I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an athlete. I played piano and violin and was in the orchestra. I wrote for the school newspaper. I was a drama geek. Spanish Club vice-president and then president. (I was in the Russian Club yearbook photo, too, but only because they came to take the picture during my Russian class, and wanted to make it look like the club had more than the three members it actually had, so they invited us non-members who were otherwise standing around to join in.) If it wasn’t athletic, I was probably involved in it. That’s still true.
Despite some ill-fated attempts at athleticism over the years, it never really took, probably because I am kinesthetically retarded. I use that word advisedly, in its truest sense: I am physically slow, not only in how I move through space sprinting (if it could ever be called that) away from theoretical lions who want to eat my face, but also in learning physical things. It takes me five times as long as anyone else to learn an aerobics routine, or a kickboxing combo, or a crocheting stitch, or, most maddeningly for me since I don’t care if I can do any of those previous things, a sequence of guitar fingerings or picking patterns. I plod along and eventually I can get my various body parts, limbs, and/or digits working as desired, but it is a slow and often unsteady process. For some reason, my nimble brain cannot communicate very well with the rest of my body, to sometimes hilarious, often tragic and painful, results. Even as I write this, I’m suffering from some seriously unhappy hip flexors as the result of Tuesday’s trip to the gym, where I am using up Scott’s personal training sessions while he’s recovering from surgery. Being an athlete was never in the cards for me, and I’m reminded of that fact every time I stupidly make another run at it.
My own limitations notwithstanding, and maybe perhaps because of them, I do have an appreciation for the dedication, effort, and energy it takes someone with actual physical skill and talent to become an elite athlete. I can’t actually imagine it, because I can push my body to its limits turning over in bed; the idea of the physically gifted pushing their bodies to limits most of the human population probably can’t even envision is like flying to the moon, as far as I’m concerned. The very idea that someone endeavors to have their body perform at optimal levels not only for them, but for everyone on earth, as Olympic athletes do, is amazing to me. All the early morning runs, all the time in the weight room, all the training, the falling down and getting back up, all the sacrifice of time, relationships, and doughnuts, in their quest to be among the best. It’s a vocation to be sure.
Which is why I am so irked that I keep seeing articles about “the hottest women athletes of the 2012 Olympics.” I’ve seen twice as many articles about hot lady athletes as I have for the men. I’m not even going to link to them, because I have no interest in increasing their traffic by even the five readers I have. Here are women who have devoted their lives to athletic excellence, competing literally at a world-class level, and even so, all the general public is interested in is how pretty and boner-inducing they are? All their accomplishments, and in the end it distills to women’s primary value being aesthetic. In an article about Olympic athletes, shouldn’t the athleticism come first?
I’m not saying it’s wrong to enjoy looking at and appreciating people’s physical beauty. I do it myself. I just would prefer that, when it comes to women, from the time they are little tiny girls, it wasn’t the first and seemingly most important thing mentioned, and that any other positive qualities they may possess are not considered worthy of appreciation, or dismissed entirely if the beauty is not found in the eye of some particular beholder. You never hear someone say “the talented and beautiful so-and-so.” It’s always “the beautiful and talented.” A more succinct example of our disordered priorities I cannot imagine.