Thursday, February 4, 2016

Not quitting


Rowing Ruminations Part 15

I remember my first two years of rowing most fondly. For all the ranting I’ve done about being yelled at (instead of doing all of the yelling myself as the cox) and the physical exhaustion and the sleep deprivation and the misogyny, I loved the sense of…community? Togetherness? Camaraderie? that I felt when I was with the other rowers. It wasn’t love, not in the romantic sense, anyway. It wasn’t friendship, because friendship isn't what you call your relationship when you’re in different years of university in Japan. “Belonging” is the best I can come up with. A cox, especially a girl cox of a guys’ boat, is a part of the boat, but different from the rowers. And that was my position, my seat,  where I belonged, four mornings a week, and every Saturday afternoon during the spring and summer. 

(My mother says I majored in rowing in university. She is only half joking when she says that.)

When we started out, there were five other people from my class on the squad. Of the five, I was closest to the other cox. He and I were the ones in our year most likely to head to class (instead of Denny’s for breakfast) after practice, and least likely to drink voluntarily. He was kind of short but really muscular, and had a lot of trouble getting down to 50 kg (110 pounds, the minimum weight for men’s coxswains at the time). He wanted to go back to the sport he was in during high school. It was clear he’d do better in his old sport than coxing. The other two left for financial and social reasons. So it was just me and two other guys after the third year.

I knew I didn’t want to be the third girl to quit the boat club. I wanted to be the first girl to stay. The first of many. I stuck it out until graduation because I thought if I left, there would never be any more women on the squad, which would mean the demise of the rowing club what with the increasing number of women admitted to our school. Then we went the way of the dinosaur anyway. That was over 15 years ago, and I’m still not sure how I feel about this. 

But I see people from our boat club every so often at work functions. When we notice each other, they smile and nod at me, and I am sure that the smile would not be so warm and the nod would not be as sure if I’d been the third girl to quit.

No comments: