- Maryland, USA
- Last Record: 2010-12-05 08:58:32 -0600
- Joined: Sep 28, 2010
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
The ref asks me why I don't put my long hair up, under my helmet. "Don't they grab it?" he wants to know.
I shake my head. "They wouldn't dare." I go out on the ice grinning.
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
The guys sit in the locker room in their sweaty bare chests and tattoos. Sometimes I sit in my bra - it's no different. Once I got kicked out of a rink for not using my own locker room. You ever tried to bond with a team from the room next door? As if it wasn't enough of a liability being the only woman on the ice in the first place. No. I won't self-ostracize, thanks.
It's hard enough to find a place on a team as it is.
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
It took me a long time to figure out that for men sexuality and prowess are closely related.
It took me even longer to figure out that for me sexuality and prowess are closely related.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
I made the female firefighters in my division take their jewelry off. I suggested strongly they keep their nails short. i frowned on makeup, and nail polish. What a prudish scared woman I was. Internalizing all the comments of them men around me with their "lacks upper body strength" mantras, about the female firefighter volunteers.
One of the girls who refused to give up her necklaces and fingernail polish got a paid firefighting job before I did.
You'd think that would have been a wakeup call.
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
The hardest thing to navigate is women in what has been traditionally male space. It can be done. It can be done without defensiveness or self righteousness or bravado.
Later, I would learn it was best done with humor. Compassion. Give and take. Later I would learn that my moments of flirtation and gentleness were not a liability at all. The guys around me would relax. They would test the waters. They would ask me the color of my thong before the game started and I'd yank out the edge of it - pink or purple or screaming red - and inform them solemnly it had "brat" on it in little tacky rhinestones.
This was not at all a compromise to my place there on the ice.
It did not mean I was taken less seriously.
It meant yes, I was a woman in their space and that it was OK and we were all cool and really other than them passing me the puck now too... really nothing between us had changed.
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
You internalize the messages of "don't belong." You understand that it's about your gender you are a woman and so anything female doesn't fit.
"What, *you're* going to carry a big firefigher out of a fire?"
People said that to me, when I was in fire. Non firefighters, people I'd never talked to before. Femininity being weakness. Masculinity being strength. I internalized that message.
That equation is wrong.
It's really wrong.
A pro hockey player opened the back of my truck, once. He saw the turnout gear back there and I was sure he was going to ask me about my boyfriend or husband and instead he turned a huge grin on me and said
"awesome. You're a firefighter. My mom's a volunteer."
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
I should never have told those women to stop wearing nail polish. We are not men. We do not need to be men, we do not really even need to emulate men.
We need to do the job.
We need to be competent, strong, reliable, fearless.
This has shit all to do with gender.
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
I wear my hair long. It's so long right now, long red and lustrous, that it covers the number on my hockey jersey. The refs don't ask me to tie it up.
They know who I am.
A mind at peace with all below,
I'm centering now. It's a position of power and trust on the ice. It took me years to realize that to be as good as a man I need to be the best possible woman.
I define gender for myself.
Every time I step out on the ice to skate with them, all those men.
A heart whose love is innocent!
There are more women joining the league now, although I was the first.
I watch them play and think they are beautiful.
Like that, out there, tearing it up and laughing and jostling and short hair long hair butch femme however we define ourselves.
She walks in beauty, like the night
I'll tell you a secret.
Sometimes I feel a little bit awkward on land these days, compared to how it is on skates.
Out there on the ice?
I'm fucking gorgeous.
* * *
(With thanks to Byron for "She Walks in Beauty")
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