We usually have after-school care recess on the playground. Today, because the day was cold and wet and because the space was miraculously available, we had recess in the gym.
Before we even set foot in the building, one of the 2nd-grade boys bounded up to me, wanting to know if we’d be playing dodgeball.
Once he’d asked me the third time, I told him that if he could get enough interest from his fellow 2nd and 3rd graders we’d put a game together.
All the boys were soon on board, mustard yellow foam balls clutched in eager hands. Before picking teams and starting the game, I made them approach the group of girls and invite them to join in.
After they’d all declined, one of the girls shouted after the boys for emphasis, “We’re girls! We don’t play dodgeball!”
To which I replied, “Oh yes we do!” and jumped into the game.
When I was a 2nd grader, I was about the farthest you could get from being the lone girl in a sports activity. I wasn’t the one to come right out and say, “Girls don’t play sports,” but I was a girl and I had decided early on that I didn’t play sports. And also that I didn’t play with boys.
That’s not to say efforts weren’t made. My dad tried to get me interested in tennis, I have blurry memories from a summer soccer day-camp, and I suffered through hours of P.E. up through my freshman year of high school.
So I did play. I just never really gave sports—or myself—a fair chance. I always went into a game thinking, I won’t like this, and once my chubby puberty body had arrived, I won’t be good at this.
If you go into something with a defeatist attitude, it’s pretty easy to come away from it feeling defeated.
Today, I finally got in the game. Wholeheartedly.
I ran. I dodged, caught and threw. I worked up a sweat, squealing in delight with a shit-eating grin plastered to my face the entire time.
I’ve finally figured out I can be a girl and play with the boys when I want to.
Of course, once I got home, I promptly strained a muscle in my lower back while trying to take off my pants.
You can’t have everything, I suppose…