Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dodging the Ball

I've always hated dodgeball, and my hatred for the sport is split 50/50 between two very serious reasons. The first is the pain one feels when being whipped in the ass by a tight, hard, rubber [IS SHE GONNA TAKE IT THERE? NO SHE ISN’T] ball.  This pain is only justified by a mere half-endorphin of “yes! I hit someone else!” and brings to the surface the fact that the only real win in dodgeball is when you’ve successfully destroyed a human body. Agility, speed, vigilance…yeah right. It’s all about knocking someone da fuk out. And I’m sorry, but I do not want to base my victory on hurting others. 

 The second reason goes a bit deeper, and reaches into the realm of cross-cultural pre-pubescent rejection.  Lol ya hurd this gon be weird.  You know how you remember certain things from your childhood, and you don’t know why you remember those particular things, but you deduce that they must’ve had a serious impact on you? The situation I dealt with in grade five obviously has.  We were playing dodgeball, and my immigrant-induced drive of self preservation was still in full force, so I somehow ended up being the last person standing on my team, going against two people on the opposite team.  I knocked one of the people out, leaving just one: a boy named Javier.  Having recently moved to Canada from Nicaragua, Javier was also on the alert for common social dangers the likes of misunderstanding the symbol for the girls' bathroom leading to an unwelcomed entrance, consequently labelling him a pervert. Javier had dark skin, and pale green eyes. I remember them very well, because at five minutes to the end of gym class, he had backed me into a corner and stood just a few feet away, piercing me with the impetus in their glare. In the left was an eye booger
I remember that moment very well because it was the first time in my life that I felt my femininity threatened by the power of his masculinity. It was a right of passage, in a way.  I remembered what my mom had told me about talking to men. “Women can get by on the smoothness of their words,” she had said.  As he gripped the ball, I slowly curled my face into a smile. “Javier,” I whispered breathlessly à la Marilyn Monroe, “Don’t do it.”  He paused for a micro-second, then whipped the ball at my stomach and walked off, victoriously.  Thus began my journey as a woman.

That said, I was recently invited to play on a dodgeball team, and in keeping with my enthusiasm about team games, I accepted. As I signed up, I briefly thought of Javier. I had flashbacks of the eye booger. I could still smell the combination of fresh gym equipment and sweat.  The night of the first game, I put on a t-shirt with french fries all over it.  In hindsight, what the f was I thinking.

Let me just say: if you think elementary school dodgeball is scary, try it with FULL GROWN MEN. Men who do this for fun every day. Men who wear knee pads just for the purpose of sliding up close enough to land the perfect shot in your kidneys.  The first class was last week, and I’m still shaking.   First of all, everyone on my team is really, really good. They’re excellent throwers, they can duck, they can even do that Michael Jackson thing where you dodge a ball by lifting your pelvis off the ground.  I’m really good at cheering, I think. I’m usually pretty good at repeating what just happened while clapping. “You did that! Woo!”  “It didn’t get you! Awesome!”  "You are still inside the game!"

Although, I’ll have to come up with new material soon, or people will think I’m just being patronizing.

One thing I’m absolutely horrific at is throwing.  I tried throwing in softball a couple of years ago, and people said I was good, so I guess those people weren’t my real friends.  Here, I was  a disaster.  I’m not used to foam balls, and lets just say I’m not used to throwing in order to hurt someone.  I’m more of like a basketball leisurely thrower than a whipper.  They kept yelling “Throw low!” and while I attempted to relay the message to my brain, it, in turn whispered to my arm to create a paper mache swan out of its joints, and well let’s just let it be, dear it said. Seriously. Awful. While others whipped the ball at my legs before I even had a chance to use them, the path of my throw was that of a very precise concave downwards parabola, the formula for which is expressed by a very simple 
y = -x2 + 1, resulting in a very slow trajectory, laden with predictability and shame.  I have drawn a diagram to represent this, where x and y should equal distance and height, but really they represent my opponent’s boredom and my personal embarrassment.

 I throw slow and steady, launching my ball into a very friendly, obtuse, positive climb, followed a monotonous and reflective pause which gives everyone on the opposing team time to eat a sandwich and re-group, followed by a lingering descent calling for a bystander to merely extend their arms to cradle what’s left of my ambitions in a careless afterthought.  What a fail.

Somewhere in the middle of the game, I stopped letting my negativity cloud my focus.  I decided to be fearless, and leapt towards a ball that had been discarded amidst the rubble of the fallen.  I decided this would be my chance at making my mark, this would be for the time Javier rejected my Lolita-esque attempts, this would be me, picking up the ball and whipping it at someone’s legs, like I should.  Instead, it was me, bending down to pick up the ball with the agility of a newborn elephant, and upon rising, getting slammed in the face by the opponents' sphere of evil. It hit me so fast, I didn’t even realize what was happening, except I was holding a blue ball, and what hit me was a yellow ball, so I mainly just saw green. Who even gets hit in the face? Apparently that has never happened to anyone on the team, so of course, it’s written in the official rules of dodgeball that on my first attempt, it would happen to me.  It hit me in the nose, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t breathe. Then I was all:

The absolute worst of that is when people flock to you, asking if you’re okay.  If you were okay before, having people worry about you just makes you feel like this is something to be worried about, so you tell them you’re okay and then proceed to bawl your eyes out.  But no, not I.  I gathered myself and in a very cool way, reclined at the wall.  “I’m gonna take a breather, dudes” I said.  Or something equally cool and nonchalant.  And then, when no one was looking, I casually walked out of the gym, walked into the girls bathroom (it was a public school…I know- way to relive all of those fears again), dabbed a tissue on my throbbing nose, and cried three tears. I counted them, because I wanted to make sure I was accountable for each and every one.  You know what, though, it did really, really hurt.  You know what hurt worse though? The fact that on that particular night, for that particular game, I had chosen to wear that damn t-shirt with french fries on it, so I literally could not have looked any more lame.  Hey guyze I like frize! Asshole. Fries do not belong in serious athletic environments.

Anyway, I then told myself to stop being a pansy, and walked back onto the court.  The rest of the game proceeded with mediocrity (at best) on my part, interspersed with my inner monologue of “I am never doing this again!”  but luckily ended on the note of my decision to keep going.  I told myself I would push myself this year, and here I am, pushing myself – out of my comfort zone, and possibly out of what it means to be a woman. I don't need you, Javier.

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