Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tri Me

Speaking of personal challenges - oh, sorry, were we not? We are now - I'm thinking about upping the ante, active-wise.

I was not what you would consider "sporty" in high school. Gym class was an unkind period for most teenagers, and I am not unique in feeling that the combination of unflattering shorts + sweaty faces + having desperate crushes on fully half the guys I went to high school with = a mini-heart attack every time we had to assemble for 50 minutes of self-conscious exertion. I was also what might be considered round, although it is hard to judge. Skinny fifteen-year-old girls are a totally different species from thin adult women: they are skinny in that "I just had a growth spurt" kind of way, not that "I spent a lot of time on my core" sort of way. Since I haven't had a growth spurt since the sixth grade, I never got to be a skinny fifteen year old girl. And yes, parts of me still resent that.

So I never played on the baseketball team or the lacrosse squad (although I was in Reach For The Top with my friend Jess, where we both had to be trained out of answering the questions in the form of a question - thanks a lot, Jeopardy). I did enjoy badminton, but that was mostly because it's a deeply goofy sport. It's tough to really suck at badminton.

My unwillingness to participate in team sports starts back in kindergarten: I "played soccer" by lying in the grass and ignoring the encouraging shouts from the coach, my parents, other people's parents, and my teammates. I had fun.

Something happened in university, though. Maybe it was the forty (!) pounds I gained when I took a year off school. Maybe it was finding out that the gym isn't an evil place. Don't get me wrong: I hate working out. The sweaty grunts and intimidating Spadex ensembles aren't encouraging to your average Joe-Schmo (or Jane Schmane...I guess?). Plus, I have a hard time not staring at people. I know it's bad form: I like watching bodies. Is that a crime? I do it on the bus, too. Does that balance things out? (I know the answer is no, and that I am a creepy weirdo. Sigh.)

While the machines make me nervous and the rowing machine gives me hives, the gym also contains wonderful spaces like the squash courts. I love playing squash. It's one of the very few sports where obscenities are okay, where crashing into the wall sometimes happens as part of gameplay - not as a result of my oafish gracelessness - and goddamn do you ever sweat. It's also competitive without being a team sport. I hate feeling like I've let people down when I fluff team sports, but with the solo endeavours, the only person who screwed it up is me.

With a new sport in my back pocket, I started losing some of those forty (!) pounds. I'm no great shakes at squash, but it is fun and fast. Then I started biking. Which clearly, I love. I just got back from a bike trip to Guelph, which was fun in the "my vacation kicked my ass" sort of way. Who knew that Halton Hills was actually hilly? I thought it was one of those subdivision-type names, but I was wrong. Painfully wrong.

I've since lost most of those 40 (!) pounds, and converted most of the remaining Cheeto-fat into muscle. Now I want a new challenge. I was thinking about maybe training for a triathlon. Not your scary Ironman deal. Something friendlier. Something like a Sprint Triathlon, which seems way more manageable. I've always been fascinated with adventure-type sports. The Patagonia catalogue, with its 3%-body-fat rock climbers sprinkled over gorgeous vistas? Yeah, that's basically porno for me. It makes me want to do the Iditarod (what a fun word to say!), learn how to horseback ride, and go over Niagara Falls in a pickle barrel. Failing that, it makes me want to get really good at playing catch.

Running a marathon just sounds painful, but I think something like a triathlon would be fun. Maybe a duathlon, since I'm a little afraid of deep water. Or a biathlon, which is cross-country skiing and shooting (!), and is disappointing for not including some competitive girl-girl making out. I don't want to turn into one of those droning bores who talk about things like carbo-loading and electrolytes, but it would be nice to kick a little ass every now and again...especially if the ass in question is my own.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Smelly Hippies

As I was leaning over the sink at work this afternoon, washing the hippie stench out of my armpits, it occurred to me that the low-impact organic lifestyle I attempt to maintain is seriously in need of a closer look. Not a closer whiff, though: you can probably smell me from there.

I usually love all that of-the-earth nonsense that makes organics a megaindustry, but has anyone noticed that, um, they don't seem to work as well? The low-impact toothpaste fails to freshen my breath for more than 45 seconds! The au-naturelle deodorant I try to use makes me smell worse than I do if I wear nothing at all! Guys, I'll just come out and say this: I am afraid of the Diva Cup.

I want to believe, though! But it's just not enough. I'm anti-toxic chemicals, but I'm also anti-reek at work. I know, I know: humans are supposed to get a teeny bit funky, especially when we move around. It's natural. For thousands of years, our thick-browed ancestors used "all-natural" methods of personal care, which clearly blow our hormonal/chemical bag of tricks right out of the water.

Except, like, ew: camel poop is not a contraceptive I want to use. I know that's a touch disingenuous, but come on. Today's smells were not good. I can't imagine anyone smelled all that fresh before the invention of antibacterial soap.

