Beating the Boys- Gender and Sport
When I was five, I was the least tomboyish tomboy you'd ever met. I would climb a tree in my flowing dress with my undies showing but wouldn't care, as long as I got to the top. I would beat all the boys and girls at games during school recess like “Marco Polo,” “capture the flag,” “dodgeball,” and any foot race—but I always liked braids in my hair. The only time I resented my hair fashion was when my hair bow fell out during the long jump at a track meet and they measured me at my bow, not at my jump. I chalked it up to an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, rather than a reason to alter my style and sought a better alternative in the future. (With my Liv hair tie, I have found my solution).
I recall quite vividly the first time a boy in town beat me in the 100 meter dash. I was twelve and it had never happened before. But something had shifted, he had zits! And muscles!! And I had a crush on him!!! And he had a crush on me!!!! Estrogen and testosterone mingled in the air.
I still did not understand why my feminine hormone didn't make me as fast as him. Testosterone had given him an advantage. Frankly, that made me really mad. Luckily, mad turned into competitive and competitive turned into work ethic and work ethic turnedinto performance. During my high school career, I earned two California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) titles in the 300 meter and 800 meter hurdles, I competed on two State Cross Country championship teams, and went on to run the 800 meters and crosscountry at the University of California in Los Angeles, where I still hold the 4x800 meter record. And my love for moving my body in sport didn't stop there.
The love for sport that was sparked as a tomboy in grade school did not stop after college. As an adult, a wife, and mother of two, I have chosen to use American society's myths about femininity and sport as an impetus for motivation. These days, I use my competitive edge in triathlon. I continue to explore the limits of my athletic body by going from my comfort zone in running to the new world of the multi-sport. I now enjoy the challenge of juggling those three different sports: swimming, cycling and running.
It is here, in my new role as a triathlete, that I push the boundaries of time management, training and motherhood. The two identities I cultivated as a child now fuse: the feminine Brooklyn mom and sweaty (often un-showered) jock. But, to their dismay, I can still kick pretty much all the guy’s asses at my local triathlon club!
Today, my daughter Harlow climbed happily to the top of a tree where I found her dangling upside down, underwear freely showing, saying, “Look mama, look at me.” She was proud of herself, as she should be.