Sunday, May 27, 2007

No, really. I'm totally serious.

Those of you who know me in real life should have a seat. Or, if you must stand, try to stand on a resilient surface. Lava fields? No. Rope bridges across South American ravines? Please get all the way across before reading further. Hardwood floor? Edge towards a carpet, or at least a substantial pet. Everyone ready? Good.

I have joined a soccer team.

I haven't actually set foot on a field yet, but I've invested enough money that there's no chickening out now. Did you know that shin guards are now a high tech item? Did you realize that these advances in technology mean that the good people of City Sports can soak you for a good forty five bucks before you walk out even minimally outfitted? Apparently, you have to wear special socks over the sophisticated shin (and ankle!) guards, and oh yes, a pair of shorts. Cut off jeans are apparently not recommended.

This all started yesterday, when I was inspecting a strange bug in my front yard. A neighbor was walking by, and I asked if she was familiar with the little thing, and whether I should greet it with a chipper "Hello little fellow!" a vengeful "Die! Die!" or a detached, enlightened "Enjoy your meal, I'll buy you some more plants next week." She didn't know, I didn't know, and so the conversation moved swiftly on to, "Would you like to join a women's soccer team?" And bless my soul, I said yes. I should add that I gathered the following details before I said yes: All the players are over 30, half the women had never played soccer before this, and everyone stops playing when someone falls down. She told me I should definitely get some shin guards, and maybe some cleats if I got serious about it, but that as far as she was concerned, the cleats mostly just make you feel tough. Which is not a function that should be dismissed in an over-30, women's only, neighborhood soccer team. I have not yet bought cleats. Perhaps a shot of tequila? Cheaper, and possibly just as effective. I will pass a couple of bars on the walk from my house to the field. We'll see.

So yesterday I said yes, today I bought my gear, and my first game is tomorrow. I'm a bit nervous, and starting to wonder what in the world I can be thinking.

The whole process is reminding me very clearly of the spring of 1985 or -6. My brother was getting ready to go to Little League registration, and my parents asked if I'd like to sign up for baseball too. I had never considered it, but what went through my head at that moment was, "It's not as if they'll take one look at me and say no way. It's not like picking teams in Gym. If I say I want to sign up, they'll have to take me! And I bet all kinds of not-very-athletic kids sign up for Little League. I can't be the only one. I could actually do this." And then I started imaging how cool it would be when it turned out I was really good at baseball, and how I'd look all sporty in my uniform, and there would probably be cute boys on the team who'd be impressed and grateful when I led our team to an undefeated season. I was ten-year-old bookworm, and tended to live in the world of my imagination a little more than was strictly healthy. Luckily, once we arrived at the middle school cafeteria for registration, the small part of my brain that still had a grasp on reality looked around. The place was filled with wiry, coordinated boys of all ages, and a few formidable girls, all intent on the serious business of filling out forms, waiting in lines, and looking very, very athletic. My brother fit right in. He walked into the crowd and disappeared in the sea of tan limbs, scuffed with activity and action. I, on the other hand, if I remember my 10-year-old vibe correctly, was probably quite pale from being inside all the time, wearing a pink and white jumper with red leather shoes that buckled,* and sniffling into a kleenex with my interminable seasonal allergies (so thoroughly seasonal, they included all the seasons). The reality-grasping part of my brain registered all this, got the attention of the rest of me, and I realized that my chances of a triumphant, against-all-odds summer filled with baseball victories were probably not very good, and I told my parents I had changed my mind about baseball. Just as they had nonchalantly accepted it when I had told them I wanted to sign up for baseball, they listened without a blink when I changed my mind.

If I were more in tune with feminist conventional wisdom, I would now lament that I allowed cultural expectations and gender norms to affect my choices and prevent the beginning of an illustrious athletic career. Well, I'm sure our patriarchal society oppressed me in all kind of tragic ways, but this is not one of them. I would have hated baseball. There was no chatting! No reading! No making ...things out of ...stuff. And not even anything to snack on until after the whole thing was over. And it was dirty, sweaty, so! boring!, and occasionally required one to think and run at the same time. None of that added up to a good time when I was ten.

Now, however, facing soccer, I have no romantic delusions about how terrific I'll be. I know what I can realistically expect from myself (no skill, little endurance, bad jokes, good attitude) and what I can expect from my teammates (camaraderie, earnest effort, some skill, good humor), and it's starting to sound like fun.

I'll keep you posted on how long I stick it out. Although, both having bought the gear and now told the internet all about it, I don't see this ending with another swift, graceful departure from team sports. I'm bracing myself for a sweaty summer full of indignity, minor injuries, and excellent blogging material.

*You think I'm exaggerating? I am not. I loved that jumper (my mother made it), and I wore those shoes so often, I wore right through the soles and then asked for another pair just like them.

Post-Game Show:
So, I was, ah, awful. I had to quit playing before my lungs rebelled and sought work outside my body, I turned the color of the other teams' pinnies (red! bright, sweaty red!), and I almost scored a goal for the other team. All in all, it was fantastic. It was exhilarating and satisfying and, well, fun. I'm totally going back.


ca-rrrole said...

your soccer experience made me want to run right out and sign up for something that required shin guards and cleats...the crowded Santa monica farmers market, the packed organic section...maybe just having the uniform is enough, playing would mess it up...

Another Anna said...

Do not underestimate the intimidation value of protective gear. I bet people would scatter right and left, and you'd really improve your chances of getting near the organic heirloom tomatoes. Especially if you add some elbow pads... a helmet... some of that black stuff under your eyes?

ca-rrrole said...

oh you are so right!!! black stuff under the eyes...good for teaching too, especially gentle stuff like poetry...which is not for sissies.

what would you wear at a pre-wedding kickball game?

Another Anna said...

Heh heh. I'm planning to paw through my to-be-donated box of clothing to see if there's anything I can re-assemble into a madcap outfit. Right now I'm thinking stripes, fringe, a hat (that ties on)... We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Hoorah for Anna playing soccer!
I remember your jumper and even the shoes. See you at the wedding for kickball. Best, Chad

Another Anna said...

Re: kickball costumes

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair. I just finished costumes for me and the dude. Felt. Tights. Masks. Watch out.