Buying that stuff is that whole consumer-activist song and dance. If I eschew being Zestfully clean in favour of Lush, then I can extrapolate all kinds of other conclusions about who I am. I care about the planet! I'm in the know! I'm into eco-concious fanciness! If I spring for a ZENN, then I'm putting a middle finger up to all those H3s that are basically smoking a pack of Marlboros right into the atmosphere's face. I knit my own feminine care products and dread my armpit hair.

Hm. No. (Not just the armpit hair, although, admittedly, I've wondered if it can be done.) It's the same problem I run into when people are really into, like, indie music. It's self-definition by way of consumer habits. I buy CDs instead of downloading them; ipso facto, I am what passes for "old-school" in today's attention-span-of-a-hummingbird society. I buy nine-dollar deodorant that makes me smell like a rotting beached whale, and I feel like I've "helped" "something" - vague good feelings about buying a product.

Now, I'm not crapping on all concientious purchasing. Some of it makes a difference, even though often that difference is diluted by oceans of the usual poisons (corporate greed, lies, semantically slippery definitions): I'm thinking here of Fair Trade, which does do good work. Other companies, like the feel-good and tasty Nantucket Nectars, are owned by Dr. Pepper: even if you think you're giving your juice money to a couple o' bucket-hat-wearing dudes, you're...not. Bummer.

Anyway, long story short: I will continue buying the hippie-dippy goofball versions of products, because I am sort of a goofy hippie person (albeit one who has no use at all for the icky aesthetics - sleek and black is the way I dress, even if I do sweat all over the sleek, black clothes). Why? I know buying organic-ish stuff is participation-lite, but I do actually walk the walk occasionally. Even though said walk makes me sweaty.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Who Wears Short Shorts?

In the post-Bush world, it cannot be denied that Michelle Obama is a total fox. Especially coming after Laura Bush, who looked vacant and bland as toasted Wonderbread, Michelle O. is a treat. She's all muscular and shit: she looks like she might be able to bench-press Mister President, which potentially would make for some sexy bedroom fun.

I always enjoy is when the political media gets whipped into a frenzy vis-a-vis fashion. It's fluffy, you know? People get so worked up about whether or not the First Lady whould be showing her arms, or wearing a headband, or admitting to being pregnant. It's like, hello? Priorities? There are, like, wars and stuff? Not to mention that people rarely get all ga-ga over the Pres' suits. I know it's been said before - how lame it is that First Ladies get excoriated for their fashion choices, while their husbands are the leader of the Free World? There's a canyon-sized divide between What Matters and What Doesn't Matter, but the female partners of politicians get reduced, time and again, to window dressing. Criticized window dressing.

Before I get all Women's Studies about the whole thing, I'll get to the point. Shorts. Do they matter? Who wears 'em? (Hint: I do. I love them.) Are they appropriate for the First Family? Are shorts a cause or effect of global warming? Are we seriously still talking about this?

In any case, like any good upper-middle-class American family, the Obamas (can I admit to constantly thinking "Obama" is a first name?) took a jaunt over to the Grand Canyon. And, like hundred of thousands of American tourists, Michelle Obama elected to sport a pair of shorts on her travels. So did her daughters, and they took in the sights and sounds of the American Southwest in garb that reflect the insane heat suffered in that part of the country. I don't know what 100 degrees farenheit is in real temperature, but I do know that it's warm. Like, balls hot.

In any case: shorts, like weaves and tube tops and other tricky items of clothing, should be worn by those who can pull them off. You got nice legs? Show 'em! I wear shortie-shorts for two reasons: one, I hate being hot, and two, I bike a lot. I have earned my gams, and they certainly won't be around forever. Michelle Obama, who clearly likes the gym, has earned her pins as well.

Look, I say the hoopla is all about context. If she - hell, if anyone - was roaming around in the blazing hot Arizonia sun wearing a natty wool pantsuit, I would question her brainpower. What she wore to the inauguration was charming and appropriate without being staid, and I love her green shoes.

But: pffft. I like fashion as much as the next broad, but I seriously could not care less about shorts and their relative appropriateness to events with regards to political wives. I sort of can't believe anyone else can, to be honest. It's the lamest sort of lip service: in theory, she's important enough to write about. Because of who she traded wedding bands with, however, she's been cast away into this bog of lameness: who she wears and who she shares a bed with standing in for what she does and what she cares about.

I say wear those shorts, Mrs. Obama. Wear them when you take your kids to the zoo, or when you hit the beach, or when you take the family for ice cream. Wear them knowing full well that, even though you're a lawyer and a mother, you're getting papparazzi'ed when you go about your business. I'll wear mine as I gad about the city, not getting photographed (also not flying a private jet to my vacation destinations...), and feeling just fine about it.