The Lone Vagina in My Fantasy Football League

Okay, people.

I’m not here to put a new spin on some blasé gendered commentary re: sports and women. I’m going to assume we’re all enough in 2017 for me to skip the intro about how many women actually love football and it’s not just a “man thing” and whatnot (even though the NFL doesn’t really serve our best interests). Ick. None of that, please. I’m here to talk about the gender politics of fantasy football! Now, THAT’S intriguing.

I wasn’t always a football enthusiast, and I definitely spent most of my life actively avoiding sports-based competitions. This has nothing to do with my gender and absolutely everything to do with the utter lack of athletic ability and coordination I’ve struggled with my entire life. In third grade, I joined the softball team, and I learned quickly that my strong suit was not chasing, catching, or running to/away from anything. My mom and dad, unlike the stereotypical parents in movies that support their nonathletic children at soccer games no matter what, couldn’t even pretend that I had potential. They sat me down at the kitchen table, in what they believed was an act of compassion, and told nine-year-old me in no uncertain terms that I blew at sports and probably should move on and read a book, or something. That was about the point I became totally disengaged from anything athletic.

lucy.jpg

Cue college football game, ten years later, where I discovered the infinite joys of tailgating and inhaling as many hot dogs as humanly possible before screaming my face off in the student section. Suddenly, football was A THING. I bought season tickets every subsequent year, learned about turnovers and interceptions and extra points, basked in the glory of our wins and lamented our losses. I came home for Thanksgiving and could actually hold a conversation with my father about the Pittsburgh Steelers, his favorite team, and whether Ben Roethlisberger was still a powerhouse or just an injury-prone, washed-up, has-been. He smirked at me over his mashed potatoes, half-impressed, half-mocking, but he engaged with me, and that was something.

Fast-forward to the present. I’m twenty-six and the lone vagina in my twelve-person fantasy football league. I was not invited into this league. Last year, upon learning my fiancé was joining three (!!!) different leagues, I decided to get in on the action. After texting the commissioner, a mutual friend, and (nicely) insisting I get added to the lineup, I got denied. He made some bullshit excuse about “not having enough open spaces” when I knew for a fact he was still scouting out competitors. After a week, and some degree of desperation on his part, he rescinded his original judgment and texted to offer me a spot. With the stoic grace of a Supreme Court justice, I paid my $50 and did a little victory dance in my kitchen.

football love

I took second place in that league last year. Josh played football in college, and the other guys were die-hard NFL fans for their entire lives. Most of the guys in this league are people I’ve met once or twice, and I know for a fact they initially thought I joined the league just because Josh did it. I watched as they proposed unfair trades, assuming I’d take the bait. They ignored my efforts at playful smack talk and refused to reply back. I watched them get lazy with lineups, out of arrogance, and keep BYE-week players actively rostered while STILL expecting to beat me. They didn’t. I don’t think they were going out of their way to be mean as much as they considered me an afterthought. What began as a fun diversion for me morphed into something bigger than itself – an overpowering desire to crush the entire competition and earn the respect of people who underestimated the lengths I would go to prove myself. If my Italian heritage gave me anything, it’s fiery stubbornness.

bitched

I poured my energy into researching players, projections, and weekly stats. I studied the waivers and took risks on sleepers. I used Antonio Brown as a bargaining chip for Travis Kelce and Brandin Cooks, cut my losses on Kelvin Benjamin, and cursed Isaiah Crowell’s mediocrity every week. I favored Rodgers over Brady, purely on principle, and I’ll defend that choice to my death.

When the playoffs finally came around, and my first place ranking landed me the BYE week, I realized that whatever happened, I did what I set out to do. Acknowledgement or not, respect or not, I made it. In the end, I lost by three points in the championship as my benched players racked up 50+ points, but that’s life, and that’s football. And upon completion of the season, when I collected my $150 winnings, quietly proud, the commissioner called me and said, “All right, Jenny, I can’t wait to see what you do next year.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show “The League,” Jenny is the badass solo woman in the guys’ league who runs circles around her husband. Coincidentally, Josh came in dead last. That moment, that phone call, stupid as it sounds, meant everything to me.

