.” Says one person.

I have visions of my friends finding out exactly how stupid I am when I am unable to contribute anything to help save us in the allotted time. (Perhaps they have similar qualms; no one votes for that option.)

Some pipe up with boozy burps: “Do a Wine and Cheese night,” or “Wine and Canvas,” or, my personal favorite, “Wine and Whine Time.” The hordes recommend all sorts of alcoholic escapism that doesn’t require any intelligence to participate. But, not everyone in our group drinks, so…next.

The most terrifying option is placed on the altar:

“Axe throwing.”

That’s a thing?

Apparently it is a thing.

I Google it and, yes, there is an Axe Throwing venue in the Grand Rapids area.

One of my friends vetoes it, adding a link to the following video as her reason:


You only have to watch about a minute to get to the number one reason NOT to try axe throwing. No one knows going in whether you are going to be an Axe Throwing Savant or Idiot. There’s a real harsh learning curve to this sport.

I had to use an axe when I was a kid to chop up firewood. No one ever gave me a real lesson, so I didn’t know not to try it on frozen wood. Nearly took my own leg off when the axe head bounced off the log and nearly struck me. I can still feel the swoosh of that blade hissing past my bare ankle. (I was in a pink nightgown and about age 9, if that helps complete the picture.) I’ve never told anyone in my family that I almost amputated myself. Or that I kept trying to chop that stupid log for an additional few wacks before giving up. (See: I told you an Escape Room is not for the likes of me.)

It restores my faith in humanity, just a little, that nobody suggests Wine and Axe Throwing as an option.

That couldn’t possibly be a thing…could it?

(Googles existence. Loses faith. See: Bad Axe Throwing.)

Which is how we end up going with the slightly tamer option of painting pottery at The Mud Room in Grand Rapids, MI.

Who? Who? Who wouldn’t want to take me home?

My truest and dearest friends—available—arrive Friday night to a venue that promotes itself as a party-stop for kids, among other delights.

We straggle in, as jobs and life permits, until four of us have selected our pottery plan for the evening.

There are lots of options, in ranging prices—which includes the cost of glaze and kiln fire processing. The charge you see per item is what you pay in total, less taxes.

There are cutesy, kid-friendly options, that once glazed, are very eye-catching:

And it is really hard to chose, until I remember exactly how little cupboard space I have, so I go for the practical and useful over cuddly critters:

Alternate click-bait title: Getting Mugged on a Friday Night

For twenty-five dollars, I can have fun with my friends and get a useful travel mug to take my tea with me everywhere I go. Win-win!

Everyone picks something different and paints using different methods and designs. All but one, who decides to watch in lieu of showing off her artistic talents.

(She would probably have kicked ass at wine and axe throwing, no doubt.)

I felt pretty…until I saw this picture. Now I feel like throwing away my favorite sweater and shirt and maybe taking up Axe Throwing. I’ll lose weight one way or the other.

One thing I discover while dabbing at my mug, trying to mimic the delicate examples I found in the sample books—it is really, really hard to hold a conversation and a paintbrush at the same time.

These were my inspiration, by the way:

What I discovered, other than a distinct gap between my vision and my artistic aptitude, is that I mostly enjoy getting together with friends to gab about what we are doing and going through. I’d much rather drink tea that make the cup it comes in.

But, at the end of the day, I am pretty pleased with my simple design. I originally wanted to have a glorious mermaid swirling around the cup with a come-hither wink. Then I remember my lack of any discernible talents and stick with traceable templates.

This is what I came up with:

You would not believe how much my hands shake while I place the eye dots. Those two points of black take greater effort than the rest of the artwork combined. You would have thought I was defusing the mug not painting it.

At one point, one friend pulls me back from the outlining-the-fish brink, saying:

“Your fish lips are in danger of merging.”

Mary Jane is now my fishy-cup whisperer.

It’s almost closing time and we are all starving. As we leave, we scan the parking lot for a nearby eatery.

Withing walking distance we find The Thai Chef—a dining treasure:

Drool-worthy Dining

As usual, whilst dining, we dish about each other, the food, politics. Everyone agrees, the meal is definitely worth a mention, though we’ve eaten a fair amount before we think to take a picture. #hungerfail

I am very grateful to spend my evening with friends. Time is a precious commodity and friendships are even more so. I know not everyone can share in the moment, even if they want to. I really appreciate everyone who makes an effort to go out on a muddy limb and try new things—or even watch from the sidelines and cheer us on.

To MaryJane, who made a snowball happen on the warmest night we had in March:


To Lily, who hasn’t had a chance to pick up her finished piece from the store yet, but you can see from the picture she has a lot more innate grace with a brush than I do:

Lily Boxed

And to Kirsten, who would have loved to have recreated her husband’s art school logo on porcelain but she was daunted by drawing an exactly-round, orange orb.

Art Center 2
The perfect circle—striking fear into the hearts of art students for millennia

Laughter and good food, art and friendship, the evening is made as perfect as any gathering of unique women can be without the enhancement of alcohol and stone-age weaponry.

As we are paying for our meal, we have our most surreal moment of the night.

We run into “No Face,” the ghostly figure from the Japanese art film, Spirited Away:


No-Face takes our coins and we marvel at the enigmatic creature whose motives are hidden by a mask.

In the movie, Spirited Away, it is very hard to determine whether No-Face is a good or bad character. The spirit’s behavior changes based on the gifts you give or the demands you make. There might be a metaphor about the ties of friendship here, but I’m too full to contemplate this until much later.

If No-Face gives you a gift, you might have earned the ghost’s favor—or you might get eaten. It is a perilous, haunting friendship to court.

We give our coins, heedless of the danger. We ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the tinny, musical acceptance of our pennies falling into the open mouth past large, white teeth.

One can only hope that No-Face approved these gifts and did not haunt the giver afterward.

The corner near the entrance is papered in different currencies, and I chat with the hostess as I pocket my receipt. She explains that they are gifts from patrons who brought them from around the world. Money given that becomes art on the wall.

No-Face listens as we collect our credit cards and say our goodbyes.  We add our last coins to the bank. The No-Face music dies away and I shrug off the creepy sensation that the blank-eyed mask is staring at us as we depart.

I am almost positive it did not move to follow as the door closes behind us.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Or relieved. That makes two of us.

**We’re like Girl’s Gone Wild…except, not.

12 thoughts on “Mud Wrestling in Middle Age

  1. Sounds like a great night out, and I think you did really well with your painted mug. I have tried ceramic painting, but not since one of my “masterpieces” was confused with one of my (then six year old) son’s failures in the genre.
    And btw in my pre-caffeinated morning fog, I mis-read your post title as mud wresting in the middle ages. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I almost titled it that way. But I did not want to disappoint fans of 13th century wrestling.

      And if you want to see my failures, I’ve posted about several baking flops I’m most proud of for my ability to laugh at the results.


  2. Colour me impressed! I like your kissing fishies.
    I learned about axe throwing about 5 years ago when our women’s group was looking for something to do. It was a big deal in the UK at the time. Escape room, though? That’s a mystery to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you still have all your digits intact, I’m impressed—either with your throwing skills or your excellent excuse for abstaining from axe throwing.

      Escape Rooms are a newer phenomenon here. They require mental gymnastics—which is the only gymnastics I’m worse at than actual gymnastics.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Forgive me – I forgot to mention that we did NOT try the axe throwing – a little too risky for lesser adventurous in our group. Which was about 98% of the members, myself included.

        Liked by 1 person

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