I’m a mama bear. Definition: Shit on me all you want. I have broad shoulders and I know how to flush. However, shit on my spawn, and we got problems, buddy.
This is what happened. Gazelle Girl works out at a local athletic training facility. Not your typical public gym. Professional trainers, some former pros, assess and work with young athletes to motivate them into stronger, faster, go-get-a-college-scholarship, competitors. Time will tell if the investment pays off.
During the training sessions, parents watch from the windowed fish bowl of a waiting room. GG doesn’t like me to hang on every weight she lifts, so I dink around with my phone and pretend to ignore her, sneaking in covert glances when she isn’t looking.
The football dads surrounding me, however, actively engage in chest pounding, fist bumps and guttural barks of encouragement over each increased feat of prowess their future NFL players perform in the training arena. Waiting room seating is akin to the constant kidney punching in the bleachers at a sold out game, so you can imagine my patience wears transparent-thin relatively quickly.
Then one football dad pipes up about his son’s recent injury and how crucial it is to rehab him before the upcoming baseball season. He needs to buck up like a man so he can play fall ball! Terms like “Avulsion fraction” and “MRI” are tossed like around like a pigskin. Terms with which I am very familiar, if you recall GG’s cracked hoof woes of last year.
At last, a conversation that doesn’t involve tribal grunting. “Oh,” says me. “An avulsion fracture. My daughter had one. Very tricky recovery. Very lengthy.”
As one, the collective football dads give me a look of judgment to verify I possess ovaries and hence should not have an opinion on such manly-man things.
“Your daughter, eh?”
“Yes, my daughter.” I nod to GG, who is currently schooling a bulky linebacker at sprints.
They ignore her, smirk at each other, then go back to congratulating themselves for having a Y chromosome.
I get it. I don’t have actual testicles (nor do I hang a metallic pair from my Iron Uterus, but figuratively, my sac outweighs yours, pal. But, I digress. Squirrel!). I’m not a football dad, nor do I have a son who plays football. I have a daughter who runs track. So these men dismiss me. Dismiss my daughter. Dismiss her sport. Dismiss females in general because they don’t fit the archaic preconceived idea of what makes an athlete.
A dismissal based on their narrow definition of success.
This happens in publishing, too. Writers dismissing other writers because they don’t fit their distorted mold deemed worthy of praise.
Small press? Dismissed.
Oh, only a one-book contract? Dismissed.
Only three zeroes in your advance? (Or, Heaven forbid, no advance?) DISMISSED!
It goes on and on all the way to what lists your book has hit or missed once published. Judgment. Dismissal. We’ve done it. We’ve received it.
But why? What makes one person’s success LESS simply because it doesn’t match the yardstick by which someone else measures? Because THEY say so? Screw them.
We take power away from those we judge. We give power away to those who judge us.
But what good is this power if it only exists to bloat or deflate?
Dismissal is such an easy tool to bolster the ego. To tell ourselves that we are better or that we will reach higher. Pffft on such a puny achievement. Who does she think she is? This type of thinking allows a person to save face against their own unmet aspirations and smother jealousy.
Perhaps before we put on our judge’s robes, we should remember that each individual goal is unique. Each individual goal is personal. Each individual goal is worthy. And not only that, but each individual goal has potential to exceed the low expectations that lead to judgment.
Like an indie author racking up a gazillion sales. Or a small press turning out a NYT Bestseller. Not to mention some of those mid-level houses poised to strike in this digital age and leave the big six in their dust.
See where I’m gettin’ with this? Don’t judge. Don’t dismiss. It might come back to bite you in the ass, my friend. Or it might prevent you from recognizing success when it smacks you upside the head.
Point in case. Suffice it to say, later that evening at the Pink Zone fundraiser game at school, I ran into the same football dad who had dismissed my GG for being a girl. Next to him was his pudgy, slack-jawed alleged-future NFL’er, staring at my lithe runner.
GG handed me her letterman jacket to hold before joining her friends. I took the opportunity to test its substantial weight.
Ching ching ching went the rows of heavy medals.
Boing boing boing went football dad’s eyeballs – from the jacket, to me, to the young track star sprinting away, to his suddenly inadequate spawn.
“Not bad for a daughter, eh?” I jingled the jacket again. Regional, Sectional and All-Conference medals disco-balled under the fieldhouse lights.
His pinched expression immediately confirmed my direct hit to the gonads.
Ain’t karma a bitch?
(Or is it just me?)