woman time

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I first met Adlet on the soccer field.  In the beginning, he was the only one, on our college campus, in China, who would pass me the ball and would treat me as a real teammate. I was excited to finally have a male friend that viewed me as an equal—so I thought.   His English, especially at the beginning of our friendship was limited but still better than my ability to speak to him in one of his other three languages (Kazakh, Russian and Mandarin).

Aldet and Elenamary

Aldet & Elenamary

I tried to explain to him one day before going out to play soccer in the city that I was cramping and had my period.  I tried the words “period”, “menstruation”, “menses”, “monthly cycle” but nothing seemed to click and so I simplified and said “I have blood coming from my vagina.  Blood between my legs.”  He was horrified and told me I was dirty and that I should stay away from him for one week.  This of course upset me and I very directly let him know I was angry, and not dirty and that I didn’t want to talk to him.  Aldet, not understanding, why I was so angry or how he should respond, consulted with some Nordic European male friends of mine about if and how he should interact with me when menstruating.  Being products of their culture, my dudes told him that he didn’t need to do anything, just be nice as always and see if he could do anything for me.  A month later while again on my period Adlet asked me “Do you have woman time?”  I answered that, why yes, I in fact did.  He smiled and responded “I be nice to you! What you want?”
I had a lot of respect for how much he had changed but we of course were still learning lots from each other.  Months later we went to the beach with our mutual friend, a French woman, Claire and because there were three of us, we took two motorbikes. Adlet drove his with Claire on the the back and I drove mine.

claire and elenamary

claire and elenamary

When we stopped for dinner at the end of our beach day Adlet told Claire he was not used to having to drive carefully because he had a woman with him, that he only ever drove me around and that I was “strong like man”.  I questioned him, what did he mean that “I was strong long man” he explained he meant it as a compliment that he was a feminist (I’d recently taught him the ‘f’ word).  Again, I shared my viewpoint and that it was different than his and that I understood he meant well. He now says things like “Elena, is strong like woman!”  I’ve also overheard him say that before he met me, he had been raised to think that you always trust what a man says over a woman, you listen to the woman but if it contradicts what any man says, the man is right.   I was shocked because I never knew that he’d ever thought that way.  Thing is though, I learn just as much if not more from Adlet.  He grew up in rural Kazakhstan, a firm follower of Islam, and is like all of us a product of our environment. Adlet, is intelligent and non-judgmental, a tool and a virtue that make him very open to change.  I am giving all of this back story because something amazing happened recently and Adlet surprised me once again.
This week, I found out that a health clinic that provides abortions had been vandalized with red paint.  I contacted my friend who was working at the clinic as soon as I saw the news and asked her if I could take her for drinks at the end of her shift.  She said no that she was exhausted and more than anything wanted to go home but that if I wanted to help, I could come help paint/clean the building.  I headed out and invited friends to join me as well. Pictures of us cleaning and a group photo post-clean up was on facebook and Adlet “liked it”.

clean-up crew

clean-up crew

I figured he hadn’t understood what were doing or what he was “liking” and so I had a discussion with him, sharing what had been done, and what we did to address the situation.  Turns out he fully understood and he responded  “Yes i understand, good job !
And it’s good idea put photo on Facebook, it mean u guys together never give up))
I mean u a together more strong”.  I have infinite respect for this man, who can change his views based on logic compassion, I need to do more of that myself.

 

 

Dear Dudes

Dear Dudes,

I write this because I like dudes and I want to keep liking dudes. Stop sending dick pics. I don’t know of any women (I am sure they exist) who upon receiving a picture of some dude’s genitalia think “Yes, please, I want that. Oh put it in me”. If you want me specifically to like you, or to at least engage with you and respond positively, try instead sending me a book, an intriguing journal article, an interesting blog post, a new song, something that makes me think. Please, stimulate my brain and I will be way happier than I ever could with a picture of your man bits.

-Elena Mary

PS I tend to think that like physical contact, sexting requires consent—get some permission before you start messaging.

‘Athletes come in all shapes and sizes’

While seeing the awesome pictures of Amanda Bingson: ‘Athletes come in all shapes and sizes’,  I am glad because it is something we all face with social constructed ideas of what does fit look like and what should it look like.  Although,  the images are empowering, make sure you read her interview too.

Amanda Bingson - Competes in the Hammer Throw

While ESPN’s coverage and writing is unsurprisingly problematic, I am still pleased as Bingson generally has an attitude I much admire: “You might be prettier and skinnier than me, but I’ll kick your ass in a game of one-on-one.”  Which is for sure how I felt yesterday (minus the pretty part—I know I am the prettiest ;-)   )

I had a woman I’ve never met, come-up to me yesterday in a ropes class during the water break and tell me to “not give-up” that I could “do this” and I wanted to respond “Bitch, do I look like I’m giving-up or doubting my own abilities?”  I turned to the instructor and asked “When is the warm-up over? I am ready for the real stuff to start.”  Also, that was my third hour of exercise at that point in the day (each a different training).

