Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Being a Gimli instead of a Galadriel

I am short and I am strong. In Tolkein terms, I am Gimli.

This is a sad realization for a young lady to come to. Everyone wants to be an elf. I want to be an elf, I want to be freakin' Galadriel, man. No one ever spoke of the beautiful and elegant dwarf woman.

But I'm kind of amazing, physically. I was in an Aikaido class on a lark and the big, experienced guys (of the beginning class) had a hard time breaking my grip. "She's really strong," the instructor said by way of explanation to the thin, wiry woman whose wrists I had grabbed behind her back. "Do you life weights?" another class member asked me a little while later.

"I, well, sometimes," I said.

It was kind of a middle place to be. I was proud because, yeah, I do lift weights, a couple of times a week--I'm not a weightlifter--and there are several things I can't do that I feel strong people can do, like pull ups, for example. But I am strong. I can carrying the water cooler jugs by myself at work, tossing them up on my shoulder and on to the top of water cooler. I can haul in my groceries at all once. It's pretty cool.

But there's something about our society that says you can only be strong as long as you are also beautiful.

Hey, don't get me wrong--I think it's awesome that our society says that women can be strong at all--back in my mom's day, girls would skip PE because they didn't want to be considered too muscley, and skinny-fat was the standard look--no one wanted people to know she had muscles. This is a real improvement, to see models on the covers of running magazines and shoulder muscles on our actresses. But it all fits best if you also happen to be 5'11 and thin.

I'm not. I'm this short, hour-glassy strong woman. I wear a solid sports bra and I have to take one-and-a-half steps for those gazelle-legged dashers' every one, so I do. I'm surprising fast and surprisingly strong and I am tenacious. I recover faster than almost anyone I know. When I ran the Tough Mudder with my much taller boyfriend, I kept reenergizing after each event, until at the end I was kind of dragging him along, forcing him to run. Yesterday I did an 11-mile run and today I feel like I could do it again.

This is, I think, characteristic of us dwarves. It might even be characteristic of us women. Some studies, like this one, find that women's athletic ranking relative to men's increases in longer distances, because we are so fatigue resistance as the distances get longer. Also, we short types tend to do better in ultra marathons as Jason Koop points out:  "With ultra endurance running, women have a huge advantage simply because they're smaller."

Dwarves, in other words, are not natural sprinters.

Part of the revolution that needs to take place in the way we accept our bodies is to recognize that bodies of all sorts are amazing and can be strong, not just the ones that look like Angelina Jolie, or even the US women's volleyball team. There's no right way to strong.

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