Lightening / by India Choquette

“Prostitution behind you,” the text read.

We were sitting at a long table in front of the bar. Front row seats, apparently.

At first, I thought if D hadn’t texted me from across the table, I would have gone the whole night without noticing what was happening behind me. But as we ordered another round of food, then drinks, I realized that even me, the least aware, wouldn’t have been able to ignore the old fat man saying, “Speak English!” to the two highly groomed Eastern European women. They would giggle and explain that they’d just been commenting on the sushi or something benign like that.

Our waitress was overly bright. Her English wasn’t great, but she was really trying to be helpful to the three of us obviously distressed and underdressed women: coaches dressed for comfort. And yet we were uncomfortable.

“I bet he voted for Trump,” D said.

I drank my wine and willed them to leave.

 

“See that?” K said as she tapped the window of the plane.

If we looked out, we could see the lightening in the distance. It was more like watching a storm on TV, because it was so far away and the window was so small.

“So cool,” K said. “Also scary. But mostly cool.”

K is young and brave and likes things that are a little scary. She is one of our athletes, and I think athletes tend towards wonder. They are nature too, sometimes moving in ways that is like seeing lightening from above. An impossible display of human movement.

 

Back to the bar. “I’m so glad the athletes aren’t here,” I thought and said multiple times to the other coaches. I never view our team as vulnerable, but suddenly in the face of these men—because now there were five or six—I became worried. These old fat men drooling over these women. I worried that our team would be meat for them.

“The men have wedding rings,” D noticed.

 

I’m on edge more than usual. Although he had been pushed out several months ago, I am still disturbed that another trainer at my gym—one I was friends with—was hunting women who came to take class. I should have guessed. But I was still surprised. I felt sick. I told him that and he had said, “Girls like it when a man appreciates them.” The he told me to leave it. But then he left so it wasn't my problem anymore. 

It is awful to have a woman’s body—I don’t care what anyone says. Every woman I train hires me because she doesn’t like her body or some piece of it. Even then, sitting at the bar, I was aware of my big shoulders and how undressed we were. Women want to sculpt and shape and starve and decorate their bodies in to something else. And my job becomes to teach her that her body is strong and useful and capable of incredible things. Change her perspective—her body isn’t ornamental, it is powerful. Like lightening from above.

We learn strength by being strong. The way to get better at pushups is to do pushups. When our goals become active—to lift ourselves high, to propel ourselves faster, or to stand firmer—we come into our natural form. If the goal is to disappear, then we lose ourselves and become images rather than humans.

I worry about my former colleague who thinks he knows what women want. I worry about society convincing my athletes that they should be beautiful not champions. I am depressed by my hope that men like these will die out. I want to fight the men at the bar, but what will that do? I’m just a woman who can do a lot of pushups. I can’t make them respect women.

And I think about our team, standing on the deck with goggle marks under their eyes. I want them to know they are lightening from above. I want them to avoid the traps I’ve fallen into, even though I’m only a few years older. I don’t want to be part of a system that encourages women to shave down their bodies until they disappear.

But I feel tired.