“You can whack it all you like. It might eventually jam in there, but it’ll never really fit properly,” John opined wisely.
We were attempting to coax a second-hand door onto the pre-existing frame of the greenhouse and he was right. It was a door designed for another purpose and while I could have made it perform adequately, neither the door nor the greenhouse would have been best-served by my applications of brute force. The door belonged elsewhere and the greenhouse needed a different portal.
Somehow the conversation veered to friends, running, and the lifting of heavy things. We chatted about which friends were doing what and mused about their choices and why they might have made them. Then I asked one of those questions to which it is fascinating to hear an honest answer,
“So now that you’ve found triathlon as well as running and are no longer completely put off by the weight room, what does being fit really mean to you?”
It’s a trickier question than it sounds, isn’t it? It asks you to get past what you think the definition of fitness ought to be (weight, blood profile, reduced risk of disease, confidence in appearance, etc.) and figure out what it is for you individually, which might involve some of these things but sometimes doesn’t involve all of them, even ones you might feel expected to value. It really is a very personal thing. After all, there are few things more personal to an individual than their body.
John: “Well, I want to be able to go long distances endurance-wise, be strong enough to train without getting hurt, do everyday stuff like lifting, moving, and still be able to do it when I grow old without worrying if I can, and basically… look good naked. What about you? And on an unrelated note, this door is definitely not going to work here. Let’s find an old storm door somewhere – it’ll be more functional.”
(Marriage is nothing if not a, “What about you?” scenario.)
Me: “Yes, wrong door. Let’s go for a walk and finish this later. Well, on a basic level, I always want to be cardiovascularly and structurally fit and flexible enough to do the fun things we do as a family, like hike and kayak and so on. I want to be strong enough to pursue my sport well and strong in the ways that also keep me from getting hurt while doing it. And I want to be strong enough so that it doesn’t matter what I look like naked.”
John: “Walk sounds good. And what do you mean by that last one?”
Me: “All of my life I’ve felt like my body didn’t fit what a woman’s body was supposed to look like. I’m like this door here, being fit to the wrong purpose and failing miserably at expectations that were ill-suited to begin with. I was never lightly built. I simply can’t be small or slight and be healthy. I’ve tried and failed at it and and maybe because of that, I’ve always resented playing along with what was expected in terms of femininity because it felt like a reproach.
I’ve continuously felt a little like the definitions don’t really apply to me, like I had this body that could potentially do really cool things, but I was working with the instruction manual for a different model so things never went as well as they could have. Now that I have found this niche for myself, my body makes more sense to me.”
Being strong gives my body a place and a purpose.
I don’t feel the need to defend having broad shoulders; my shoulders have a purpose.
Someone saying something snarky about how heavy I am (and trust me, they still do and probably always will) doesn’t faze me remotely because I can squat more than twice my bodyweight and my weight is purpose-driven and useful. If I choose to lose or gain weight, it’s my choice freely and not forced on me by guilt or someone else’s standard of health or attractiveness.
I have thick thighs and they are world-class strong. The only arguments they entertain come from an iron bar and a bunch of plates and my legs will not settle for losing that fight.
I am not “manly”, I am a strong woman. It’s an officially recognized thing and me being who I am helps to define what that is (that’s what national records do).
Anyone who looks at me now and says, ‘Wow, she’s too big,’ or ‘women shouldn’t look like that,’ can break their teeth biting my ass because their standards cannot apply if I am to achieve my goals.
I don’t need to fit into the social definition of what it is to be a physically attractive woman because those rules are completely overrun by what it means to be an athlete.
I am strong enough that the rules are mine now; I know that I alone define what my body should and can be. I’m writing the manual for my own life.
The only rules I have to follow about who I am and what I look like are my own and what I look like comes directly from what I can do. I am incredibly proud of that.
John: “You should blog that one. ”