We were standing on the corner of Houston and Allen Streets. We had covered the entire west side and a good portion of the lower east side. My feet didn’t hurt, my hair still had a few good hours left in it, but the mist was beginning to turn to rain — a signal perhaps that it was time to call it a night.
Should we lyft, subway, or splurge on a yellow cab? Red asked.
I looked around. Houston was uncharacteristically jammed with “ready to hire” cabs. I answered the question by hailing one and said the fare was on me.
Red and I had talked freely all night, and continued to swap stories, each of us sitting as close to the windows and away from each other as possible. Like two kindergartners who were afraid of catching cooties.
As was my luck, I had picked a cab with one of those drivers who decides to pop-in on your conversation, then shares his life story, then offers you advice. He was wearing a powdered blue suit. He had class.
Are you two married?
Ha! No! We both replied.
Boyfriend and girlfriend?
Nope. Again, in unison.
Then Red: We’re friends.
We both remained silent and looked out the window. Our hazy night was reflected back to me in the silhouettes of NYC’s buildings zipping past.
Your date is so seeeeexxxxy! Red’s friend Leanna drunkenly announced when we dropped in on her Cinco de Mayo party. Keeeep herrrrrr!
Marry her! Another random party-goer said to Red when I sourced ladles as shot glasses.
We looked the part of couple, but were d-level actors at it.
It was a second date that should have been a home run given the success of our first and a long list of shared interests. I hadn’t been this excited about someone since Clark Kent, the museum exhibition manager with the kryptonite touch from the summer before. This one felt written in the stars. And yet, everything fell entirely flat. We were having a good time, but we would have been having a good time whether or not we were with each other. We were out together, but not really together.
The man should chase the woman, our dapper taxi driver said at one point.
It was perhaps his wisest remark of our northbound drive. I had quasi chased Red, and while I don’t believe in following all the standard rules of engagement in love and lust, experience had taught me to let the man take the lead.
Outside his apartment he gave me a firm hug.
I like you. I had a great time. You’re really sweet, but I don’t think we have much in the way of chemistry.
No. It seems we don’t.
We have a lot in common, and we should totally keep in touch.
Absolutely. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
As I walked to my car, I remembered I had a two-bite brownie in a hidden pocket of my purse. I sat in the driver’s seat. Cranked up some Beyonce. Ate the brownie in four bites, then drove off into the rain.
It was the patriot cluster of red, white, and blue that caught my eye as I walked past my office’s mail/copy room. The lone envelope in my mailbox was stocked with enough forever stamps to take it to the moon and back. When I saw the return address, I smiled warmly as I thought this was just like him. He never wanted to let me down or disappoint me. He would do whatever he had to to make sure the USPS wouldn’t fail me.
Inside the envelop, wrapped thoughtfully in a paper towel was my missing earring. A giant peridot-like stud that he had given me for Christmas and that I had left at his house weeks earlier, before we decided to part ways. The post of the earring had been bent in transit so it lay flat against the crystal (or perhaps he had bent it before he sent it? Another precaution so it wouldn’t poke through the envelope and get lost en route? That was also just like him.) I started to try to unbend it… it wouldn’t budge. Just then, my boss walked into my office.
“I have a jeweler who can fix that for you.”
“I have a pair of pliers.”
“You’d better heat it up then. Wouldn’t want to break it.”
That would have been ironic. I dropped the earring into a cup of boiling water and sat at my desk. I played our time together through my head as I let the metal warm.
Had he been different, had those earrings been different, I might not have asked for it back. Given how long we had been seeing each other when he gave them to me, they were the gift I least expected. Not only were they jewelry (remember the ex boyfriend who refused to buy me earrings?) they were the exact pair I had been stalking at the Kate Spade store near my work. It seemed that at only two months in, he had already figured me out.
And maybe he had since day one. Our first date had been 5-star, after all. He had worn a suit and tie. I had worn my favorite Milly skirt and red patent heels. A refreshing change from the oh so many swipe-started first dates where I almost didn’t care if I had shown up in sweat pants.
The relationship that came before him had been defined by a lack of communication. Ours had been defined by intimacy — we had been open about our relationships past and our fears entering this one, about our personal short comings, and about the road blocks we had faced that had in turn made us strong. We lusted after each other for the superficial things, but admired each other for the things that mattered. We weren’t afraid to take the risks that come with opening up. He was the first guy I’d dated who ever showed any genuine interest in all the parts that made up my life — from the gallery to my family to my sport to my blog.
