Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Ka-ching, Ka-ching

The Last Amazon called me at work today as soon as she arrived home from school. She was breathless with excitement and it took several minutes for my normally articulate daughter to express herself. I was expecting her wanting to discuss a new math theory or a science experiment but no, it was about – HOCKEY.

In gym class she played her first game of hockey. She had skates but has never played hockey before. She had to borrow a helmet and a stick but once she got on the ice she was good to go. Now she is talking about wanting to join a league and finally finding her true sport……

I admit I was a little taken back last spring when she and her brothers wanted to take up golf but I understood the appeal factor. You get weapon and a ball and the goal is to hit the ball with the weapon and get it in the hole. I understand the appeal but HOCKEY?

I don’t like hockey, I didn’t start out that way but I learned to loathe hockey with a passion that has never left me. When I was a young girl I even played hockey back in the day when the schools let you play hockey and every elementary playground had an outdoor rink made by the school janitor with old planks and water as soon as the first snow fell. I played in the morning before school, at recess, after school and I was always ready for a game on weekends too. I admit I didn’t play hockey with many girls, most didn’t seem to like it and if I really was going to be a ballet dancer skating was a no-no, but I didn’t care. I loved hockey. I loved racing down the ice and literally giving the shoulder to anyone that got in my way. In those days we didn’t play with helmets or padding. It was a tough, fast game and you had to be prepared to take your licks and get your butt in gear, no matter what.

That all changed when I got to grade 7. Suddenly, I was no longer allowed to play hockey in school. Girls played Ringette. You were not allowed to body check in ringette. You played with broken hockey sticks – and not because you busted it over someone’s head and were forced to finish the game that way - it was really meant to be broken so that no one would get hurt. There wasn’t even a puck but a stupid soft rubber ring so no one would get hurt. Girls played Ringette because it was not as tough as hockey. Furthermore, real girls didn’t play hockey with boys because the boys were too big and rough or so I was told over and over. Years later I met Wayne Gretzky by accident and couldn’t stop smirking because I figured I could take him out in less than 10 seconds with either my chair or a bottle; so much for big and tough. I grew angry and frustrated that what I loved was being taken away from me; not because I could not compete or that I wasn’t good enough but because I was female and females didn’t play hockey.

It didn’t matter how I begged to be allowed to try out for the boys’ intramural teams. It cut no ice with the teachers that I could out skate or out stick any of my male contemporaries. It didn’t matter that in pick-up games I was always picked first by any of the boys for their team. It didn’t matter that the guys wanted to me to play. This was 1974 and girls played ringette. I wasn't demanding to use the same changeroom as the boys. I'd have been happy with a broom closet by myself to change in. I hated ringette and if I wasn’t allowed to play hockey, f**k hockey and the stick you rode in on.

I was never able to get over my apathy towards hockey and could come up a long litany on why I wouldn’t sign either the Last Amazon or her brothers for hockey. It also helped that my husband was a Chinese-Jamaican immigrant. Jamaicans don’t do hockey; cricket, basketball, rugby, soccer, boxing, football, the odd bobsledding but no hockey. The schools today made it easy for me to ignore hockey; they don’t teach the sport and they no longer allow rinks to be made outside - even floor hockey is banned. It promotes aggression and competition. Yes, things were working out just grand until the Last Amazon won a scholarship to a private prep school where not only does everyone play hockey but the school has its own indoor rink.

One thing I have learned running this home is where the Last Amazon dares to tread; the Spartans will want to follow. All I can think of now is ka-ching, ka-ching and I have to fight the urge to close my wallet. I will probably have to look around and see if I can’t come up with a part-time job to help her and her brothers play. And now you know why, when I grow up I want to be my daughter.


Babbling Brooks said...

Ugh. That story got my blood boiling just reading it.

I never played hockey because my family was generally too broke to afford it. Soccer, rugby - I played sports where a jersey and a set of cleats were all that was required.

My wife, on the other hand, played thirteen years of competitive hockey growing up - mostly in the 80's. And she was good. Quick as the wind. Worked her tail off on the ice. Played in Boston, LA, New York, and even in Joe Louis Arena prior to a Red Wings game.

The girls' hockey club in her town was well-supported with bingo, car washes - in fact, pretty much any fundraising tool you can imagine. House-league as well as travel-teams in the winter, ball-hockey in the summer. Games were well-attended. She figured that was the way it was for everyone.

But if she had a nickel for every time another woman her age has said to her "Oh, you're so lucky - I always wanted to play hockey, but couldn't", I'd be a happily kept man, and our kids would have fat trust-funds.

It's infuriating to me. And I'll be damned if my little girl doesn't play whatever sport her little heart pleases.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

1)Not only were young women not allowed to play hockey in 1974 in school we were not allowed to join cadets either. I use to hang around with a group of guys that went to Army cadets. I use to listen to their stories and wished I could go camping, play war games, shoot guns. By the time females were allowed into cadets I had moved on....
2)Sometimes we forget how quickly societal change can come. Though there is probably on 10 years separating me from your wife's age - not a great span of time but the world I lived in at 12 had changed dramatically from your wife's 12. I can still remember when women were not allowed to go into a bar without an escourt - and had then had to sit in special areas designated for ladies and escourts only.
3)Isn't it ironic that you as a conservative in 2005 can be outraged at discrimination based on sex rather than ability, and yet, a conservative in 1974 would have supported discrimination based on sex and rejected the merit argument?

Babbling Brooks said...

Yeah, I can see the irony. The definition of a political conservative continues to change. Personally, I see in modern conservatism not a resistance to change, but a resistance to reflexive, constant change for its own sake. That is to say, you don't tinker with what works unless there's a good reason for it, and even then you make sure you're not jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

As far as restricting the options available to women in pretty much any area, as someone who was raised by a primarily single mother, I disagree with it. Got me in some fun arguments at RMC. Women in the infantry? Sure, as long as you don't have to lower existing standards to do it. If you can play, you're welcome to - in hockey, in business, in service, in life.