Friday, December 28, 2007

Role Call

We’re all many different things to many different people: sisters, brothers, mothers, friends. In derby, we’re jammers, blockers, or pivots. These are labels that we can’t really shake – it’s what we are and who we are to those people we know and are related to.

There are, however, some roles we give ourselves that we can shake, but it takes some work. I was talking to a friend of mine last night about the roles she had assigned herself. This friend just recently came back into contact with her estranged cousin, and she was describing to us how she set herself up to be the “fat” and “crazy” one, while her cousin is the “tiny” “pretty” one. Truth be told, they’re both very “tiny” and very “pretty,” but these are the things we do to ourselves.

My friend explained further that she set herself up from the beginning of this renewed relationship. How? By constantly complaining to her cousin about her weight, how fat she felt, and how bloated she was. In addition to tearing herself down, my friend constantly told her cousin how tiny and pretty she thought she was. Now my friend is the crazy one with the weight problem, and her cousin is the pretty, tiny one.

Over the years, I’ve played some good roles, some bad roles, and some funny roles – like that of “T-Bone the Meat Inspector.” Some I’ve regretted (the sad overweight friend), some I’ve been proud of (the strong daughter), and some I’m indifferent to (did I mention T-Bone the Meat Inspector?). Some roles come and go, and some you keep around for a bit longer. These roles you or I assign ourselves have the potential to be positive or negative. So, if we assign negative roles to ourselves (fat, crazy cousin), why do we remain in them?

Some might say it’s laziness, but I think otherwise. As me and my two friends pondered our roles over many, many beers last night, we realized that we often won’t shake negative roles—or assume positive ones—because we’re scared we won’t succeed at something better.

But, the good news is that it’s totally possible to shake those bad roles and assign yourself better ones too. So, what do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher? A clown? How about a confident man or woman who gets whatever he or she wants? The key to playing a role and becoming it is believing in yourself. You can be anyone as long as you own the role, and soon enough, the role you’ve assumed becomes a real part of you.

As for Meat Inspector, that was a one-night role that my friends give an encore whenever they remember that summer night that I came away with that name. Let that serve as a warning: whatever role you take, it’s likely to be remembered!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Derby Regenerist: For That Old, Fat Cunt You Happily Are

As women, we're taught from a very early age to lie about ourselves: suck it in, never reveal your weight, and as you get older, never EVER reveal your age.

When you’re a kid, there’s a period of time where you lack consciousness about yourself. You don’t compare yourself to others, you just exist, and you’re free from all the bullshit that’s associated with being older. Not only do you not judge yourself when you gain weight, but also you’re excited. You’re excited to get shoes in a larger size. You’re excited to go to school. You’re excited, because you can’t wait to get bigger – that’s all you want as a kid.

Strange how things change so quickly. I can pinpoint the moment I became self aware. I was on a summer vacation at the beach with my parents. We had been playing in the water all day, and my dad took us up to the boardwalk to get ice cream. I got sherbet. I was dancing around as my dad paid, and I had ice cream all over the front of my face. I remember my mom squatting down to wipe it off. She was frustrated that I had gotten it on my bathing suit too, and she blurted out, “You’re old enough now to learn to suck it in.” I was confused, and once she explained it, ashamed.

From then on I’ve been self conscious about the way I look, and I can tell you that I let it hinder me in my adolescence. Truth be told, I never really was fat until I hit college. But I think the obsessing about being fat (which I thought I was at the time) led to a cycle of “dieting” from age 11, and that allowed me to pack on the pounds.

Then came roller derby. The great thing posed to me about the sport was that anyone could do it: big, small, young, and old. That made me happy, because I’ve always been athletic, big or not. One thing about derby is that there’s a lot of show-womanship. We all pick derby names and team themes with similarly themed uniforms, yada, yada, yada. I know you’ve heard me talk about this before, and if you’ve ever seen a bout you know that we write taglines for our intro laps too. I had become friends with a woman from DC – a mom, and a very well respected researcher: Lady Quebeaum. We founded the league together with a handful of other women, and I had always really respected Lady Q, but I found even more respect for her when I heard her tagline for the very first time:

“A titanium skeleton wrapped in 175 pounds of whoop ass – Lady Quebeaum!”

I never knew a woman to reveal her weight, let alone give her real weight, and have it be anything over 125. There she skated, her head held high, soliciting cheers from the crowd – all 175lbs of her! Till this day, I smile each time I hear her being announced.