I took the earring out of the cup and bent the post back into place. I’d been carrying around its mate in my purse and immediately, I popped the reunited pair into my ears. When he and I broke up exactly two weeks earlier I didn’t cry. When we broke up, I don’t know that I felt the feelings that make you want to cry. I don’t know that I felt anything but relief — I wasn’t making him happy, and let me tell you, being unable to make someone happy can be exhausting.
Later that night as I went to put the earrings into my jewelry box, I cried. Running through it all — from start to last text message — I realized just how final our good-bye had been and I was sorry for that. But at least I had this new favorite pair of earrings, and to always wear with them, a cache of warm memories and lessons about life, love, and Legos.
In something of an ironic twist, about two weeks later I lost the earring again, at an art fair. This time, it is clearly for good. Lesson learned: somethings are just not meant to be.
I turned the corner just in time to see the Physicist walking up to the entrance of my gallery and stopped dead in my tracks. Before he could pass through the bronze doors he paused and turned, catching what I’m sure was a look of shock on my face. For a moment we stared right at each other, and in that same moment I traveled back in time three years…
He was standing in that doorway the first time I saw him, walking into the opening reception for one of our exhibitions. It was a wintry Sunday afternoon in February, and he was wearing a long white-black tweed coat over slim red pants and a black turtleneck. He looked so bloody French (which we was), and therefore was the best thing I’d seen in a longtime. I was wearing a sequined feathered whimsy on loan from one of Lady Gaga’s milliners. It happened to sit right in the center of my forehead and project a foot into the air. I looked… different.
He was walking out of that doorway when I decided to run after him to give him a piece of paper with my phone number scrawled on it. I was two weeks out of a serious relationship and was in an empowered mood that bordered on reckless.
It was a week later, on Valentine’s Day, when a few doors down from that doorway we went on our first date.
And then a month later, we were in his doorway and he kissed me good-bye. As I walked out into the lion’s roar of March, I was certain that I’d never see him again…
And then, here we were, three years later on a wintry Friday afternoon in January standing in that doorway again.
“I wish you had told me you were coming in,” I said. “I would have made sure my hair looked better.”
The Physicist was visiting a chapter of his old life, on vacation from his new life in eastern Europe. We caught up over coffee in a trattoria behind the gallery.
“You don’t blog any more,” he remarked once we made it past a catch-up on work life and started the transition to personal lives. “Is that because someone’s given you reason not to blog?”
“I’ve been seeing someone, but he’s not the reason I’m not writing. I just haven’t had any time to write. And maybe, these days, I have too much to say.”
“You should make time. I liked reading it. And writing mattered to you.”
He handed me a deck of playing cards — my gift. The face side of each card was a soviet-era “propaganda” poster. I laughed out loud as I shifted through the images and he showed off some of his Russian.
Sometimes it’s hard to attribute any value to the ephemeral relationships that make their way into and out of our lives. I always considered the Physicist as a quasi toxic vignette in my dating life (even if was French and had a six pack.) But his cameo at the start of 2017 was a valuable one — he reminded me to hold onto all the things that make me ME.
And so, just as the American political leadership is trying to silence the voices of women and minorities, and just as I start down new paths of my own, I return to my soap box.
In my hometown, girls who wanted to play in Little League played on co-ed baseball teams until the 5th grade. Despite being the generation that watched “A League of Their Own” in the theaters, there weren’t many of us who wanted to be Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis). We were evenly distributed across all the teams, and that meant that most of the time there were no more than two of us. I wanted to pitch, but a coach told me: “Girls don’t pitch.” But I had a good arm, so I was put in right field (well, that was the justification for it, anyway.) Girl 2 on the team was also put in the outfield… a fake position called “center right.”
Often at practice, Girl 2 and I would out-slug the guys. But when it came to setting up the order, we were always placed at the bottom. Come game time, when we’d get up to bat we were heckled by the boys on both teams — by our teammates and by the opponents. The male coaches never did anything to make the boys shut up. If I struck out, which I did a lot (and no more than the boys), I’d be met back in the dugout with “what do you expect from a girl!?”
When I was finally old enough to join the all-girls softball league, everything changed. I became a starting pitching, a top-of-the-order batter, an All-Star. When we’d play co-ed softball in gym-class, I was a first round draft because I could out-everything the boys.
There was no more heckling. There was just the game.
I remember being in pre-school and wanting to be a boy. I’d try to pee standing up (I learned after one attempt that we’re just not built for that.) I guess it’s a phase all children go through — that phase when they’re trying to understand what makes us different from the other kids on the playground, and then trying to appropriate some of those differences… because the grass is always greener on the other side.