I suppose some of this goes back to the softball thing, but most of it is just the desire to not be discounted purely because I’m a woman. No one makes the assumption that a man’s going to suck at fantasy football based on his gender. No one underestimates or questions a man’s draft picks before even seeing them. Men are not denied entry from other men’s leagues because they’re perceived as ignorant with no basis for the assumption.

Josh is loudly watching the Vikings-Bears game in the living room. His win rides on Latavius Murray. I’m curled up in our bed with the +35 win I secured yesterday. Who knows what will happen this season, but I’m grateful to be here, writing this post, with the respect I’ve worked so hard to earn.

womenfantasy

 

Advertisements

Dear Summer, Leaf Me Alone

It’s October 7, and I’ve decided I’ve officially had enough of the humid hellscape that is South Carolina for 2017. Before moving to the South, summer was my favorite season, and nothing brought me more joy than beach trips and the smell of saltwater in my hair. That’s the romanticized version of life here. The reality is black widow spiders hiding beneath your garbage can (fiancé killed one today while I screamed from the hall bathroom) and eternal boob sweat. My friends back North have been in full-swing fall mode for weeks now, complete with sweater dresses and seasonal gourd decorations and pumpkin spice everything. And while I’m not the biggest PSL enthusiast (or coffee drinker, really), I decided this morning that it’s About Damn Time I get that autumn feeling rolling in my apartment.

Step one was strategic purchase of “Campfire Donut” candle from Bath and Body Works, because without the fall smell, getting in the mood is nearly impossible. Before purchasing said candle, I sniffed every single one on the front display table and had a very validating conversation with the store employee about the heat, which was a first for BBW. She smiled and agreed politely, even though I’m pretty sure she was internally telling me to go the fuck back to Pennsylvania and leave her alone if that’s how I felt about it. I’ve been burning the candle for about three hours and my bedroom smells like dessert and now I’m just hungry, which doesn’t exactly feel like a win.

Step two was taking down my winter clothes from storage and digging out my favorite oversized lumberjack flannel. I paired the flannel with leggings and fuzzy socks, and I even took it a step further and wriggled underneath my fleece blanket. Upon witnessing my fashion/lifestyle choice, Josh (fiancé) came in and pointedly asked me how I wasn’t sweating my balls off. If I’m gonna be honest, the blanket is probably overkill and I’m slowly turning into a rotisserie chicken, but pride is a powerful motivator, my friends. It’s like that scene in Bridesmaids where she won’t admit the restaurant gave everyone food poisoning and forces herself to eat a Jordan Almond with sweat pouring off her face. The flannel’s not going anywhere, even if that means I have to take a second shower today.

The cherry on top of my trifecta of denial is the pumpkin beer I’m about to leave the apartment to obtain. No one can convince me this is a bad idea in any way.

Does anyone else experience fall FOMO, or am I the only one feeling sheer desperation for changing leaves and a corn maze?! Aaaahhhhh.

I Now Pronounce You Pizza and Wife

IMG_0013

This upcoming year, I’m in two weddings, and I’m getting married the following year. After watching numerous people around me “sweating for the wedding” and eating meals with about as much taste as Communion wafers for months prior to their nuptials, I swore I would accept my body in whatever state it was in and put a dress on it.

Doesn’t that sound so wonderfully idealistic?

Real talk: Every time I get period bloat, I feel like the lardiest sentient being on this gorgeous green planet and I vow to make a Lifestyle Change.

The Lifestyle Change (henceforth known as LC) is society’s way of tricking you into feeling happy that your new diet consists of mushrooms from the side of the road sautéed in coconut oil. It’s terminology so expertly crafted, so rhetorically sound, that you convince yourself that chocolate sucks and you’ll never drink another glass of wine because you just feel like your insides are “glowing.” The reality of the situation, however, is that eventually you’ll realize the LC is slowly sucking your soul out of your body via mouth, straight up Dementor-style. And when that moment happens, at least for me, there better be literal oceans separating me and the nearest Texas Roadhouse.