Why is the number on the scale so taboo? Why is it bizarre to shout it from a rooftop – or have it announced to a crowd of thousands? And how are things like this perpetuated?

It’s sad, but true, women tearing down women. If every woman were to give up on the game of “I’m younger and thinner than I really am,” we’d truly do ourselves a world of good. What will it hurt to have the correct weight listed on your driver’s license? Let people know your age? If we all did it, we’d be a hell of a lot more comfortable with ourselves and others. Most importantly, we would no longer be lying to ourselves.

I often wonder what type of person I’d be now if I never had joined derby. Perhaps I’d still be a cowardly 20-something lying on her driver’s license instead of a 199-pound badass woman who will be turning 30 this year. Knowing what I know now, I’d rather be 199 and liberated than 125 and enslaved to other people’s judgments.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Shopping, Food and Excess

Ok, ok, I’ve been slacking on the blog posts this week. Christmas preparations have gotten me in such a tizzy that I’m all out of sorts. I’ve been trying to be really mindful lately – remember that there’s more to life than “things,” but being in frantic Christmas mode has made me revert right back to my ingrained capitalistic materialistic ways. Will I ever be able to break my addictions to shopping, food, and excess? Certainly not at this time of the year. It’s like being a coke addict in the middle of a Columbian block party.

I was doing so well. I had a handle on my food intake and exercise. I felt I was making changes. Now? I’m still exercising quite a bit, but I have succumbed to holiday treats (and non-holiday treats in the midst of an almost daily downward spiral), and I feel out of control!

Endurance practice on Wednesday night was a wake up call. I felt better after having done those 3 hours of endurance than I have since before Thanksgiving. Prior to practice that day, I ate nothing but cookies. It started with a few tiny oatmeal lace cookies but then turned into my eating part of a cookie cake with icing on top (there were parts without icing, but hell, if you’re gonna do it, do it right, right? Ugh). From there my coworker brought me a box of treats: brownies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, lemon cookies – I ate them all by the end of the work day. I was so sick. I came home and ate salad for dinner, my penance, and reluctantly went to practice (did you know “hair shirt” is a synonym for “penance”?).

As I’m on the floor stretching, I feel something keeping me from the fullest extent of my stretch: my stomach. Eek! I was shocked. I haven’t felt (or seen) that in a while. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Well, all I could do was bust my ass that night, which I did. My ass and knees are still sore, but it feels good. Is all this hard work I’ve done worth blowing for some lemon bars, cheesecake, cookies, cake, chocolate, sushi, steak, Chinese food, and alcohol? No. Yet I still do it. Why?

I could blame “the holidays” (as I do above) or our culture (as I also do above), but I have to think that I’m stronger than that. I must, or I’ll never improve as a person. Still, self control is a long hard road, and I feel as if I’m walking on it barefoot with blisters. I made a promise to myself several blog posts ago that this upcoming year was my year to excel at derby, and I won’t get there if I can’t get my shit together. I must get my shit together.

From this point on I’m not going to stress out about Christmas. If my house isn’t perfectly clean for our team holiday party tomorrow, then so be it. As for food, I have to act like this is any other day – and take it one day at a time. Same with exercise – I need to keep up with it, so I won’t be sucking air at practice in January. I need to commit to do core-strengthening exercises every day for 10 minutes – that’s not so long. And, finally, I need to take time for myself – quiet time where I’m not just vegging out to E!, but instead, sitting alone in a quiet place so I can gather my thoughts.

What really matters is not getting the perfect gifts or giving them. It’s not eating a shit-ton to “celebrate.” It’s not making yourself so frantic that you paralyze yourself. What does matter is respecting and enjoying yourself and others, making meaningful connections with people you love and new people you’ve just met, and I don’t need sugary foods or sparkly presents to act as my security blanket.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Denied (Happy Holidays)

I hate crowds, especially when I’m shopping, so it’s no wonder that my anxiety level has risen in preparation for the holidays. I know my limits, so I refuse to go anywhere other than the gym (which is dead) on weekend days. I know I can’t handle the people; the wandering children, the people who ram you with their baby strollers, the women who don’t give a shit what you’re looking at and plant themselves right in front of you and what you were looking at because they’re rich and think they’re better than you. I can feel my blood pressure rising as I type this – the muscles in my shoulders and neck tensing up…

I’ve tried to remain calm this holiday season. I know getting all worked up only hurts me, so I’m trying to be nice to people and let the annoying encounters go. But it’s hard.

