Sunday, 23 October 2016

I Act The Man

Not for the first time there was an imbalance between the number of men and women at badminton, so it was suggested I join the men's doubles court, as an "honorary man".  The implication I wanted to hear was, "You're a good enough player for the top group," but the subtext I heard was, "We think you can hold your own amidst the stronger, faster and (let's face it) better players.  And by the way, men are generally superior to women.  Be flattered." 

I did feel flattered, a bit disgruntled and confused all at once.  Blushing with annoyance at feeling flattered for the wrong reasons ("honorary man"!) I let rip with my smashes.  This display of an approximate sporting prowess felt powerful.  I glowed and perspired through my sweat in equal measure.

This smashing experience might have been the one which prompted my recent god as goddess poem / conversation.  "What would it be like," I asked people who mind about such things, "if the word goddess were substituted for the word god throughout the C of E liturgy?"   I believe in Goddess, the Mother almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  I don't believe anything of the sort, by the way, but I find it extraordinary how much the change of the gender of a noun shifts things in my socialised imaginings, mainly towards something Pagan, or Greco-Roman.

The status of honorary man is familiar to me. At 51, I am tall for my age.   That badminton evening's mixed emotions echoed the themes from my all-girls school days when I was cast as a man-boy in plays and country dancing.  As luck would have it, I've never been asked to dance Sir Roger de Coverley anywhere other than in the hall at South Hampstead High School.  If I had been, I would have got it all inside out and back to front.

I told a friend what had happened at badminton. "What," he asked, "did you do to attain that exalted position?  Did you comprehensively internalise your emotions? Did you use doner kebabs as a substitute for real relationships?" 

"What are you up to, showing sensitivity and insight with self-deprecation thrown in?" I responded. "Are you, by any chance, having a go at playing the woman?"

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