I come from a huge Italian family where not finishing your entire 3000-calorie plate of cheesy pasta is akin to first-degree murder. Don’t get me wrong; growing up on my father’s homemade bread and my mother’s endless supply of baked goods was incredible. I am the happiest little chunker in my childhood pictures. My parents never forced me to play sports to “build character,” AKA get me out of the house, so my amount of physical activity from ages 1-13 was very minimal. Let’s do the math: constant carbcomas + no exercise = thunda thighs. Look, it even rhymes!

College arrived with a new gift – the pressure to Look Sexy. Between frat parties and football games, College Mandy became obsessed with having a Kardashian body while simultaneously drinking as much Natty Light as humanly possible. I ate vile cardboard-tasting Lean Cuisine sandwiches and woke up at 5 am to run stairs so I could be a size six. I distinctly remember eating only Greek yogurt and baked beans for an entire week. Beer aside, it was a miserable existence.

Right now, I’m trying to find the balance between This Nutritious Meal Tastes Like a Butthole and I’m Gonna Become Pregnant With a Pizza. That in-between stuff, the TRUE LC, is…really fucking difficult to settle into. Yeah, yeah, I know, small changes, progress not perfection, one day at a time, self love, Namaste, the whole nine. My small change yesterday was eating roasted Brussels sprouts and kidding myself into believing they tasted good. Today, when I opened the Tupperware of leftovers, I took one whiff and practically shot-putted those tiny stink cabbages into the garbage disposal.

So many people on the internet feel so strongly about health and fitness, and I can’t begin to count the amount of slightly patronizing, paleo, #fitfam things that show up on my instagram feed. I have a desire for self improvement, I want to look good in those wedding dresses, but at what cost? I will go on a run, I will choose the slow churned ice cream at Food Lion, but I refuse to eat vegetables I hate, and I will never, ever give up my one true love, cheese.

Finding peace with our bodies can feel impossible, sometimes. I’m approaching my period right now, and I feel like that blueberry girl from Willy Wonka. But I think the best we can do is endeavor to recognize what serves us and what doesn’t. Inhale the good shit, exhale the bullshit, and eat the damn cupcake.

Thirteen Going on Five

she-said-duty

Ah, the joys of teaching thirteen-year-olds.

They’re so, soooo close to growing up, so painfully close to that point where they just…I don’t know, get it, and everything just clicks, and they realize farting and “That’s what she said,” jokes aren’t funny anymore. These moments of realization are unfortunately few and far between, especially when eighth-grade boys are involved. I remember thinking it was creepy for senior boys to date freshman girls, until I became a teacher and realized these girls have been desperately waiting for someone who won’t burp in their faces or quote Family Guy at every available opportunity. You know exactly what I mean. We all know someone who says “Giggity,” who’s asking to get punched in the throat.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching vocabulary for the mystery genre, and we talked about Sherlock Holmes/the power of deduction. Their vocab word was “deduce.” I present to you the following exchange:

  • Colin: What’s that word?
  • Me: Deduce. It means to use clues to solve a mystery.
  • Colin: OH, because I thought you were talking about DE DEUCE I DROPPED IN THE TOILET LAST NIGHT OHHHHHH.

I should have seen it coming today. The vocab word was rapier, as in, a sword. You see where this is going. “The Cask of Amontillado,” now has three characters, apparently: Montresor, Fortunato, and Bill Cosby.

Sometimes, during lunch, I physically squeeze myself beneath my desk and turn out the lights so I can choke down my food without anyone bothering me or screaming my name repeatedly. It’s 1:48 PM. Starting today, administration is making us play an audiobook to the kids for twenty-five minutes each day. Redhead Dennis is now running through my door, making fake puke noises, and I want to die a little bit.

I wish my kids were old enough for me to show them this video, because I think they’d benefit immensely.

Impulsivity

Between the unspeakable horror of the Vegas shootings, the fact that I’ve been teaching Edgar Allan Poe for the past week, and my newfound (uncharacteristic) dedication to the new yoga studio that popped up in town, I’ve been thinking a lot about the human psyche. No, not that kind of pretentious, Freudian, motherfucking (heh, get it?) rumination on the soul and the inherent qualities that lie within that hipster psych majors love to soapbox about after too many craft beers. I’m talking about what makes us tick, what makes us feel the most alive, what qualifies as a “weird” or “abnormal” reaction to a situation, and what we have the power to change about ourselves and our perspectives.