Last week I went into Best Buy to get a set of presents for my boyfriend, J. I was lucky in that one of the three items I needed was actually in stock – it was the last one in Maryland, and I was ecstatic. I waited in line, got up to the register, paid, and was denied. It was my bank card, and I had been using it earlier in the day. I knew my balance was fine, which then threw me into a blind panic that someone got my card info and drained my account.

I left the store and called my bank from the parking lot. According to them everything was fine. They gave me a number to call – the number for the credit-processing service Best Buy uses to confirm all payments. These people were obviously not in America. It took them 10 minutes to get the correct spelling of my last name (GEBHARDT) with us going back and forth to confirm each letter and then the name in its entirety. I think we did this no less than 5 times. Forty-five minutes later they confirm everything is fine – why don’t I go back in and have the cashier try and process it again?

I go back in, several employees staring my down like “you ain’t got no money,” and I tell them what the bank and their processing company said. We try it again, and again it’s denied. They’re on the phone with their processing company, I’m on the phone with their processing company and then my bank. Everyone on all ends assures us that everything is “fine” and should be going through. Again, denied. Again on the phone. Again. Again. I walk out of Best Buy (Target is next door) to see if they have what I need – they have everything but that one component that is at the Best Buy store I just left and nowhere else in Maryland. I talk to my bank.

“I know this is an inconvenience, Ms. Gebhardt, but there is a bank branch within a mile of the Best Buy you are at. You could just go and get cash.”

Fine.

As I enter the Best Buy for the 3rd time that evening, all employee eyes are on me. Cashiers are whispering to each other, the manager won’t look at me. I’m an outcast. I wanted to scream at them at the top of my lungs, “Do you want my fucking money or not, assholes?!” Instead, I got in line. The cashier snickers as he called me to his open register. I looked him in the eye.

“I have cash.”

“Ok,” he said as he giggled.

I made sure to write his name down: KEGAN. That little shit. Don’t you want my fucking money?! Don’t you?! Then shut your fucking face. Alas, I didn’t say these things to him either. I sucked it up, thanked him, and wished him a “nice day.”

I somehow felt I needed to explain to everyone the situation – that I actually had money and that this was all a big mistake. I needed them to understand me. I needed them to not think of me as a crazed idiot. Being “denied” hurt. I was embarrassed.

Perhaps it’s just retail karma. I use to work retail in high school and college, and I was a cunt at Christmas – a real asshole, and sometimes for no reason other than that I had heard the same lame Christmas song one too many times playing overhead.

Luckily, I’m almost done my holiday shopping. Deep breaths. Relaxing mantras. I will not hurt anyone this holiday season, I will not hurt anyone this holiday season, I will not hurt anyone this holiday season.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Missing: IUD, Reward: $1,000

As if my last blog post wasn’t random enough, today it’s TMI time, and we’re going there with my lady parts.

This week has been a complete bitch. It started out awesome with CCRG All Stars beating Minnesota’s league by 4 points last weekend (bragging rights earned!), but it quickly went to shit. It’s been gray here in Baltimore since I don’t know when. I swear to God I haven’t seen the sun in over a month (even though it’s likely only been a week or two). It’s the same fucking color outside from the time you wake up until the time the sun goes down: gray, which adequately sets the mood for the rest of my week.

On Tuesday I had my annual GYN exam. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t rack up the anxiety over the GYN like I use to. You have to do it, and it’s not really that bad – just uncomfortable for a few minutes. Well, on Tuesday I find out that my IUD has gone “missing,” and as I’m imagining a picture of it on the side of a milk carton, I’m beginning to wonder where the fuck it could have gone. Maybe it went on vacation? Took a trip to the Bahamas, visited Anna Nicole’s grave, got a tan…

Missing? What the fuck? Apparently IUDs can migrate (like birds, no less) out of one’s uterus and chill out in one’s abdomen. Sweeeeeet. So, an appointment had to be made with the radiology clinic to have an ultrasound. More on that in a few.

Now, you may be asking yourself what an IUD is and why I have one. Well, it all goes back to my being a big girl (doesn’t it always?). Birth control pills make my blood pressure skyrocket (something bad for us big girls), so I was taken off of them 2 years ago and told now may be a good time to start having kids. Only, I don’t want to have kids. The doctors were baffled. Why? Everyone wants to have kids. Nope. Not me. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but I don’t want one of my own. I’m a selfish bitch with life goals that quite frankly don’t involve my having children, so why should I have them? Oh, right, because I can’t be on the pill anymore and am allergic to latex. Oh, doctors. Lucky for them (ha!), I wasn’t giving up there. They were going to find me a birth control method I could use, hence the IUD.