Maybe that’s why I preferred a hammer, nails, and a block of wood to dolls when it came to toys. My school folders had cars on them instead of “My Little Pony.” As I got older and moved into sports, I always played with the boys. I’d swim in the boys’ lanes, or go to their practices in girls’ off season. I fight the boys in karate and bout with the boys at fencing practice. In college, I majored in Economics. I did my problem sets with the boys and go for morning runs with the boys.
And then I’d throw on a pair of high heels, a bedazzled shirt and some eyeliner and drink beers with the boys. The boys would often still be in their gym clothes.
The battle of the genders begins from day one. There’s only a short, sweet time when the playing field is level and then the realizations kick in – boys and girls are not the same.
We fall from Eden.
Putting aside basic biology, what is it that makes men and women so different? To me, it’s all about experience. We fall from Eden not because we realize our nakedness, we realize we don’t have access to the same opportunities. The boys on my little league team were never told they couldn’t pitch because they were boys. As we think of what makes us strong as women, so much of what empowers us is how we learn to define ourselves in relation to the boys — even if we don’t want to admit it. What if my little league team had been 50-50 boys and girls? What if my coach had had daughters instead of sons? Would I still have been told “girls can’t?” Would someone have said “boys can’t?”
The first thing I did in the New Year was pay my American Express bill (well, technically it was the second think I did, after picking up the broken champagne flute and depositing the empty bottles of Veuve in the recycling.) Next, it was on to the gym. When I got home, I baked butter tarts and cheese biscuits, then googled “Oscar Isaac relationship status.”
If these acts kicking-off my 2016 are in anyway indicative of some underlying, motivating New Year’s resolutions, those resolutions would have to be:
Continue to improve personal financial solvency.
Obtain fitness model physique.
Consume more carbohydrates.
Marry Oscar Isaac.
If I really think about it, I’m fairly confident I can achieve all of these in the next 12 months (even if Nos. 1 and 3 seem in complete competition and I didn’t get a FitBit for Christmas). #4 seems particularly obtainable…
Oscar Isaac… Swoon. (New Year’s Eve had included seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D.)
On Wednesday, the last day our offices were open in 2015, my boss called to riddle off a few final requests and bid me an enjoyable long weekend.
“2016 is going to be a great year for all of us,” she said.
“Well, I certainly hope so…” I immediately envisioned the upcoming 12 months — a long list of projects which forecasts a relentless, Sisyphean push uphill scrolled across my mental computer screen. I think I threw-up a little in my mouth. “Yes. I mean, yes. Of course it will be a fabulous year!”
The changing calendar triggers a flurry of contradictory feelings. Nostalgia — for the year closing and years past. Excitement — the chance to start afresh and the promise of new adventure. Fear — a lot of life happens in a short period of time; can I handle what lays ahead?
“Your Year Ahead” emails, complete with horoscopes, exercise plans, shopping “musts,” and travel suggestions start hitting your inbox on Boxing Day. If you hadn’t had a chance to think about what’s next, you certainly are now.
2015 was pretty fabulous year — the first 7 months were loaded with firsts, with successes, with travel, and fetes. In turned 30 and with a new decade came the summer — a slower paced season which brought changes, more travel, and a little illness. Fall was a mixed bag, highlighted by still more travel, but otherwise a slog. The year closed with the flu, but great family and friends. In general, I felt that I was always running to catch up and to get ahead. The changing calendar was the first time I had a chance to look back and enjoy, because from the moment the datebook read 2015, I’ve been looking ahead… into March 2016, September 2017, February 2018… If only I had a crystal ball.
There is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming months — exhibition openings, a wedding, arty parties, travel, an extra week of paid vacation — little exclamation points on my calendar that await sentences to fill the lines between them. Generally, I walk into the pages of this new year with excitement. Who doesn’t love the start of a new story (especially when Oscar Isaac is cast in the cinematic adaptation…) Let’s leap.
When I shared an article from the LATimes with the title “Are Fans Right to Be Upset that Serena Williams Beat American Pharoah for SI Sportsman of the Year” on Facebook, it launched an unnecessary comment-box debate with a 19-year college male. I don’t really support facebook as an appropriate space for “discussions,” but there are certain buttons you don’t press with me… like telling me to “keep your feminism in check.” Enter the dragon.
I call the debate “unnecessary” because by definition, an animal cannot embody sportsmanship. A horse is not a person and, as one of my friends pointed out, it is dehumanizing to even entertain a comparison between American Pharaoh and Serena Williams. Any back-and-forth should have ended with that simple reality.
