Little girls and old broads

TTers' thoughts on women's gymnastics and growing older. Plus: What to do when you hear the tone.

By Salon Staff
Published August 20, 2004 11:35AM (EDT)


Olympics 2004

Helen Wheels - 02:48 pm Pacific Time - Aug 18, 2004 - #196 of 220

I think there are a lot of people making assumptions about the sport of gymnastics that are simply not true. There are examples of abuse, there is no doubt, but I have never known the situations that the boohooers kvetch about to be prevalent in the sport -- that or figure skating. And I have known enough elite athletes on U.S. national and Olympic teams, in both sports, to have a pretty good idea what goes on.

The gym and the rink at which my daughter trained had national (both collegiate and USGF and USFSA), international and Olympic champions.

I was frankly surprised that Khorkina was able to perform at all, as thin as she is. Gymnastics requires strength and that requires muscles, and starvation is not conducive to performance.

Will there always be overly aggressive coaches and pushy parents? Yes, but rarely are they the successful ones. The sports seem to attract kids who tend to be obsessive about doing things well and striving for perfection, and that is something that is virtually impossible to instill in another person. You have it or you don't.

Gymnastics doesn't force the girls to be little. Rather, the ones who tend to do better at it and avoid burnout far longer are the ones who grow slowly and steadily, because they aren't having to adjust to new bodies every few months. Taller girls can be successful, but usually they are the ones who get the growth over quickly and stop, so they have plenty of time to get used to the new body and new aparatus settings -- I have seen many kids get frustrated with this constant adjustment and burn out from the effort.

But there are plenty of advantages to gymnastics, and I think they far outweigh the disadvantages. My daughter became very confident and self-reliant through participating in the sport. She learned how to set goals and how to achieve them. She learned that personal achievement must be tempered by the camaraderie of a team effort and helping your teammates to be better, too. And she loved getting up in front of people and showing them what she could do.

I never pushed her. She did it on her own. When she wanted to quit, we sat down and considered her options. All I ever asked was that she be considerate of her coaches and teammates and not leave them in the lurch by making an impulsive decision.

Social Issues

Old Broads: Women's Thoughts About Growing Older

lionlady - 12:44 pm Pacific Time - Aug 16, 2004 - #233 of 306

One of the upsides of being older is being able to observe other people's judgments of oneself and not be bothered by them.

Don't like my hair? You don't have to wear yours this way. Don't get my religion? You don't need to understand it; it only has to make sense to me. Don't like the choices I've made in life? Then don't make those choices for yourself.

I used to fry -- and try to justify myself -- and feel the need to explain, explain, explain myself, hoping desperately that others would approve.

Being 54 means I don't need everyone's approval. It's nice when people get me, but it's no longer required. Being older has made me realize that individual human beings live on entirely different planets, within cultural, educational, gender, and class bubbles that sometimes prevent them from even realizing the others exist.

Being seen, being understood, by a select few friends and family is enough. I'm no longer the server at a cocktail party of life, circulating with a tray of hors d'oeuvres, saying, "Here, have a piece of me. Would you like a piece of me? Please, have another."

I own myself now.


Even More Mangled Language

Meera Hyphenated - 02:21 pm Pacific Time - Aug 15, 2004 - #3749 of 3802

And speaking of phone messages, it really irritates me to hear the "I'm either on the phone or away from my desk" message. Um, duh.

Unless, of course, you're deliberately avoiding your telephone ringing.

Besides, it's no one's business what I'm doing if I'm not answering the phone. Maybe I would like it more if it said something like "I'm either taking a crap or gabbing with my co-workers around the water cooler. I might be attending a meeting, or eating lunch, or picking a particularly large booger and don't wish to be disturbed. On a good day, I might even be getting shagged in the broom closet. But either way, whatever I'm doing is more important than answering the phone at the moment, so leave me a message. Thanks."

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