So. I wrote the note below before I left on our VT trip so I would remember to write about this. And then, of course, I forgot. Until now! Ah, the excitement.
From the time I was 3 until I was 14 and a half (back when the "and a half" mattered so much), I was a gymnast. During those years, if I had to think of words that defined me and would allow anyone to pick me out of the crowd of my peers (those bastards), the four to do it would have been: smart, blond, shy, gymnast. So, clearly, a large part of my identity at the time - and the most significant identifier I've lost in the intervening 15 years.
One of my earliest clear memories - other than ones that involve headers from the top of sliding boards - is of the day in the gym when I learned to say "no". Oh, yes.
When I was three years old, I started going to Gymkhana, a relatively new gymnastics club started by three friends: Alison, Ed, and Elliot. Alison has since moved out of state, Elliot has shifted from coach to business manager, but as far as I know, Ed still coaches team. When I started, they all coached all levels, including we midget beginners. I was a fairly timid child and Ed scared the living daylights out of me. Imagine a six foot tall, lanky guy with crazy curly red-brown hair and beard, and a big nose.
Well, I also had 1 friend in my class, a girl named Chelsea Dice. I don't know how I remember her name, because it's probably been 26 years since we set eyes on each other, but there you go. One day, Chelsea did not show up for class. I didn't know anyone else who was there that day. So, with 3 year old logic, I decided that there was no way that I was going to get out there on the floor mat with everyone else. Not without a friend to protect me.
My mom was unimpressed. Probably because getting me to the gym required a bus trip with myself and Bubby Rubby... and I can only imagine how fun that must have been. (My mother's bus-riding stories can make me laugh until I cry.) She would not let me leave. Ed didn't think I should leave either. I tried to explain that I couldn't stay because Chelsea wasn't there. But Ed told me that I could, I was just choosing not to. And if I chose not to, then I had to sit with him during warm ups and all the way through the rest of the lesson, too. Horrors!
But I did sit with him. I remember sitting in his lap on his scratchy hairy legs and watching the other kids warm up and being so determined not to cry, even though I was soooooo angry. And I sat out through balance beam, and bars, and even trampoline (my favorite!). And then, I must have gotten tired of just sitting there, because I decided to participate on the floor rotation even though I liked floor the least.
Why is this memory so clear? Perhaps because it was the first time an adult has talked to me seriously about the differences between "can't" and "won't" (never say can't!). But more, I think, has to do with the fact that my mom was so annoyed with me that she grounded me from having ice cream for three days. And three days is a long long time when you are only three years old.
So basically, when peer pressure rolled into my life, I was pretty well immune. I mean, if I'm not going to cave to the horrors of having to sit on a scary man's lap and losing my ice cream privileges, WHAT really could change my mind?