Monday, November 21, 2011

When I was in elementary school...

Let me open with a confession: When I sat down to write this post this evening, I had absolutely no idea what it would be about.
In other news, after a 5000 word day yesterday, I’m finally caught up with NaNoWriMo, but at the expense of my homework - and the last thing I want to do right now is study math. That’s not to say I don’t like math, but I’m behind in my studying even though I understand everything we’re doing, and I really ought to be doing that instead of this…
So I guess I’ll just share a few things from my past week. On Saturday two of my friends and I cooked epically for our French class “gastronomie” project. It went wrong in a lot of little ways - par for the course when you’re cooking something for the first time. We realized after simmering the soup for 45 minutes that we should have been adding things in starting at about 20 minutes… oops!
At one point (after the first round of clean-up, while we were waiting for the soup to simmer), my best friend told me about this cross-country skiing coaching/training clinic she had attended that morning. She had been told that boys are more competitive, even in training, so they push themselves to go further, faster etc… whereas girls are more cooperative. They don’t want to leave their fellows behind, or race ahead. In life, that might get the group further, but in training that doesn’t help you in the slightest.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether this difference - if it exists at all, which I’m inclined to say it does - is genetic, sociological or some combination of the two…
My first thought was - that’s not me at all! I’m a guy, in yet another respect. And it’s true in a lot of ways. I want to be faster, to show people up, to make them work to catch me. I want to win.
Although on my school cross country teams I’ll stay with the stragglers if we’re doing a warm-up job, that stems from leadership and responsibility (aka not wanting to lose anybody on the run). I agree that perhaps showing leadership that way is more (stereo)typically feminine, but I’m not doing it to make them feel better. And if we’re doing a training run, where speed is important, my training comes first.
But I’ve seen the “girls are cooperative, boys are competitive” mantra played out again and again in every sport I’ve participated in. When I was in elementary school, I tried out to high-jump for the track and field team. One day I had an appointment after school when the girls’ try-out was, and so I went to the boys’ try-out at lunch the next day. Perhaps it was just that I had few close friends trying out, and the “popular girl” and I weren’t on the best of terms, but I enjoyed the boys’ try-out a lot better than I had any of the girls’ ones.
What I liked best about the boys was their lack of fake-niceness. The girls were super encouraging to everyone, but this was a try-out for goodness’ sakes! Everyone in the gym was competing for one of two spots. They would clap after a bad jump, but inside, like me, most of them were thinking “my chances just got better.” (that’s not just me… right?)
At the boys’ try-out, my attitude, the one I’m pretty sure most of the girls had but hid, was evident. Good-natured laughter greeted every fall, and occasional jeers if someone messed up really badly. At the same time, no one laughed at the “challenged” kid when he tried (disclaimer: I don’t know the specifics, but he wasn’t fully there, that’s for sure).
Among the boys, there was a different kind of sports friendliness, one that felt a lot more real to me, and I loved it. In the end, I earned one of the two spots to compete for my school (towering over most of the competition helped) and had a lot of fun at the team practices. But I’ll never forget that feeling of fitting in with the guys… especially since I have rarely had that feeling, before or since. That, however, is a discussion for another day.
For now, back to math. Thanks for reading!

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