In high school, my chosen sport was bowling. My mom wanted me to play tennis, and I distinctly remember looking at her like she was crazy. Tennis? You mean, running around after a ball? In the sun? Trying to not get hit in the face with a ball? Hand-eye coordination? Ha!
I've never wanted much to do with physical exertion. I prefer activities that don't involve breaking a sweat. You know, like reading. Knitting. Napping. Things like that.
I fully acknowledge that going to the gym is a useful activity if I want to keep eating as much as I want to and still fit in all my clothing (more useful than napping, regrettably). However, I've never been great about sticking it out at the gym. I've had a few gos at it over the years, without really knowing what I was doing or enjoying it that much. It just didn't ever appeal much to me. All that walking and biking without getting anywhere. The sweating. Not knowing what to do with weights in general. Just, ugh.
Then I discovered pole dancing. And then I started to get stronger. For the first time in my life, I had upper body strength.
The transformation was certainly not overnight. It was ages before I could do certain things that other people got practically immediately, like invert. But, I got there. And now I can do some pretty cool things that I never dreamed I'd be able to do.
Around the beginning of January (and having nothing to do with New Year's resolutions, thank you), I started going to the gym again, for the first time in a few years, this time with Team Bellers as my new workout partners. This time, I had a different purpose. Before, I've always had the goal of just "losing weight." Not that I ever achieved it. Or really felt like I achieved much of anything besides getting sweaty and hanging out with whatever workout partner I had at the time.
Losing weight isn't my goal anymore. If it happens, I obviously won't be complaining. But my goal now is just to "be stronger."
I've been stronger than I look since I started doing pole. Repeatedly lifting your body weight will do that to a girl (or a guy). I've had people offer to help me with something I'm carrying and then been surprised at how heavy it was once I handed it over. I like that. I like being strong. I like not being helpless, not being a wilting flower.
The last time I took a stab at working out, several years ago, I distinctly remember my ex telling me that he didn't want me to work out too much because he didn't want me to get "too muscular." He implied that I wouldn't be attractive or feminine if I were too strong. This was just another in a long list of "too's" I couldn't or shouldn't be, according to him. I couldn't be too tall. I couldn't be too sexy. I couldn't be too muscular.
Well, fuck that.
Last Friday, I flipped a tractor tire for the first time. And I deadlifted my own weight. I bench pressed 70 pounds over a month ago.
I pole dance. I haul heavy equipment around for work. I help move cabinets and bookcases.
And you know what? I don't think I'm any less attractive or feminine for my ability to do any of that. I'm hardly bulging with muscles. I'm not going to be a bodybuilder by any means, and I don't want to be. I have biceps, of course. I'm stronger than I used to be.
And my boyfriend is the one there, telling me he knew I could do it, or telling me I can bench press more weight. And that doesn't make him somehow feel less secure in his manhood. Why should it? I still want to be with him, and he wants to be with me. That's the important thing. Not whether or not I fit into some stupid controlling, demeaning box of being "just right."
Ladies (and gentlemen), let me tell you something I've learned: don't ever let someone's ridiculous idea of what and who you "should" be stop you from achieving what you want to. Don't limit yourself for someone else's approval. Don't put yourself in someone else's box.
It's not worth it. It's not worth worrying if you're good enough, or attractive enough, or submissively feminine enough.
What is worth it? Having a partner who is a cheerleader instead of a puppet master. Having friends who think it's ridiculously awesome that you flipped a goddamn tractor tire. Being confident in who you are and doing what makes you happy.
It's all so, so worth it.