Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pussy(cat) Calling

I get cat called all the time. Am I special? There are certainly some people in this world who have that certain something about them – I’ve always thought Buzz Kill was one of these people. Me? I’m fairly certain I’m not, yet I still get cat-called and hit on more than a major league baseball. Sure, it’s flattering, but over time I’ve come to believe it’s just another charming characteristic of Charm City. My boyfriend has a theory that the men in this town hit on every attractive woman they see, because it’s merely a game of numbers. If you hit on 10 women a day, 7 days a week, out of those 70 women at least one or two should be willing to take the bait, right? I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a good strategy for getting laid, because you waste a lot of time and effort, but it is a strategy nonetheless and one countless men in Baltimore subscribe to.

Yesterday on my lunch break I tweeted: “Shamelessness hath no boundaries; I just got cat-called by some guy in his car as I was walking down the street in Towson.”

I kind of caught some shit for using the word “shame” and then decided I couldn’t say enough on this topic in a 140-character tweet or a Facebook comment reply, so I’d write a blog about it – a novel idea and something I haven’t done in far too long (I have Facebook set to automatically publish my tweets as status updates – a glorious invention for people like me who have diarrhea of the keyboard but not the time to update 47 different social networking statuses).

Here’s the deal: I’m not being hit on in bars or at social events. In fact, I never get hit on where you’d think I get hit on. Instead, I get hit on by people in places and situations that seem destined for failure. Yesterday, it was by a man in his car, driving through the business district of a suburban yuppie Mecca, stopped briefly by a red light. What’s the best case scenario here? I drop what I’m doing and get in? How often does that happen?

(No fucking joke, as I was typing that last sentence while sitting here in the car-dealership waiting area for my oil change to be complete, I was hit on: “I wish I could type like that, baby. Damn, you type good.” Seriously? Well, at least I know he has a car…)

Not too long ago while running at the Lake I had a man ask me if he could tell me “how good I look in those sweatpants.” One time I had to change grocery stores because the fish guy would follow me around, and then when he finally stopped working there another employee approached me in the candy aisle, asking if I’d “get him something sweet if he asked real nice.” A cop followed me home from work one afternoon, only to stop in front of my house once I got out of my car to ask me a question that’s popular around these parts: “are you married?” My all-time favorite incident, however, occurred at a mini mart. It was a nice summer day, and while we were both inside, this guy started with the “hey baby you look good” and proceeded to try to convince me to come hang out with him. When I got in the car, I noticed him parked beside me – on a mini-bike the size of a large house cat! How the fuck did he expect me to fit on there with him?! I can appreciate the effort, but part of me also wants to scold some of these gentlemen for writing a check with their mouth that their ass can’t cash.

I usually respond to these cat calls and drive-by hittings on one of two ways: I ignore them all together or I say “thank you” and leave it at that. However, over the past day I’ve really been pondering fun and unexpected responses I can pull out of my ass the next time someone wants to tell me just how good I look in my sweatpants. On one hand, I might as well come up with some witty replies, because I’m engaged by strangers like this on the regular. On the other hand, I am taken, and I don’t want to lead anyone on or get into an awkward conversation about why I’m refusing to give out my phone number. What I’ve come up with could both be fun and a sociological experiment: a business card with a link to a brief survey designed to find out the motivation behind the solicitation.

Stranger: “Damn, girl, you really know how to wait in line at the grocery store for your prescription. I like your hair. You married?”

Me: “Check out my website.”

Naturally, they assume I’m buck naked on it – hey, whatever gets them to the survey. I only need one survey respondent for every ten people I hand the card to in order to be statistically relevant (damn, girl, you’re smart and shit too). But am I really going to have enough people to whom I can distribute the cards? People, whatever you’ve heard about Alaska is wrong – they may have five men to every one woman up there, but your ass will get hit on more in Baltimore than anywhere else in the world. I’ve since left the car dealership, and on my 2-mile drive home I was hit on in traffic while at a light. It’s not called Charm City for nothing.

Survey results or no survey results, cards or no cards, I really do appreciate the feedback of strangers, because their methods keep me in a constant state of surprise and amusement; each cat call like a really fucked up greeting card, each line like a different amateur song lyric. Some days I may be caught by surprise more than others, but I’m not aggravated. It’s actually quite fun.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Moving Forward

After a month of sulking, eating candy at night like it’s my second job, and reading a handful of articles about unconscious self-sabotage, I’ve come to the revelation that there may be no resolution as to why I fucked myself up so much in the month of September, rendering myself unable to attend Regionals, finish my home season, or just exercise like a normal person. As of late, several things have become apparent to me: I’ll never know why this happened, so I should stop fixating on it, and this self-deprecating environment I’ve vacationed in for the last month is about as useful as keying one’s own car (which, coincidentally I did back in college one drunken night to “see how it would feel to have your car keyed”). It’s time to move on.

