Letter To A Young Girl

Dear A__,.

The decision to have you, to bring you into this world, was not an easy one; your mother and I agonized about it a fair amount. We went for it in the end because we were excited to see how our lives would turn out with someone like you in our lives. Our decision was the correct one; we cannot imagine life without you, and you have changed us for the better in many ways. All isn’t smooth sailing, of course; I regret that this world into which you’ve been born is not in better shape. Climate change is real; fascist political movements are on the rise all over the world; patriarchy is fighting very, very hard to maintain its power. And that’s just three of the many things that makes this world a worse place than it needs to be. I’m not a very optimistic person; and so I think that things will get worse before they get better. Still, there is plenty of occasion to cheer, and to offer me hope for what lies ahead of you. Here are the two biggest factors in my optimism–such as it is.

First, the world is still beautiful; you’ve seen some of it thanks to our family trips but there is so much more; literally, a whole world. I’ve only scratched the surface, but I’d like to think I’m exposing you to enough to whet your appetite. You like climbing, and I’m hopeful that you will keep it up–literally–and go to all those airy ledges that always seem to have the best views of the world below. There is much to see, much to explore; and if the big bad guys want to take away this wilderness from you, then you have a good battle to fight  waiting for you. It’s a good cause; you could do worse than to devote your life to keeping the outdoors wild and beautiful for future wild kids like you.

Second, young people are angry and politically organized. Just yesterday, a young and dynamic woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, won a primary election–she is going to be the youngest woman elected to Congress. She spoke up for the communities she represents, putting their interests front and center; she did not compromise or triangulate; she spoke clearly and fearlessly; and she inspired many to come out and support her. You don’t have to emulate her; you don’t have to run for Congress; but you should learn from her that sincerity and passion and honesty will take you a long way even as many around you will try to tell you to be insincere and dishonest.

So, there it is. You don’t get an inheritance other than a a beautiful world and some beautiful people to share it with. Oh, there’s tons of trolls and ogres as  well; they’ve got their eyes on the prize too. But what kind of adventure would life be if there weren’t any ‘wild things’ to take on and best at their own game?

Yours with many hugs,

Papa

A Crossfit Party with Strong Women

Last night, I attended a Crossfit party. During the party–held at Crossfit South Brooklyn–two very strong and fit women, Annie Thorisdottir and Lindsey Valenzuela, performed a grueling workout for ten minutes. (Perform as many rounds as possible of the following combination: five shoulder to overhead movements of a seventy-five pound barbell, ten deadlifts of the same barbell, followed by fifteen jumps on to a twenty-inch box).  There were bright lights, an MC, television cameras, loud music, a raucous, enthusiastic, admiring crowd that clapped and cheered as the two athletes went flat out, performing a workload, which would leave most normal human beings, if not dead, then at least violently sick. (Most folks in attendance were Crossfitters themselves; thus, at the least, they had performed versions of the workout themselves and known just how difficult it is to sustain that kind of non-stop physical effort for ten minutes.)

At the end of it all, Ms. Thorisdottir had performed twelve rounds of the workout and Ms. Valenzuela eleven. (And change for both.) This was the second of the extravaganzas that Crossfit stages in the ‘Open’ section of its Crossfit Games: worldwide, average Joe gym-goers perform a series of workouts; some qualify for the so-called Regionals; and then another cut takes place for the Crossfit Games. (Described rather elegantly by a friend as the ‘World Series of Competitive Exercise’.) Last night’s event, as befitting an organization committed to putting on a show, was announced midweek on a live streamed program, with the workout performed immediately as a contest between two athletes known for their proficiency and fitness. Ms. Thorisdottir has won the Crossfit Games for the last two years running and is a serious contender to go for a third this year. Both Ms. Thorsidottir and Ms. Valenzuela are accomplished weightlifters; Ms. Valenzuela in particular is a national level Olympic weightlifter and perhaps has aspirations to compete internationally. (A difficult time awaits her; American women weightlifters have struggled to make a mark in international competitions thus far; perhaps Crossfit’s embrace and popularization of Olympic lifting might make a difference in this dismal situation.)

Writing on the Crossfit South Brooklyn blog today, I described the workout-party as follows:

The carefully choreographed production of spectacle, the deployment of mass media high technology, the showmanship, the human body beautiful and strong, the invocations of gladiatorial combat, the centrality of women athletes, it all was quite something to witness.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the evening was the open admiration of men for women athletes, one not  couched exclusively in terms of their physical attractiveness. (Needless to say, the women in attendance were equally awestruck.) Sure, there was much talk of sensational derrieres, but overwhelmingly, the men present were in awe of the physical effort on display. This made for an interesting change from a pattern often visible at conventional sporting events; men often disdain the women’s events or accuse them of not working as hard, or performing as well, or being overpaid or some variant thereof.   Crossfit still has a way to go in addressing gender issues that arise in its spaces–more on that anon, someday–but it has managed to work toward providing a forum where female athletes are equally worthy of appreciation. Just for that, the event was a revelation.