Racecars and Bowling…. A Synopsis of Gender and Me….
Left Image: My first racecar, I was 15 or 16 in this picture (1992 or 1993).
Right Image: Bowling at the National Bowling Stadium in Reno, NV in 2005 or 2006.
When I was 5 or 6 a somewhat older neighborhood girl I had never met before saw me playing outside and joined me. The next day, she came again. It was not until a few days later that she realized I too was a little girl. I suppose it could have been because everyone calls me Chris that she thought I was a boy. I never really knew, and I never saw her again. My last memory of her was a drawing of a body part she left in the sand. At that age, it was unrecognizable. But, as a I grew older I realized it was, in fact, a penis. Maybe she was curious about mine, and disappointed I was just a girl like her. Either way, that memory stuck with me my whole life. Yes, I was a tomboy. No, I did not actually look like a boy. My best friend from the down the street was just as much of a tomboy as me, and the only girl in the neighborhood who could keep up with the dirt and trees I normally played in and on.
As I got older, I guess I got more “girly.” My sister was a tomboy, but she was one who wore makeup and had perfect hair. As early 90s arrived, I became more concerned about my appearance and less concerned with being a tomboy. I never played sports or went four-wheeling as my sister did. Instead, I became obsessed with my hair and my makeup. I wore skirts and dresses and all kinds of flowery things. I spent hours on my hair with a curling iron and a bottle of AquaNet. I got up close to two hours before school to make sure I looked perfect before I left. When I was 14, things would change once again. That summer I went to Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire. As I saw racecars flying around the track and accidents galore, I decided I wanted to do this. As soon as I got home, I told my dad I wanted to be a racecar driver.
Most parents would laugh it off. Obviously, and especially in New England, no parent was just going to get their kid a racecar. My dad is not your typical parent. On my 15th birthday, my dad bought me a racecar. It was an Enduro car, and beat to crap, but it was mine. That summer (with a falsified age), I started racing cars. I had never even driven a car before. I got a quick lesson in it before I headed out for my first race. My dad’s one caveat to this whole adventure is that I could only enter the “powderpuff” race that went on after all the other divisions raced. It bothered me, but I lived with it. After all, I did not want to race just girls. I wanted to race with everyone. The next year I got to race with everyone, and by everyone, I mean all guys, and I did so for 10 years off and on after that. I remember only one year that another woman raced in the same division, other than that, it was just the boys and me. I wasn’t great, but I had some seconds and thirds, won some money and some trophies. It has been at least 9 years since I raced. When I think back to that part of my life, it is almost surreal. People who hear I raced are far more impressed with me, than I am with myself. I never thought of it being a big deal, even though I was a female in a male-dominated sport. I raced cars because I thought it was cool. I never thought of the gender issue. I never thought of myself as any different from them. I was a racecar driver, not a female racecar driver.
I still think this way. I gave up racing because of work and school, and started bowling. Bowling is a male-dominated sport, at least on the competitive level. I bowl on historically “male” leagues, and I compete. I still do not view myself as a woman bowler, just a bowler. I go head to head against men, and many times, I beat them. Again, I never think about the gender issue. I have bowled against more men than women, and I strive to beat the best, male or female. A 300 game is a 300 game. My picture is up on the wall next to all the men who have shot one. I am tied for the women’s house record and state record for high series, but maybe someday I will bowl a series that is just a record, no need for gender differentiation. Anyone that has read my McSorley’s post will know that I do not consider myself a staunch feminist. Perhaps I let my sex down at times, but I feel that my contribution to equality is by having the mindset and the desire to compete in these male-dominated sports with no desire to be acknowledged just because I am a female. I just want to do the things I want to do to the best of my ability, not to the best of my gender.