Step Up to the Tee

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I signed up to play a round a golf with my team from work. This might seem pretty unremarkable, but it is shockingly out of character for me. I am terrible at sports—all sports. I’ve never owned a sports uniform or a jersey with my name across the back. I have not willingly participated in sports since I completed the physical education requirement for my bachelor’s degree almost 20 years ago. Sports, for me, is a torture chamber of pain, anxiety, shame and defeat. It’s not pretty.

When the golf outing was first announced, I quickly declined. When my teammates tried to encourage me to join in, I doubled down with the story of the last time I tried to play baseball.

“I don’t think you understand how bad I am at sports,” I told them. “The last time I played baseball they insisted on pitching to me until I hit the ball. It took 14 pitches and I am much better at baseball than I am at golf.”

They tried to tell me they were not good golfers either. They suggested it could be fun, that we could all be bad at golf together. But their words fell on deaf ears. It was hard to imagine anything I was less interested in doing than attempting to sport in front of people I like. Why would I subject myself to that kind of suffering?

The conversation ended and I didn’t think much more about it. The decision was made and it was time to move on. But recently I’ve been reading Roxane Gay’s book Hunger: A Memoir of my Body. Roxane’s relationship with her own body has made me take a closer look at mine and it hasn’t been great.

In the book Roxane candidly describes how the world views her body and how she sees herself. She self-identifies as fat and writes about how, as a large person, she is both invisible and an object of public scorn. Roxane talks at length about all things she does to try to take up less space and I couldn’t get that out of my head because I do that too.

I try to take up less space by looking for a seat on the aisle in every situation and holding my arms tightly against my body so I don’t encroach on the space of the person sitting next to me. I try to take up less space by not showing up to things where there is the possibility of getting hurt, because I have been hurt before.

That included the game of golf. I couldn’t imagine a game of golf being anything other than humiliating. Surely one of the benefits of being an adult is that no one can make you go to gym class.

I kept reading Roxane’s book and so much of it was sad. Her story is not my story and there are things that have happened to her that are truly horrific. But there are many times when she has benched herself; she wrote herself out of the story.

I have done that too. But I wanted to stop.

So the next morning I walked into work, opened our group chat and typed, “If you’re still up for an evening of being really bad at golf, I’m in.”

Is nine holes of golf going to change my life? Probably not, but I am encouraged to discover that I can still surprise myself and that at the ripe old age of 42, there is still plenty of time to grow and mature. When I look at the situation clearly, I can see that it’s a pretty low-stakes risk. I just need to get out of my own way.

Getting out of my own way is a lesson I’ve been in the process of learning for a long, long time. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to break the habits of a lifetime, whether that’s overcoming a fear or trying to ignore the voice in my head telling me that this is a terrible idea that will only end in tears.

I want to be a woman who shows up for herself, as well as for others. I need to take a closer look at the stories I tell myself about who I am and decide which ones are still true and which ones were never true in the first place. I want to show up and refuse to be afraid to take up space, even if I show up trembling.

So if you see someone on the golf course playing terribly, I hope it’s me. And I hope I see you there, too.

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Claire Colvin
Claire is learning to call herself a feminist. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. In 2013, her National Novel Writing Month entry was a science fiction story about a broken world where everyone was required to be as similar as possible. Claire wishes she could fold the world like a map so the people she loves weren’t so far away. She lives on a small mountain near Vancouver and writes at clairecolvin.ca.
Claire Colvin
Claire Colvin

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