Usually office e-mails are inane, but this week one stood out with this highlight:
I spoke with the jacked blonde in dark-rimmed glasses regarding…. (Boring account stuff)
I winced. Then I rolled my eyes. Then, finally, I laughed. As you might guess, I’m the “jacked” blonde this guy spoke to.
As a CrossFit coach, “jacked”, “beast”, and “ripped” are often complimentary descriptors. I dole them out often. And I mean them in the best way possible. I love muscles! Beastliness is next to godliness! But for years I received these same comments about my body, and more often than not, it was just a candy-coated way for some asshole to tell me I look manly.
I’ve not always loved having an athletic build. I’ve always had “linebacker shoulders”, horseshoe triceps, and veiny forearms, even before I found the weight room in the 7th grade. My poor mother spent most of my high school career sewing patches into the butt of my jeans during track season, while I bawled over the fact they couldn’t contain my derrière. In 2004, glutes were not having a heyday like they are now. (What a difference one decade and one Beyonce can make!)
It might sound ridiculous to complain about muscle tone, but in high school people had a way of letting me know my physique was not what a promising young woman looks like. (As though I had not seen a Shape Magazine cover before.) My back squat PR sent whispers through the halls. (“More than most of the football team!”) A guy I liked told me that he couldn’t date someone who had bigger biceps than him. (Retrospect: On those same grounds, what was I thinking?) A dermatologist told me my stubborn acne would go away if I just quit sports. Upon returning from a summer break full of plyo and sprinting drills with my coach, a prominent school administrator exclaimed, “You’ve really lost some body fat!” in a crowded school hallway. My dad told me if I “bulked up too much” it would hurt my performance in track, surely wondering why I wasn’t built like a gazelle for all the time I spent running.
Long story short, ladies. You can be thick. You can be skinny. You can have a flat chest, or short waist, big feet, and for whatever reason (overcompensation, Tourette Syndrome, lack of proper upbringing), people are going to feel compelled… nay, obligated to tell you how you are not meeting their expectations. It’s up to you to decide that their opinions are irrelevant, and keep right on bench pressing their max squat weight.
As for how to deal with the person on the spot, I still don’t really have an answer for you. I’m still working on that one. I can’t go to the grocery store in yoga pants without some strange dude remarking about my quads while I’m trying to pick out a steak. It turns me into an awkward turtle every time. (“Thanks… I think? Please go away.”)
Men, if you feel the overwhelming urge to approach a lone woman in a dark parking lot to tell her that you like her ass, and would she like to work out sometime, you deserve every ounce of pepper spray that should closely follow.
These days, I love my body for what it can do. CrossFit has put me on the right track, concentrating on caring for myself and pushing my boundaries. This body can deadlift 275 pounds. It can pass the U.S. Marines pull-up test. It can do box jumps until the box falls apart. It’s learning things I never before imagined I could possibly do. (Handstand push-ups still thrill me!)
When I responded to the office e-mail, I signed it, Lindsay Alvestad, The Jacked Girl. And it felt damn good.