Putting on my game face
Anyone who's met me in person -- or even seen my photo -- immediately erupts into a guffaw of incredulity when I tell them I used to be an athlete. In fact, I can barely mention watching football on weekends without evoking wry grins from colleagues who secretly suspect I'm some kind of anti-everything hippie.
But don't be fooled. I was totally jock-tastic for awhile there, and would go from football, to basketball, to baseball -- completely obsessed with spending every afternoon feeding my addiction to any organized competition that involved flying balls and a highly-specific, imagined construct that dictated the rules of play. Quarterback, pitcher, point guard. Dudes, I rocked.
Obviously I've strayed somewhat from these glory days of yore. Much to the chagrin of junior high coaches around the world, it turns out there's actually little use for my sporting skills in adult life. Sure, I'm still obscenely competitive -- which is great and all -- but most people think that playing to win at community kickball or forcing your three-year-old to follow the rules in a simple game of Candy Land indicates some kind of hang up. Too bad these people are LOSERS.
Seriously though, the one adolescent athletics lesson that remains relevant is The Game Face.
Just in case you're not a competitive person, The Game Face is kind of like a Poker Face -- or the face you put on at your in-laws house around the holidays to hide that you think they're awful. This doesn't have to be anything like you're normal face (which is why you see football players screaming at each other like crazy people right before a game starts, when mere hours before they'd be laughing and joking with commentators about their off-season fishing trip...or whatever). It's how you convince yourself, the opposition, and the world at large that -- no matter what's going on inside -- at this moment, you are an ass-kicker.
This brings me to yesterday. In the morning I was a train wreck. Just imagine Britney Spears at the VMAs, except it was me on my couch. And instead of trying lip sync to a pop song, I was typing through blurred vision, attempting to sound half-way intelligent, or, at the very least, intelligible -- all while a bunch of back-up dancers gyrated against me and I snotted big goopy grossness into literally hundreds of tissues. When I finished, there was a mountain of wadded up, pink and blue paper that was absorbent yet easy on my skin. It sucked.
However, there is no rest for the weary (or the inflamed, congested, and nauseated). The afternoon arrived, I changed out my pajamas for something halfway respectable, and left for Edan's daycare. I spent the drive over listening to rock music -- singing along with my first in the air, pumping myself up, and trying to avoid an accident.
I was putting on The Game Face.
All I could give the other kids was a wave and a blank stare. I usually show up right after nap time -- just when they're groggy and pissed off or wired and manic (depending on how long they've been awake) -- so I never really know what's going on. Yesterday it was worse, I was in a haze -- I was lucky I remembered their names. But with the power of The Game Face, I managed to carry my half-awake child in one hand, her backpack, shoes, and artwork in the other, from her room, through the house, past the kids and to the car -- all while sneezing, wheezing and blowing my nose. Boo-yah!
When Edan came to, I'm fairly certain I was actually a better parent than normal -- because I was trying so damn hard. Plus, underneath my Game Face facade of perfection, I was completely defenseless, so I relented to whatever she wanted to do. Subsequently, we (she in her bathing suit and I in my clothes) ran through the sprinkler, over and over, around and around, running circles and getting soaked until -- for a moment -- I almost felt better.
Of course, lovely as it would be to think that a few fancy-free hours with my darling daughter would cure me of all ailments, that's not exactly what happened. By the time I dropped Edan off with her step-dad I could feel the red-hot pokers of death stabbing at my sinuses, and I barely mustered a smile as he pulled her out of the car seat.
There's four of us parents, so I can't imagine it would've been difficult to find someone else to watch Edan on the afternoon I'd contracted the plague (not really people, it was just a horrendously awful case of hay fever). But, because there's four of us, I get fewer at bats, fewer snaps, fewer looks at the basket -- every shot I get has to count. So if, every once in awhile, I have to put on my Game Face, and take one for the team, that's fine with me.
Because this is too important to lose.