Friday, May 28, 2010

You don't give up playing football because you get old. You get old because you give up playing football.

With the World Cup just weeks away, all the pundits are polishing off their best soccer quotes. For example: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that,” (said by Bill Shankley, a Scottish football manager). Or another favourite: “You don’t give up playing football because you get old. You get old because you give up playing football,” (said by Sir Stanley Matthews, a winger). Because I spend so much time playing soccer, to the detriment of my career, my family, my knees, and perhaps my future ability to walk unassisted—I am always looking to these soccer quotes and trying to find one and use it as a metaphor for my life. It makes me seem less like a golden retriever who just likes to play fetch with a soccer ball, and more like a philosophical footballer.

The above quote about getting old has been especially important for me lately. On Monday night I played 7 on 7 with some very young quick players, and twice towards the beginning of the game, a fellow on my team passed the ball forward for me to run onto it, but about 50 yards too far forward. Both times I ran, but there was no way I was going to catch it. The second time, I just turned and looked at him and laughed. “Think slower,” I instructed.

Way slower,” said Mike, on the other team. We all chuckled. But inside, I began to picture myself like that grandma from the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons. And then I realized that referencing Sylvester and Tweety cartoons makes me seem even older. Dang. Aging sucks.

I may not even be the slowest or worst player out there. Some nights, Tom and I will stand on the sidelines together and when we choose pinneys to see which team we will go on, we are careful not to choose the same color. “We don’t want to saddle any one team with the both of us,” is how Tom put it, I believe. But at least we know we’re bad. There’s this other fellow who is always all kitted out in a FIFA jersey who is really terrible—he plays left wing. I’ve seen kids do better crosses from the corner than he can. He shoots like he is wearing slippers instead of cleats. And when he misses (notice the ‘when’ not the ‘if’) he crouches down and covers his head with his elbows as though perhaps a bomb might go off, or he drops to his knees dramatically, looking up at the sky in a kind of a ‘why me?’ pose. (People have started to snicker.) If he gets a breakaway, no one bothers to run up the field with him because they know he can’t cross it in the middle, or that he will flub this wimpy little shot that the goalie will stop handily.

All this is fine—not everyone can be great—except that this fellow thinks he is really good. Every time someone takes a throw-in that might be less-than-perfect in form, he groans and loudly comments about how he is going to start a throw-in clinic to try to teach everyone a thing or two. He yells at people when they screw up. When someone else on his team scores, he never congratulates them, but he loudly tallies up all the assists he thinks he has made.

So, anyway, back to the metaphor thing— when I think about creating a soccer metaphor for life, I think that maybe I don’t want one anymore. I mean, this guy’s a soccer player too, and even though soccer is ‘the beautiful game’, some guys who play it are just jerks, and I don’t want him using any cool quote or metaphor I can come up with and applying it to his life.

Besides, I might be over-thinking it a bit. I bet if I asked one of my soccer friends if he had a way of looking at soccer as a metaphor for life he would probably say this: “Yes, Cathy, I do. Would you like to hear it? Listen closely. The metaphor is this: Do not pass to that numbnuts on left wing.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cougar Cruises

I get to the pub after soccer on a Monday night and suddenly realize it is just four of us - me, and three guys under 25. Well, how does this look? Oh dear. But we had fun, in fact. We played this game where, going around in a circle, one person names a city or a country or a region, and then the next person has to name a place that starts with the letter yours ended with. You can't repeat any place names or you're out. For example: one person starts with London. Since that ends with an n, the next one starts with an n - Netherlands. Next: Saskatchewan. Next: Nanaimo. Next: Ontario...and damn if I didn't suck at this game. So much for the wisdom that comes with age. I got schooled. If I hadn't had Chris feeding me answers towards the end I'd have lost after two or three rounds. Have you ever realized how many places begin and end with A?

Several days later I am reading the Travel Section of the New York Times and I stumble upon a piece about how Holland America is having "Cougar Cruises". Yes, they are what you think they are. Well-seasoned women over 40 like myself sign up for this as Cougars, and "Cubs" (men under 30) are encouraged to join them. I think back to the other night. I am mortified. I am also curious about this cruise - not for myself, of course - although I could certainly use the opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of geography.... But realistically? Well, no, I am happily married - and still massively curious as to whether any guys sign up. What if it is all a bunch of horny over 40 year old chicks in spanx, trying to outdress each other? I bet no one gains any weight on this cruise. It's probably carb free. I wonder if they play place-name games? I am guessing not.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Questionable Magazine Covers

Have you seen the latest issue of Vanity Fair? Here is the cover for your perusal. Buying this was so embarrassing that I had to sneak into the drug store late at night with my hood up, and buy some 'ribbed for her pleasure' condoms and a mondo box of tampons to dilute the shame of this purchase. At the top there, kinda behind their heads, you'll notice the words 'World Cup' - that means this is a magazine with a soccer article in it - get your heads out of the gutter, people. Steve had quite a laugh when I showed it to him. But now I think he's getting tired of it because yesterday he said, "Why do you keep leaving it on my side of the bed?"

"No reason."

The World cup starts June 11. I guess some of us are looking forward to it more than others....

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Happiness Project

In case you have been wondering where my blog has been, I must tell you that I have been playing soccer instead of writing about it. Getting together with your friends and a ball on a perfect, sunny morning when the air is crisp and the sky is blue with tiny little puffy white clouds, and everyone who is responsible and important is working - and then scoring a kick-ass penalty shot against a good goalie with your left foot - it really doesn’t get any better than that.