Derby has been my outlet for nearly 5 years, and when it hasn’t been my outlet, running has. Rendering myself unable to do either has been extremely difficult, but I have learned a thing or two from being in this situation.

First, although it does about 80% of the time, derby should not define me. I’ve let this happen, and I live a very unbalanced life because of it. Just like you shouldn’t let your job define who you are, you shouldn’t let your hobby do that either. If you let your job define you and then you get laid off, you lose yourself; if you let derby define you and then you cannot skate, you lose yourself also. Although derby’s a big part of my life, I need to pull back and make sure I’m not using it as a crutch for not doing other things. For instance, over the past few weeks I’ve been panicking at the idea of no longer skating (even though I plan on skating next year). When I was finally able to get to the bottom of “why”, it was because I’m afraid that I won’t be as successful at anything else as I have been in derby, which, when I really thought about it was really disturbing, because I’m not even a “great” skater. I work my ass off to be mediocre on my travel team. I do derby because I love it, but I don’t not do derby because I’m scared not to. I need to evaluate what other things I want to accomplish in life, and if next season is the last for me, then I need to be prepared to use the same fierce attitude I have with derby with whatever else I choose to pursue.

Second, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Being mildly non-ambulatory is no excuse to give up the things that I say I love, like exercise. After weeks of whining to myself that I couldn’t skate or run, so I couldn’t do anything to stay in shape, a friend of mine popped into my mind as I was strapping on my air cast one morning. This friend has had chronic medical problems since birth, wasn’t expected to live past childhood, and has even landed himself in critical condition in the hospital several times since we met over ten years ago. He, too, uses something like an air cast (a leg brace), only he uses a brace on both legs every single day of his life. He’s also one of the buffest motherfuckers I know. He technically can’t run or skate either, and he has the further disadvantage of having a brace on both legs, so why the hell can’t I think outside of the box and employ strategies other than skating or running to keep my physical fitness in check? There’s no reason I couldn’t have done pushups and crunches and all sorts of upper-body exercises while I was on crutches. I’m currently at the point where I can use the stationary bicycle at PT, which means I could use one at the gym too. I need to start incorporating movement I can do back into my life, so I’m no longer a prime-time zombie with a part-time candy-eating job.

Third, it’s easy to stay in a slump, but there’s no good reason to do so. I could continue to beat myself up about being a couch-surfing laffy-taffy hog, but what does that do aside from encourage me to perfect my ass-groove and hate myself even more than I did the day before? For some reason I lingered in this state way longer than I typically have, and I don’t know why, but it’s time to put those ways aside and resume enjoying life and respecting myself.

Fourth, I need to learn to adapt to the unexpected inconveniences in life. This past month proved to me that I need to be more flexible in how I do things and how I feel about doing things that may be different than I’m used to. Just because I can’t do 100% what I want doesn’t mean I should do nothing at all. I’m a pretty selfish person. I have no kids, I have a good job, and I pretty much do what I want when I want and how I want, so you can see how having to adapt how I do things could throw a monkey wrench in my mental expectations of how things should be. This need for flexibility without emotional turmoil is actually something I learned from my mom. The day I sprained my ankle, we planned to go out for my birthday and I was so upset that our plans were ruined. My mom’s casual response of “that’s life – just deal with it and move on” seemed very out of character to me at the time, but I eventually realized that she has probably learned the hardest way there is that life doesn’t always go as planned, so you’ve just got to roll with the punches – no use in letting things out of our control upset us.

So, it’s time to move forward. Skating’s still out of the question for 6 weeks or so, and by then we’ll be in the middle of our off-season break anyhow, so I’m just going to plan on coming back in January like everyone else taking a break. I’ll run when I can, and I’ll try not to push it (risking re-injury, which would be a royal bitch). In the meanwhile, I’ll walk and maybe do the bike at the gym. I’ll try and stick to my original goal of using time I would have spent at practices during the off-season to write. And perhaps most importantly, I won’t obsess over or dwell on why things happen or what if other things happen in the future (like immediate re-injury of my neck or ankle once I’m back on skates). And as for that part-time candy-eating job, I’m resigning just as soon as I get home this evening – wish me luck, because you know how hard it is for me to give up responsibility.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shit Happens... Sometimes Sequentially

To say I’ve had writer’s block lately would be an understatement. In fact, not only have I been unable to put pen to paper in any logical manner, but I’ve also been unable to form much of a cohesive thought that didn’t involve my pure frustration or anger for this end-of-season plagues of injuries. That’s right, I said injuries – as in plural, multiple injuries.