But it didn’t. And the exchange that followed highlights a few important truths about institutionalized sexism (racism too, but I’m only going to tackle one mountain at a time) in sports (and beyond.)
Let’s start with numbers…
The Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year was created in 1954 to recognize “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” 75 people have received the award since then, 10 are women, and only 3 individual women athletes have won the award outright (as in, haven’t shared it with men.)
17 winners are baseball players or teams. 12 are men’s basketball players or coaches. 10 are football players or coaches. 4 are hockey players or teams.
57.3% of the winners represent the major US domestic male pro and college sports. Is that inherently a problem? Nope. Baseball is America’s sport. Football is a multi-billion dollar industry. But none of the basketball recipients have been college or pro female athletes. Are the female athletes not posting impressive numbers? If there’s a LeBron there must be a LaBron… No one watches professional women’s basketball? Why is media attention a criterium for selection?
Do I have to ask the Linda Nochlin artist question in sports? Why have there been no great sportswomen?
In 1980, the Miracle US Men’s Hockey Team won the Sportsman of the Year award. Their legendary win over the Russian team became symbolic of the larger political-economic battles of the Cold War. It’s a great story. Meanwhile, the US Women’s Hockey Team has won 15 World Championship titles. In 1998, they won a historic gold at the Olympics… the first time Women’s Hockey was ever contested at the games. In 1998, the award was shared by Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa… both tested positive for doping.
It’s true there are more male professional sports than female professional sports, and of the 23 million who read SI, 18 million are men… so we can give the editorial board a bit of leeway… the split doesn’t have to be 50-50, men to women recipients. But let’s remember, women have been able to compete in the Olympics since 1900, and as of the 2012 London Games, represent more than 44% of the field. 191,131 women compete on NCAA teams (43% of all NCAA athletes.) If we need a model and are using the Olympics, the highest level of competition for any athlete, then 13% is just too low…
Now, let’s look at the 10 women…
In 2011, Pat Summit was the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Basketball history. She shared the award with Mike Krzyzewski, a veritable legend, but holds the most wins in Div 1 men’s basketball, only.
You might argue that men’s basketball has a longer history or more teams. Lame. Stop. Just stop.
So with the exception of Pat Summit and the 1999 US Women’s Soccer team, the remaining 8 women all won individual titles at an international, World Championship, or Olympic level (let’s be more specific — 3 are tennis players who held multiple Grand Slam titles, 2 won historic Olympic Gold medals, 1 was a golfer who held 6 major pro titles, 1 held multiple World Championship titles and records, and 1 was a Pan-Am games gold medalist.) But let’s not discount the US Women’s Soccer team — they won the World Cup in 1999, soccer’s main stage. (An aside: Do you know when the men’s team had their best performance in the World Cup? 1930. Oh, and they were 3rd.)
And what about Serena? She also held all four major titles in 2002-2003 and broke all sorts of barriers. In 2003, the award was shared by 2 male basketball players.
Do I need to highlight again the percentage of male recipients who were on teams in sports whose “World Championships” are really only domestic championships?
So these numbers beg a handful of questions…
First, are men and women held to the same standards when the editorial board sits down to make their selection? How much does readership play into selection? If readership plays a major factor, is the award a legitimate representation of the best sportsperson across sports that year? Or is primarily marketing tool for the magazine? Is the SI editorial board making a concerted effort to find viable female candidates and giving them equal consideration? Does the award represent, not the readerships’s demographics, but the sport world’s demographics? If it doesn’t, why? Is there a reason why SI doesn’t recognize both a man and a woman every year?
The question is not, well what woman athlete should have gotten it over a male athlete? The question is, is the SI Sportsmans of the Year relevant, and what does its awarding say about how we value female athletes?
The lopsided distribution of the SI Sportsman of the Year is symptomatic and representative of continued inequity and sexism in the arena of professional (and amateur) sports. Serena Williams still makes less than her male counterparts. It wasn’t until 2012 that women competed in every sport on the Olympic program… and on it goes.
The fact that a college-aged male in 2015 would think that the SI numbers and the horse vs. human question isn’t indicative of a problem indicates a pretty big problem…
Is SI a sexist publication? It’s hard to say no when it purports to be a sports magazine but it’s biggest issue features swim suit models... in the tiniest swimsuits possible…. and when the recipients of it’s biggest award don’t accurately represent the demographics of the field it claims to recognize.
All that being said, Serena Williams is an icon, a role model, a consummate professional, and a classy sportswoman. She embodies all that is great about sport. Her crown has far more than 3 jewels in it…