“Paige is a reader,” Ex commented as I curled closer to the light.
“So,” I responded, as I lowered my book and waited for an explanation. Being only six months into the relationship, I was unsure if his statement was sincere or sarcastic.
“People always praise readers. I’ll never be a reader,” he said with a disappointed sigh as he lifted his laptop off the bed and balanced it on his knees.
“You liked that book I gave you,” I countered.
“I am still on chapter two. I fall asleep every time I open the darn thing.”
“Jesus – are you simply rereading the same five hundred words? Wait, don’t answer that,” I insisted.
“Paige is a reader,” he repeated, this time speaking the words with a pinch of envy.
The thing is, I knew exactly what he was getting at. It’s different for each person but everyone has a few qualities they look fondly upon, things they don’t identify with but admire in others.
Case in point, just the other day I collapsed on my sofa and started rifling through my pile of mail. I tucked bills off to the side and started perusing the catalogs. I flipped through LL Bean. I scanned Mark Shale. Finally down to the last one, I stretched my legs a little and refocused. The shadow of my treadmill cast across the glossy pages of the Title Nine catalog. A sporty girl-power company, they use real women to model their products and they always note her personal information in the corner of her in-the-act photo. Before long, I was paying more attention to the models than the merchandise they were sporting.
Kayaking Class V Rapids
Whore. Look at her toned legs, muscular and lean. And that skort. I want that skort. It’s cute and fits her tiny ass perfectly. My quads never look that good. Twenty bucks says her thighs don’t touch. Of course they don’t touch. Not even when her feet are together. Oh and I bet she doesn’t sweat. Fucking bitch. I want to kayak. I want to appear that refreshed after a day of riding the rapids. I want to look like Cindy, all perky while loading a kayak on top of a Subaru Outback while an adorable black lab named Charlie chases the cord dangling off the roof. I hope he drops a turd and she steps in it.
I turned the page.
What the fuck? People run in the snow? By choice? Without being chased by a bear? And sure enough, there on the page was leggy Beth decked out in fleece gear while prancing down a pine tree lined and snow covered trail. Hell, the bitch even looked like she was enjoying herself, crisp whiteness blanketing the landscape as her leg extended to hurdle a mound. Fucking masochist. I hope she hits an ice patch and falls. And hey, while you’re down there on the ground sweetie, can you please explain to me how a graphic designer can afford to reside in Aspen? Because I recently priced out a wintry visit and for the same amount of money that weekend’ll cost me I could feed a Peruvian family of ten for an entire year.
My eyes did a head to toe scan, the kind a caddy girl does at a bar when something blond and busty starts edging onto her turf. I started with Beth’s ponytail, perfectly straight and shiny, and let my eyes descend until they landed on her sneaker clad feet. Salomons. Trail runners. Gore-tex trail runners with the ripcord closure. I smiled. I smiled so big my mouth hurt. Because I own those. I bought them in the spring. Meaning I had them well before this catalog and Beth touted them as athletic gear. And while you won’t ever catch me running in them let alone running in them on a snowy path, you most definitely will see me donning them as I prance down Germantown Avenue popping into shops and boutiques. Looks like I’m an athlete after all.
Fine, I’m my version of an athlete. I happily whack balls off of tees even though every so often I fail to make contact and simply hit a whiffer. I enjoy pedaling ten or so miles over the relatively flat towpath in Valley Green even though by the end I am an unsightly mess, panting and sweating and eager to collapse. I live for winter months when I can strap skis to my feet and swoosh down the non-mogul slopes of nearby mountains even though with age I have become more cautious so as to avoid slabs of ice and tumbling first timers.
Looking at those Salomon sneakers on someone or perhaps more accurately something I am not but so desperately want to be, I somehow started to see it a little differently. I stepped back. I adjusted my lens. I stopped focusing on what I’m not and started to embrace what I am - an athlete on my own terms. It’s a minor tweak. Not to the word but to my personal definition. Cindy might kayak rapids and Beth might run through fields of snow - it doesn’t make them any more or me any less of an athlete.
Oh yeah, plus I’m still a reader. Eat that, bitches.