In the wonderful US-of-A, docs here don’t like to give IUDs to women who haven’t had children, whereas IUDs are the main form of birth control for women in many European countries and in South America. I suspect it’s because your uterus has to be a certain size to accommodate an IUD, and it’s just easier to deny them to women who haven’t stretched out their uteri (is that plural of uterus?) by having children than to perform the 10-minute (albeit very uncomfortable) measurement of a virgin uterus with a metal rod. In the end, my doc agreed to get me one, measured said uterus with metal rod, and inserted the ParaGuard copper IUD.

Really, having the IUD has been great. There’s nothing to take daily or weekly, and no pre-sex prep, which is nice – if I want to do it in the bathroom at the after party with my skates on, I can. (Ha! I couldn’t resist giving you all that evil image.) Better yet, since the IUD is hormone free, my sex drive came back… BIG TIME. It was great, because I hadn’t even realized it had left. Getting it back was a big bonus. So, really, things have been great. We’ve been one big happy family: me, J (bf), our dog, and my IUD, until the Amber Alert went out for the IUD on Tuesday.

This morning was the ultrasound. Great, piece of cake. Had the wand on my tummy – could make something out. Seemed promising. Then I was told the “first part of the ultrasound” was over.

“What’s the second part?” I asked, knowing full well what it was. Fuck.

It was 7am, I still had to go to work and sit here for 8 hours (soon to be in a puddle of KY), and the last thing I wanted was a non-latex condom-covered probe up my hoo-ha… for 20 minutes. This is bad karma for something. What did I do to deserve this? There was no saying “no” though. The probe had already bought me dinner and a movie, so I had to put out.

Luckily, the IUD appeared. It is in fact inside my uterus and not taking a holiday in the Bahamas (whew!) – the string just got sucked up. So now I’m wondering how they’re eventually going to get it out. It’s no Bahama cruise, but it will be a fishing trip. Luckily, the IUD is still good for 8 years, so I have enough time to anticipate that joyful moment of removal.

It’s Friday. I have 3 hours left at work. My panties are full of KY, and I’m wondering how long it will be before the probe from this morning calls. I’m not holding my breath though. I don’t really want to go out with him again anyway.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Finding a Balance

Several weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled, “Relinquishing Responsibility.” Today, I looked up antonyms for the word “relinquish,” because I’ve gone and taken on another responsibility, and that’s what this blog was going to be about. But after I thought about it, I wasn’t entirely happy about the idea of rescinding my responsibility relinquishment (say that 3 times). And, honestly, I don’t feel like this is a case of “one or the other.”

More and more, I’m finding that decisions I make don’t have to be all or nothing. They don’t have to be categorized, and sometimes they can’t. For me, it all has to do with finding that thing or things I’m meant to do – using the abilities I’m meant to use, because I know, at least for me, that doing those two things will make me happy and enrich the lives of others.

GOD (!), this all sounds so cheesy and new-agey and unlike me. It’s so hard for me to surrender any sort of control. I’ve always held the belief that you can do whatever you want if you set your mind to it. And I still agree with that 100%, but I’m also seeing in my own life that doing certain things that I “want” to do is often easier if I’m already being drawn near them. And, to me, I’m thinking this “drawing near” is the “fate” or “destiny” aspect that I’ve denied ever existed for my entire life. Does this mean I can’t do something, anything, if it’s against my “destiny”? I don’t think so, but I do think the path I take to accomplishing my goal may be harder. Then again, it may not be. Perhaps I’m just realizing I’m the type of person who likes to help others and all this, including the above thought process, is bullshit.

In any event, I’m just now toying w/the idea that there’s an innate nature in life where things – all things – want to turn out right (and good and positive), and if you take advantage of that you may find yourself doing something that makes you happier and really makes an impact on others (perpetuating the rightness).

Lately, I’ve been giving up responsibilities. Are these all dead-end paths? Not necessarily, because they’re part of who I have been and have helped shape who I am at this present moment in time. I guess I’m seeing things kind of like a monkey swinging through the forest (we just got an HD TV and The Smithsonian Channel which is all apes all the time, so bear with me). I’m making my way to my destination, but as I’m doing it I’m grabbing a bunch of different vines and branches to get me there. Maybe my being Treasurer (and captain and other things) was one of those branches. It’s helping me get where I need to go. I can’t just say those things I did were mistakes, because they weren’t. I also can’t say that relinquishing those responsibilities was a mistake, because it wasn’t. If I hadn’t done so, I wouldn’t have room or time in my life to grow into other things.

Last week I accepted the opportunity to head a Sponsorship sub-committee for WFTDA. And I know it’s the right thing to do – even though it’s going to suck up my free time. I know it’s right, because I’m happy about it. Every time I step back and watch roller derby grow, I get the feeling I have now, just having accepted this job. I’m astounded by the snowball effect derby has had on the world in the past 5 years. I feel like by helping out in this small way on this sub-committee that I’m doing something so right and good for women everywhere. I know it’s going to be hard, and I know I’m not going to have all the answers, but I know it’s going to be worth it. And I’ll find a balance to make it work.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rollergirls Don’t Think Their Shit Don’t Stink

It’s about that time that I write a blog about one of my favorite topics – if you know me, you know this topic comes up way too often: pooping. That’s right, like many of you out there who are not involved in roller derby, I use to be afraid to talk about pooping. No more.

I was one of those people who acted like they never did it. Not only does my shit not stink, but I don’t even poop! Once, my old roommate, Dave, convinced several of our friends at a party that he, in fact, did not poop – he had it sucked out of him once a week. It was actually quite believable coming from Dave – the man who was obsessed with his hair, the way he smelled, and the plastic surgery he had had on his nipples. He was too good for pooping, and so was I. But that all changed when I became a rollergirl.

What came first, the urge to poop or anxiety? Well, like the children’s book title, “Everyone Poops,” everyone does poop. And rollergirls who are anxious about bouting seem to poop an exponential amount. I’ll never forget our first bout. Everyone kept running from the dressing room to the bathroom and back again. Nerves make you poop, and we all had a bad case of nerves. And when you’re all in the same situation, there’s no hiding it. The smell from the bathroom hits you when you’re 5 feet away from the door. Everybody’s pooping.

At first I thought maybe it was just us rude girls from Baltimore. There’s something in the city water and perhaps we’re just crass enough to talk about it openly and all the time. Then came the East Coast Extravaganza in Philly last winter. As soon as I set foot in the arena, I had to pee, so I got in line. There were rollergirls from all over the US, but mainly the east coast, and that bathroom was more blown up than a Wal-Mart bathroom run by male gas station employees. For many ladies, this was their first time playing people from other leagues. You’re in a new place, you’re anxious, and there’s a line for the bathroom that’s longer than the line for beer. Everybody poops.

Three years in, and we’re still all talking about having to take a poop, having a weird poop, or guzzling an entire bottle of Pepto to stop pooping. Every once in a while a very surprised photog or reporter is at a practice where they overhear conversations like these. The best is the young guy reporter who gets to hear about someone’s period poop.

It may seem weird, gross, or without tact to an outside observer, but we’ve all just become so comfortable with each other that it’s the same as talking about what you had for lunch – just in another way. Really, it’s quite amazing to be able to break down such a taboo. Does it make us lesser people? No. I think it’s great that we’ve bonded so much that we can be so open with each other. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m asking you to tell me about your poop, but if you want to, I’m more than happy to listen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Square Peg, Round Hole?

Some of you may have read my last blog entry and wondered, “What does this have to do with challenging the misconceptions of women and size?”

To answer the above question: everything.

I often feel the need to justify the direction the blog has taken over the last month or so. As a big girl, I face the world looking through the eyes of a big girl. Always. So hopefully my perceptions and reactions to the situations and stories I’m relaying in this blog serve as an inspiration of sort to big girls everywhere – any anyone else who feels like they’re viewing the world from anything other than a “normal” perspective.

For example, in my previous entry, “Parading About Town,” I could have relayed a different experience – one I may have had and felt, say, 5 years ago. Naturally, the situation would have been different (the story as well). I may not have even decided to participate in the parade for fear of people looking at me, let alone in a short hot-pink skirt. But I didn’t choose to let my insecurities get in the way of what turned out to be a really great experience.

In every aspect of my life I challenge myself to conduct myself with the respect and dignity I deserve. Whether you’re fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, tall, short, modest, tenacious, rich, poor, smart, or have an intellectual disability, you deserve dignity and respect, and there is no reason to invite anything other than that by allowing your insecurity to rule your life.

