Just A Friendly Game Of Kickball
I play in an adult kickball league every Monday night. My team is full of wonderful and friendly people. We usually laugh and joke around with the other team, never taking the game too seriously. How can you take it seriously? It’s kickball! I try to just enjoy the game for what it is—a game. But on this particular Monday night that was a lot easier said than done.
I play third base in the field, probably because I’m quick to react when the ball is kicked and I have a good arm. Since I stand so close to the third base line, I usually interact with the other team’s bench (if they happen to be the “away” team). This was the case during Monday’s game. The other team and I began trading friendly barbs, and when someone made a good play (whether it was them kicking the ball well, or us making a play in the field) we traded compliments. During the fourth inning, a player kicked the ball directly at me. It was a line drive that curved quickly at the end, and I had to stumble backwards awkwardly in order to adjust. I made the catch and as I tossed the ball back to our pitcher, I received a few accolades from the other team’s bench.
I was feeling pretty good about myself and smiled back at them. Then I heard a different comment … one that caught me completely off guard. A guy standing behind some of the other players yelled, “Hey—it’s Pat!” His crude comment was met with nothing but silence, probably because no one on his team understood the joke. It didn’t matter. I knew what he meant. “Pat” is a former character on Saturday Night Live. The whole premise of the skit is that no one can figure out if “Pat” is a man or a woman, even by the name.
I’m a tomboy. I feel comfortable wearing mostly men’s clothing, and my boyish look is complemented with my short hair and baby face. I’ve been mistaken for a boy many times in my life, especially when I was younger and underdeveloped. It never really bothered me before. But this time, it stung. I think the reason the comment struck a chord with me is because it was totally unexpected. We were having fun with this team, we were laughing and joking with them, and we were respecting each other. The comment undermined all of that, and basically set the tone for the rest of the game.
I didn’t react with a mean retort or anything of the sort. Ignorance shouldn’t beget ignorance. But I did let the guy know that I heard him clearly, and that it was uncalled for. Even the umpire heard it. He called me over and said that he gave the team a warning. I thanked him but said, “You shouldn’t have to.” At the end of the game, the guy came up to me to “apologize.” He said, “I’d like to buy you a shot and explain our misunderstanding.” I thanked him for the gesture, but happily declined the shot. I didn’t need a shot. I needed to understand why his comment had bothered me so much, and why it had almost brought me to tears.
I believe that what happens in our “outer” reality is a direct reflection of what’s going on in our “inner” reality. Many of the people in our lives act as mirrors, showing us what we still need to work on for ourselves. I realized by my reaction to the comment that I haven’t quite embraced myself fully, and that sometimes my gender ambiguity still bothers me. Why should it? It’s who I am. I’m not, “Lyndsey the tomboy.” I’m just “Lyndsey.” It doesn’t matter how I dress or look, it doesn’t change a thing on the inside. Once I came to this realization, I laughed out loud.
We play every team in our kickball league twice. So I know that I will be facing this team again. But I also know that this time, if I hear any comments about the way I look or dress, I’ll have a different reaction.
Who knows…I might even laugh out loud.
Blogger Bio: Lyndsey D'Arcangelo is a versatile writer, having experience as a journalist, copywriter, author, freelancer and blogger. She is the author of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award-winning book, The Trouble with Emily Dickinson (also a Lambda Literary Award finalist). Her recent novel, The Crabapple Tree, was published in May 2009. In addition to writing short stories and novels, Lyndsey also contributes regularly to a variety of national and local publications. Visit lyndseydarcangelo.com for more information.