The women I train with have given me lots of confidence, like National Strong Woman Sharon Moss and World Champion Power Lifter Hannah Ghindea; but not just my competitively elite friends but the numerous badass women around me who set personal goals and train to become fiercer for themselves. Those goal setting women invigorate me. The stronger we women become the more we give zero shits about what others think and the more we love what our bodies are capable of—it is liberating.

Sharon and Elena Mary

Sharon and Elena Mary

Amber, Elenamary, Hannah

Fierce Women (Amber, Elena Mary, Hannah)

No athlete I’ve trained with, no coach, no physical therapist, has ever expressed doubt in my abilities because of my body (this isn’t to say I haven’t encountered douchebags).  I’ve been lucky but generally those who are good at knowing how to push their bodies (and others) know that much of what we push our bodies to do is mental.  Yes, of course physical training and ability is necessary but at some point, it becomes wanting it more than anyone else, working harder than anyone else, and being in the right place at the right time–and none of those have to do with body size or type.

Which also reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
“I’m just into physical intensity. I’m not saying, like, clamp my nipples and stick pins in my nuts. Because that’s like some passive please-hurt-me thing. Ask any Olympic athlete, they’ll say, ‘God it hurts, but it’s awesome.’ It’s the pain that comes when you try to achieve.” – Henry Rollins

Also, speaking of  “clamp my nipples and stick pins in my nuts”, remember my boobs last summer after a triathlon?

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

they looked worse a few days ago ;-)

competitions

It has been awhile since I posted and this is mostly so I can keep slight track of what I’ve been doing (I was much better about blogging and keeping a nice spreadsheet of my meets/times before—I’ll need to get back on that for 2015).

OSU 4 miler

OSU 4 miler

OSU 4 Miler  Sept. 21 2014:    Lordy, this race was difficult.  Not because of the distance or weather but because I did it with one of my students.  She was not used to running and it became more of a Fartlek training where she would sprint as hard as she could for about 20 seconds then come to a dead stop, wait until she felt completely normal and then sprint has hard as she could for another 20 seconds—we did this for all 4 miles and it took us nearly an hour to finish.  I think I have felt less tired after Olympic distance triathlons then I did after this race.

Broke Man’s 1/2 Marathon  October 5th:  I loved this race!  It was a no-thrills race–I think it was a $10 entry, and I took it easy.  I did it with my friends Jessica B. and Sandra E.  I  walked a lot of it, enjoying the day and did it in about 3 hours (there was no timing).

Buckeye Barbell Club Push-Pull competition  October 26th:  This was my first power-lifting competition and was lots of fun!  I had great encouragement from strangers and friends, Amber, John, Norm, and Suzanne.  I had no idea how much I could actually lift and had never practiced.  My buddy John didn’t tell me what he put down on my third deadlift and just told me to get out there and try…and I lifted it…later finding out it was 185lbs.  I’d like to lift 200+ by the end of 2014.  Video (elenamary deadlift) was taken by Amber doing the 185 deadlift.  Warning I say a vulgarity.

Amish 1/2 Marathon November 29th:  By the time I finished the race I hadn’t slept in 30+ hours, I had driven to the race straight from work and only when I arrived there did I realize I also hadn’t eaten since the previous day.  I remembered I had a slice of Hounddogs Pizza (i should get them to sponsor me) in my gym bag.  I stood surrounded by competitors waiting for the race to begin while eating my slice.  There were tons of hills, I was exhausted and hallucinated an ocean.  I had hoped to finish at about 2 hours…I finished in 2:53.

strong women

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I went on two dates with two different men this week, and the best part was after the second date I got to home to a bag of trail mix and to the documentary Strong! (I’ll include it below and hope you’ll watch).

ladies I train with

I am on the far right. These are a couple of the lovely strong ladies I train with

Date #1 let me know that he was more attracted to petite women, and women whiter than me.

Date #2 explained that he didn’t like women with lots of muscles.  It is just “too much muscles for a woman”.  He used my gym girlfriends as examples of unattractive.

I came home feeling fat, big, too masculine, unattractive and pissed that I felt those ways. Pissed at myself for being illogical, pissed at those men, pissed at societal norms, and culturally standards of beauty that I tell myself are absurd, however, truth is, they still fucking hurt.  Luckily, I’ve great friends like Sharon Moss a national Strongwoman, who by great fortune, posted a link to the movie Strong!  I’ve wanted to see Strong! for a couple of years now, and for this week only it is available for free viewing at PBS’ Independent Lens.

You know, I am not as strong as I’d like to be, but I am strong, and getting stronger and it is coming from the encouragement of the women around me who lift.  Women who value all bodies for their strengths.  Here is a video of me lifting with encouragement from my friend Hannah.  No matter what anyone says I love how I look in it (although I need to work on my form)!  Now, I just need to find someone else to train with as Hannah moved away earlier this week.

Elenamary lifts (click for video)