So, many entries may pass before you hear me talk about poking at my pooch, weighing myself, obsessing about eating, or anything else that has to do with the label people who don’t know me may use (even though I do and think about these things privately every day). It’s pointless. One of the great things that has come out of derby for me is the ongoing acceptance of my body and inabilities and celebration of my abilities. Great derby players aren’t made overnight, and great derby players aren’t great at everything derby. Many of the ladies who are considered “greats” have shed their inhibitions, found out what their strengths are, and used those strengths to both succeed and launch improvement of skills that they lack in. Many people who are considered “greats” in history have done this as well.

I’m hoping that by reveling some very personal and honest thoughts and feelings here that you can identify with me in some way and find that silver lining that you’ve been overlooking, the strength to keep pushing forward, and the ability to treat yourself with respect and dignity. It’s something you deserve.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Parading About Town

Cheesy IT School commercials and people who think they’re witty have often said that there’s two kinds of people: those who do, and those who get passed by. I don’t necessarily agree with that statement, but it seems to be a good place to start talking about the Christmas parade I skated in on Sunday.

There’s something about a parade. I wiki-ed “parade” to try and find out more about when and how parades started, because they’ve always seemed odd to me – the participants walk or cruise along in a procession in the middle of the street while people tailgate on the sidewalks and watch the participants go by. The kids are there because their parents brought them, thinking it was something the kids would enjoy. If they get lucky, they’ll be thrown some candy and come away with more than a runny nose and sensory overload. Some of the adults drink, which can make anything more fun than it actually is. So, what’s the real purpose of a parade?

This past Sunday I skated with my league in Baltimore’s annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade. It was our 3rd year skating in the parade, and my second year skating it (I missed last year). I hemmed and hawed all day prior to the parade about whether I was actually going to go or not. The weather forecast called for 30-some degree weather and rain – ugh! Still, I made the commitment to attend, so in my predictable manner I skated in the freezing rain on Sunday.

We stood on the corner of the meet-up lot waiting for our turn in the procession for close to two hours. Our vinyl banner was lost (again), and the marker on the home-made banner quickly ran in the freezing rain, so we ditched it before the procession even started. And, we forgot candy. Ugh, how unprofessional, I thought. Here we are supposed to be supporting and advertising for our league and we have no sign letting people know who we are or candy to bribe people with. What was the point?

The parade finally got started. The convertible tops came down on the cars, reveling “Little Miss” this and “Queen” that, all decked out in their fur coats, sashes, and crowns. There were floats with holiday characters on them, people with gigantic ornament balloons like you’d expect to see in NY, horses (that we were behind…), high-school drum corps, and just about every ethnic group in Baltimore representing with dancers. As we got moving, I began to forget about the missing banner, people who promised they’d be here, candy, and rain.

It was quiet at first. People staring at you from both sides… Then I got into the parade spirit (aka, the only spirit I know of when I’m uncomfortable): I got loud. “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!” I shouted, at first just from left to right. Then, I realized the people watching the parade really liked it when you personally wished them a happy holiday – with eye contact. There I was, waving with both hands, smiling, and wishing every single person on the route a happy holiday.

It’s funny. I noticed that a lot of the people I greeted from the street are not the type of people I would normally talk to – not even at the grocery store. They aren’t the type of people I would even ever see in the course of my daily life. The kids waved back. The teenagers were surprised by the eye contact and afraid to then say anything negative (like, “fall!” which I’ve gotten before) – several of them even smiled. I wished the drunken 20 and 30-somethings a happy holiday. I wished the old ladies sitting on their steps, covered in blankets, a happy holiday. I wished it to all the employees of McDonald’s, the police trafficking the parade, several friends, and even the owners of a neighborhood funeral home. Many people seemed surprised by the personal attention – that I was looking them in the eye and sincerely wishing them a happy holiday. I realized after that first person I directly addressed that this was the meaning of the parade, at least for me. Maybe that elderly lady sitting alone on her steps wouldn’t have had anyone else say that to her this year. I had the chance to personally wish people from all walks of life happiness – what could be better than that?!

So even if I my cough came back, my bearings are ruined, and I pulled my groin by slipping on the wet street, I think it was worth it. As for those two types of people, the ones that do and the ones that watch, I think that’s a bunch of horseshit (which I also rolled over during the parade). If it weren’t for the people watching, the doing would be pointless, and in my case, I actually learned something from the interaction I had with the parade goers. Really, we’re all the same. Sometimes you're in the parde, and sometimes you're watching it.