But every once in a while, we get a brutal, rainy, sopping Wednesday morning, and then everything falls apart. My body is set up for me to exercise on Wednesday mornings, and so I find myself rambling around in my house, depressed, trying to get some endorphins in another way instead. It’s like I’m a drug addict. I’m really not that happy without them. What am I supposed to do for exercise and endorphins if I can’t play soccer? (I know what you are going to say, you yoga freaks, don’t bother - I know it’s supposed to be calming but some days it just won’t cut it - yoga won’t do the kind of calming you need when you had to drop the F-bomb before 7:30 in the morning to get your kid to choir on time.)

I read in a magazine about this woman who counsels people on how to be happy: Gretchen Rubin, who had a blog and a bestselling book called the Happiness Project. Could this be worth looking into? Rubin is admittedly pretty smart – she did go to Yale, after all – but after some research I have decided that this project in which she vows to be happier makes me want to barf.

I’ll explain. I first encountered her in a Real Simple magazine article where she talked about her year long blog project, in which each day she did small things to make herself happier and wrote about them. She somehow developed quite a number of followers, despite the smarmy advice she was doling out. In Real Simple she was being asked about the ‘happy advice’ she has given that people are responding to most. Guess what piece of advice Rubin gave that people seem to be blown away by? Make your bed.

That’s it? Make your bed? I tried it one rainy morning. Happy? Nope.

I looked into her blog and found that amid the claptrap about ‘being more mindful’ and hugging one’s kids, quite a bit of happiness appears to be related to cleaning. There’s the bed-making, of course, but here’s another suggestion I’ll quote from her blog (bolding hers): “In the kitchen I treasure my ‘special drawer’ - that’s where I keep my bills to be paid, stamps, envelopes……” argh, I can’t even type the rest of it, it’s so insipid. She treasures a ‘special drawer’ full of unpaid bills? Is she sure that treasure is the right verb to use? Furthermore, should we honestly be rewarding this woman by making her book a New York Times bestseller when she hasn’t even figured out how to pay her bills online?

Rubin is perhaps unwittingly making the point that cleaning can make you happy, but subtly, it’s there nonetheless. Is there anything to this? Possibly this is what women do for exercise and endorphins on rainy days. Clean. Clearly I am not part of this particular species of women, which would explain some things, for example: why my white kitchen cupboards aren’t ever as white as everyone else’s. (Oh, I have to sponge those down?!) Why every cupboard and closet at my house is stashed to the max, stuff crammed in and the door quickly shut to hold it all together. I suppose cleaning can accomplish two things at once, exercise and well, cleaning. But where’s the joy? The deliciousness of a beautiful shot on net? There is no deliciousness in cleaning.

You know what I do, on a rainy day? When left alone I will eat. Here is the deliciousness! On a recent rainy Wednesday morning, I found myself wondering, hmm, Is this my 4th or 5th trip to the kitchen to get a spoonful of chocolate mousse? I think 5th. It was 10:40am. If it wasn’t raining, I would have been sweating, heart pounding, bent over leaning on my knees, laughing with friends on the soccer turf. Instead I am faced with tufts of black cat hair on my carpet and cobwebs in every corner. (Is this why people get crown moulding? To cover up the cobwebs? Must check.) So this is perhaps what other moms do then. They dust. They vacuum. They wipe cupboards. It keeps them out of the chocolate mousse, and trim. I just can’t imagine it making them happy.

But you know what? I ranted to my husband about this dreadful Gretchen Rubin and her bed-making manifesto, and then came home one day after work and our bed was made. (And I didn’t make it.) At first I was a little suspicious. Has someone else been here? I didn’t know Steve could manage such a complex household chore. But then he admitted that he had been feeling overwhelmed at work and a little depressed, so he tried making the bed to see if it would make him happier.

Did it? I asked.

No. He said.

But you know what? Him making the bed did make me happier. Maybe there’s something to this after all….

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Toe to Toe

If you want to be a female soccer player, say goodbye to nice toenails. Or, just toenails. Mine are frequently missing, or black or purple (but not purple in a good way, not beautifully painted purple, perhaps with little sparkly diamonds and things, but hideously encrusted with old blood, from underneath). I’ve heard that you can buy press-on toenails but I haven’t tried them since I can’t imagine the glue sticks for long when you are a constant taker of corner kicks, and before too long those little things would just be rattling around inside my socks, and that might affect my game. Instead, during flip-flop season, you’ll often see me with athletic tape stretched across a toe or two. It’s to spare you from having to look. You’re welcome.

It’s not just the toes either. Your whole foot take a beating in soccer. When I get a pedicure, they have to break out the razor blade tool to scrape the gunk off my feet, and then they often have to change the razor blade again. My feet are so awful that I am using up razor blades! It’s a miracle they don’t turn me away, although I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the women in the spa playing rock paper scissors to see who loses and has to take me on.

And once I bought new cleats all because of the salesperson’s attitude towards my feet: He didn’t say a word as he helped me ease my gnarly, barnacled feet into new cleats again and again. I went in the store because I heard the type of cleats I usually wear was on sale for $25, and I ended up coming out of there with these special $80 kangaroo leather ones. (For the record, I was hoping they would make me hop a little higher when I go for a header, but sadly, they do not.) I figure the $55 extra I spent was like a fair tip for the guy for what he had to endure below my ankles.

I’m telling you this because I had a pedicure today. I had a gift certificate I had to use up before this weekend, and I’ve got to tell you, being a girl feels good. Firstly, by some kind of miraculous coincidence, I have all my toenails right now! And then my poor pedicurist scraped so much stuff off my feet that I’m at least an inch shorter than when I came in. They have a little towel warmer there too, and when she put that hot towel on my freshly scrubbed feet, I considered coming back, well, every day. And my toes are beautiful. MY toes. I almost feel guilty going to soccer tomorrow and bashing them around. Almost.

Here is a photo for posterity: