It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a modern woman in possession of a good brain, must make an effort to follow popular sports.
Apologies to Jane Austen. I just felt it appropriate that this post about my sports nescience began with a reference to a woman who represents the ne plus ultra of chick lit.
It’s not that I lack exposure to athletics. Growing up, my sisters and I were enrolled in a panoply of physical activities. Starting at around age 5, the three of us were regular — if perplexing — full-fledged members of the local Little League, soccer league and Saturday basketball teams. We were always the only females in the ranks. Why were we there? Why weren’t we on the softball, volleyball or more traditionally distaff teams? Well, anyone who knows my parents (or who’s cottoning on to the general home truths of my upbringing) may surmise the key attractor: low cost.
My frugal father recognized the value proposition of enrolling his daughters in all-boys sports leagues, and it wasn’t a Title IX-esque spirit of egalitarianism. It was that, due to lack of precedent, these teams had no pricing structure for enrolling girls. Capitalizing on the harried confusion in these volunteer-run organizations, my dad would argue that, yes, his bookish 8-year-old daughters would be no trouble at all on a baseball team filled with rambunctious, hyper 12-year-old boys. Upon the league organizers’ puzzled but defeated assents, you could practically hear the gleeful “cha-ching!” of my dad’s mental cash register. Free extracurriculars = free babysitting. Not to mention the free gear (jerseys, caps) and gratis after-school snacks! So there you have it: Occam’s razor. Occam’s crappy, disposable, free razor.
As we aged out of being able to carry off this subterfuge, my dad, with heavy heart, had to admit that it was time to let us choose more gender-appropriate extracurriculars — i.e., ones you have to pay for. (You can only brush off so many questions about “wearing cups” before you start to worry you’re turning your young daughters into the Reverse Tootsies of the Little League.)
With our newfound freedom, Yee, my older sister, chose swimming, for its elegant simplicity and reliance on brute strength. I chose gymnastics, for its exoticism and the thrilling hyper-competitiveness that permeates even its lowest levels.
My younger sister Quin chose taekwondo, because it was the lowest-commitment sport at the Y. Poor Quin had recently discovered piano and hair dye — both of which interested her infinitely more than martial arts — but my parents weren’t about to let her skip athletics, as college was now On The Radar (her age: 11) and they’d heard a susurrus that sports were an integral piece of the “look how well-rounded I am!” extracurricular puzzle.
For the same reasons, my dad encouraged Yee to shadow doctors at the hospital, which allowed her to witness the drainage of an abscessed scrotum at 14; my mom urged me to go to cemeteries with my trumpet to play “Taps” at veterans’ funerals. These types of activities seemed unnatural at first, but redounded to our credit, I’m assuming, on both college apps and in personal development.