‘Oh right, yeah – you’re the blogger, right?’ he said to me.
I hate that question. I often don’t like meeting people, boys, (men), when I know they’ve read this here blog, because it’s so easy to make snap judgements on what I’m about. I do, after all, say the word “vagina” a lot, and have a whole section dedicated to my poop stories. The bright pink box in the sidebar that says “I’m fat! (and still get laid)” means you’d be forgiven if thoughts inclined a particular, southerly, way. I try not to mention what I write about, if I can – not when I first meet someone (men).
I nodded with a Joey Potter half smile. ‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘That’s me.’ I did an awkward chortle. ‘Not sure if I can look you in the eye if you’ve been through my archives, though.’ This guy probably thought me ridiculous.
A second chap, the one who organised everything, chimed in as he threw a ball up and down. Up, catch. Up, catch. Up, catch. ‘I read your blog too. Vagina and all that, innit?’
I opened my mouth to respond but the first guy spoke for me: ‘Yeah, but vagina and all that, you mean like, feminism, don’t you.’ It wasn’t a question. ‘In fact,’ he said, continuing, genuinely interested, ‘What kind of feminism do you identify with?’
I was suddenly aware of the muscles under his shirt, the way his biceps nudged his sleeves as he gesticulated. My brain got hard. ‘What kind of feminism?’ I repeated. His statement threw me off guard. Aren’t the guys who play sport supposed to be dickheads?
When I got an email asking if, because of my documented new fitness regime and predilection for saying yes, I wanted to come and hang out at a dodgeball session, I agreed right away. It was only after I roped in my housemate to come with me and she asked me to clarify the rules of dodgeball that I realised I had absolutely no idea. It can’t be that hard, can it? we mused, furiously Googling the trailer to Ben Stiller’s film.
We headed off to an East London location, not far from where I used to live, with mild trepidation – a condition heightened by being out of the house in Lycra pants and smelly trainers in daylight hours, compared to our usual nocturnal training preferences. In the cave-like hole of a testosterone-filled club, four small five-a-side football pitches and enough sweating men in shorts and thick thighs to satisfy even the most under-sexed of amateur ball-throwers manoeuvred on greens and sidelines. My housemate and I stored our stuff, sought out the dodgeballers, and took a brave breath.
‘This is just a bit of fun,’ they told us, as we stretched a little and began running to warm up. ‘Go at your own pace, and enjoy yourselves.’
It wasn’t until I was competing with a tall guy in stripes and glasses (‘You’re trouble, aren’t you?’ he said to me as we began. ‘I can tell you’re gonna give us a run for our money.’) that I realised: ALL THE CUTE MEN ARE SPORTS PLAYERS.
I tried to keep his pace as we did laps, and thought to myself how awesome it was to be doing something I love – working out – with a group of people who weren’t, as I might’ve previously assumed, total pricks. There was a rough 50/50 split of males and females, and as we jumped and lunged nervous giggles gave way to genuine laughter. There’s something… foreplay-ish? about playfully competing with a fella to see who can sprint fastest or jump highest. Far from first dates in awkward bars where small talk and personal show reels are seduction techniques that kill the time before you’re drunk enough not to have inhibitions, SPORT as a way to meet people is… well. Why don’t more people know about this?
Hanging out throwing a ball around with some dudes highlights who has a sense of humour. It demonstrates who is the peacock, and who knows how to play fair and as part of a team. The guys you end up watching when, inevitably, you’ve been caught out and are stood on the sidelines, are the ones who are whooping and cheering for their teammates and slapping “well done” on somebody’s back. The guy you want to sleep with is the one who passes you the ball even though you’ve dropped it every other opportunity you’ve had. Being watched as somebody else gets caught out makes you aware of the sweat at the nape of your neck, the rise and fall of your chest as you use your body.
And then afterwards everyone goes to the pub.
What's not to love?
What's not to love?