After 3 weeks of being unable to do much of anything because of the herniated neck disk, I was finally feeling good enough on Saturday to ignore my physical therapist’s orders and go for a run. Running clears my head, and after no more than a quarter mile, I was finally thinking straight and could articulate in my mind why I had been in such a panic about not being able to skate or run for an indefinite amount of time. Then it hit me – not another profound thought, the ground. I was so engrossed in thought, almost at a dead sprint, when I rolled my foot in the pothole I never saw coming. Fuck, not again. Just as soon as I was again beginning to feel alive – head cleared, lungs burning – POOF! Right back where I was: condemned to my fucking sofa and horrible Wednesday-night fucking television. Fuck.

Unable to put weight on it as I got up from the ground, I sat on the curb and looked down at my incredibly-inflating ankle, trying to assess the practicality of the situation. The lake is 1.3 miles around, and I was approximately .75 miles from my car in either direction. I couldn’t put weight on it, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to crawl back with dog in tow. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. I scrambled to call J to come get me.

I thought I broke it, because it looked a lot like the lower-leg breaks I’ve seen first hand in derby. It was instantly profoundly swollen – nearly twice the size of my other ankle. I had visions of an overnight stay in the hospital, surgery, and hardware – the trifecta that so many of my teammates have had to face over the years. There was no chance of denying the severity of whatever had just happened because it looked fucking scary. The instant physical deformity made any hope of a quick recovery seem as foolish as hoping Santa would come the year after you found out he didn’t exist. After the neck injury and the whole missing Regionals, I was grasping at straws though, wanting nothing more than to “get back to normal”, which apparently is just not in the cards for me right now.

Before I bit it in the pothole I realized that I was angry and depressed not because my active lifestyle was briefly interrupted, but because I’m terrified that with each passing day that I cannot skate or run I will be one step closer to reverting back to that person I was five years ago – the rollergirl who wanted to be called a rollergirl, but who didn’t really want to have to do anything too difficult or athletic in order to look cool, the person who was so out of shape and in poor health that she was on medication to lower her blood pressure, the girl with the pretty face who had such poor self-esteem that she couldn’t even see that, well, at least she had a pretty face even if she didn’t have the body to match. Yes, I’m terrified that like an ex-junkie I’ll relapse into a junk-food filled sedentary lifestyle, and by the time I am able to resume the active lifestyle I’ve grown to love, I’ll no longer have the desire to do so.

With previous injuries, I’ve used my time off-skates to be sure I’m extra cautious about eating right, so my body is as prepared as it can be when I have clearance to resume derby. Not this time. September 8th marked the beginning of the binging that has not stopped. I’m so terrified about what I’m going to do to myself that it’s even crossed my mind to retire from derby now, in order to save face in 2 months when I’m so out of shape that I can’t keep up with my teams. I realize this thought is a ridiculous one, and I also realize that by having it, I’m giving myself permission to fail, and that scares the shit out of me.

The good news is that I now know what I’m afraid of, which means I can take steps to keep my fears from becoming a reality. Exactly how remains to be seen, but I’ll figure it out.

The ankle is sprained, not broken, and I’ve already gotten off the crutches, into an air cast, and started some very painful physical therapy to help it heal faster and more completely (apparently after you sprain an ankle it’s very easy to do it again). I’m quickly becoming good friends with everyone at the Sports Medicine clinic, since I’m now there nearly every day for either my neck or my ankle. Booking new appointments, however, is like reciting “Who’s on First” with the person behind the desk who can’t get that although I was just there for my neck, I need to make more appointments for my ankle. But I’m patient. Let’s face it, I have the time and there’s no reason to be an asshole.

“Everything happens for a reason,” is something I’ve heard more times than I can shake a stick at. Does it really? Cause right now I’m feeling more of a “Shit Happens” vibe. I’m not ready for the nice-and-tidy happy blog wrap-up quite yet, so you’re gonna have to wait for that just a little bit longer. Perhaps we can learn together that patience is a virtue.