This weekend I sat on the sidelines of the men's soccer game. It was a big deal, and many people were there, young and old–despite the fact that it's a pick-up league in a small town. I went sheepishly, in my dorky tie-dyed t-shirt and muck boots, to cheer my boyfriend on. I sat there, enjoying the grass under my bum, squinting my eyes up at the sun. But I'm not a natural cheerleader. Not only did I play soccer in college, my high school team was ranked third in the state of New York. But in this league, women aren't allowed to play in games (just in practice). Which is fine, I guess. I'm new to the community and am not about to question how people run things in the town. But in truth, I think it's antiquated they don't let women play in games (or even sit on the bench), and it's a big disappointment. After playing in their practices for the past few months, I felt like an equal on the field. Now I feel like someone should give me a good reason why women aren't allowed to play in a casual weekend league where they let men over 60 join in, but I'm too afraid to ask. I guess I'd rather sit on the sidelines and bite my nails, than risk being hated by everyone in the town.
There are some guys on the team who are tweaked out by the silliness of this casual weekend activity being so blatantly gendered–but besides them, most haven't said anything. Maybe they don't notice, and maybe they don't care. And I guess I don't blame them; there are some fights–especially in small towns–that aren't worth picking sides over, and this is probably one of them. I'm sure there are more important things happening in rural Vermont than segregated sporting events, but then again, after seeing how many fans showed up to the home game, maybe there isn't. There were wives and girlfriends watching the game, giving their hubbies water bottles, chatting with their friends on folding chairs. I don't know any of them, and honestly, I'd go and sit with them if they asked. But I'd also love to be playing in the damn game.
I am part of the generation of Superwomen–young women who are expected to be smart, attractive, engaged, one of the guys, sexy, relaxed, and impervious to issues that will make us seem 'soft' or 'over-sensitive'. We play sports while the girly girls talk about weddings, or puppies, or prom dates. We farm like dudes, but in order to not be considered sexless and undesirable, feel like we're supposed to look hot doing it. Hell, we were trained to think that, through media, and through the collective unconscious that media cements. And instead of letting myself ride the emotional waves of what it means to be a woman on a farm who also works eight-hour days in an office and commutes an hour each way, I feel like I should be steeled against the hardships of these new beginnings. But I'm terrible at hiding how I feel. My fears and delights, as of late, are so thinly veiled on the surface, I've become a walking meltdown.
Today at lunch I ate my leftovers at a picnic table with my coworker and his incredible girlfriend, who feels much like I do: semi-repressed because she's supposed to be tough. I was feeling glum. Super glum. Like her, I've been suppressing a lot of shit lately, mostly about how–as a woman, which I guess is how I'd identify myself–I'm supposed to fit into this tiny rural town in central Vermont. Besides soccer, I can't decide if I should be focusing on developing my hard labor skills like driving a tractor, or baking bread, making lavender salve, or learning to weave, or whatever. I've only been here for a little over six months, so I'm probably expecting too much from myself. But I feel pressure, man. I also feel invisible, at times.
In a rural town that values labor, land, thriftiness, and community, I wonder if there's any room for vulnerability. I'm imperfect, weird, messy, and inappropriate. I feel like if I make a wrong move at the soccer game (like ask someone why women aren't allowed to play, and say that I think it's dated and fucked up), I'll never make any friends. I should probably be spending the time I'm using to write this post to learn how to channel the energy from the pond to power my hydraulic sewing machine, and stitch a parachute to use as a roof for the house, or bake six thousand loaves of bread and start a business in the back of my car. Or join a book club (blech).