Thursday, December 20, 2012


My 11-year-old self was a quirky kid. She firmly believed lots of things I do not hold so firmly anymore.

  • She believed the world would end in a nuclear war before she'd lived out her natural life. (She was less clear on what that meant, whether that the physical planet would be destroyed or that the human population would be, but something like that.)
  • She believed it was likely that there'd be flying cars by the year 2000.
  • She believed she was fat. Hopelessly so.
  • She believed fat was bad.
  • She believed fitness was absolutely beyond her, and sports more so, and team sports worst of all, because team sports are just a way to make fat, unfit kids feel crappy.

There are some things I'd like to tell her and her 16-year-old counterpart. Neither of those two gorgeous young women would have any interest in listening to me, but still, they should have the chance to hear it:

  • You are not fat. I've seen pictures. I don't know who put that idea in your head, but you're totally normal. Actually, I guess I do know, and screw that kid, and that other kid. 
  • You will be fat eventually, and you will not always be comfortable with it, but it's important that you do what you can to get over that discomfort, for reasons that are physical and emotional and sociological. Another kid will call you fat when you actually are fat, and it will still sting, but it will not haunt you. The sooner you can get to the letting-go part, the better.
  • Some of what has made you fat is all that dieting you're doing when you're 11 and 16. Seriously, start with the letting go.
  • It's fine that you would rather do conditioning than team sports. That will be true for at least the next 30 years of your life.
  • It's not just you. It is weirdly suburban that among all the fitness choices you have in P.E., you are required to take tennis (and only tennis), because that is a life skill. Some things that seem weird or outrageous when you're an adolescent seem less so when you're an adult. This is not one of them.
  • Team sports are not just a way to make you feel left out. They are also a way to make some other kids who need it feel that they belong. You'll find other ways.
  • You will, some day, start a team in a team sport, and stick with it for years. You will be the worst one on your team — sometimes, you will be the worst one in your league. The sense of belonging will still make you really, really happy.
  • You will, some day, go to a gym you are not being required to go to, regularly. You will work out around people who are skinnier and stronger and fitter than you are, and you'll like it. You'll pay money for the privilege.
  • You will love fitness assessments. You will, even while fat, be above average on everything they test you on, fitness-wise. You will score "excellent" on push-ups and you will max out the chart on sit-ups; your lung capacity and flexibility will both be just great. You'll be able to run a stupid mile without anyone yelling at you. You will be arguably more pleased than you should be to be above average. Have fun with it.
  • Also, sit-ups will be out of fashion when you're an adult. They'll have been replaced with something called crunches, which are both easier and better for you. See? It does get better. 
  • There will be flying-car technology, but people will mostly not be using it. Heck, there'll be electric car technology, which is cheaper and more useful, and people will mostly not be using that, either.

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