I realize that I am a very reactive, impulsive person. I am internally motivated, internally driven, but externally affected by people and places and situations in ways that I struggle to control, sometimes. Yeah, I’m always that asshole who starts crying when my friends are crying, rendering me the worst Unintentional Scene-Stealer in a crisis. I absorb the red-hot emotional burdens of others like a solar panel. I scream when I laugh. I visit new cities and immediately Google “job opportunities in ____________,” flirting with the concept of renting a bungalow on the outskirts of town and getting a dog I know I can’t take care of, before eventually abandoning my pursuits a week later. I buy dozens and dozens of Tupperwares because food blogs convince me I need them. At least I know I’ll stick to my guns re: the uselessness of mason jar salads.

We all know those people who appear to have so much clarity in their lives. They seem perfectly enlightened, they know what they want, they fill their weekends with “on-brand” activities to get pics for their impeccably curated Instagrams. Do these people ever question their normality? Do they ever feel easily influenced, out of control, a planet revolving around someone else’s sun? Do they ever seek and embrace darkness?

tth

In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Poe writes, “Why will you say that I am mad?…Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me.” His characters, which are largely said to be an extension of himself, not only embrace darkness, but exude confidence in their manner and thoughts. Like me, they are internally motivated, internally driven, but reactive. Impulsive. As my student Jonathan said of TTH’s narrator, “He like, not okay in the head, like he do too much.” When I peruse National Park campsites I know I’ll never visit and buy lipsticks that only look pretty in theory, do I also do too much? Do I need to calm my shit, slow down, and root myself in the here and now, the attainable, the reasonable?

As I ponder the inexplicable evil of the Vegas shooter, I wonder how some people can allow a volcanic eruption of hatred to slowly mount over the course of a lifetime. What is it like to meticulously cultivate negativity, to consciously craft depravity, bit by bit? What makes them tick, and what makes their ticking so much more intense and horrifying than everyone else’s? The Vegas shooter is a Poe narrator, in every sense of the word.

When I think about all of those Tupperwares, the way I pop Ibuprofen like candy when my body aches, or the fact that I sob every time my fiancé travels out of town for work trips, I hate the way I feel everything. But I would rather light up the sky, in short, passionate bursts, or get momentarily dragged into some distant star’s orbit, than allow myself, over the course of my lifetime, to craft the unhappiest, vilest narrative concealed by the illusion of tranquility and rationality.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I think we should all be encouraged to like ourselves and others a little bit more.

 

Notorious BBJ

peachieThese past five months, above all, have been a lesson in teen slang. I never thought I would be in my twenties and completely confounded by my students, but it’s officially happened.

I remember being thirteen and a little shit and signing out for the PEN15 club on the blackboard, thinking my substitute teacher would have no idea what I was saying, thinking I was sooooo clever. I realize now, more than a decade later, when my students call me “the plug,” that karma is a very real thing.

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation that went something along these lines:

Student A: (unintelligible muttering) BBJ! Miss…yeah definitely bro hahaha

Student B: She a total BBJ!

When the surrounding students collapsed into fits of giggles in the corner, side-eyeing me, trying to be subtle, I obviously needed to find out what BBJ was. PSA: Urbandictionary-ing, while useful, is not a foolproof method for this reason.

Me: What’s BBJ, and why is that me?

Them: AHAHAHAH.

Me: Come on. Tell me.

Them: AHAHAHAH.

Me: I’ll give you candy if you tell me.

One kid: Oooh OK, what kind of candy?

Everyone else: SHUT UP, Brandon! No!

Since it was the end of the day, and rightbefore a weekend, I had neither the will nor the energy to super sleuth the BBJ situation, and I’m pretty sure I went home, ate bread, passed out on the couch, and dreamed sweet, sweet, student-less dreams.

One week later, anonymous student makes “BBJ Lover” his/her username in a classroom game. Everyone laughs and looks at me. Someone else makes “DTG” his username, and screams, “Deep Throat Gang,” from the back of the room. I think to myself, “How could he ever say that to a teacher?!” and then I remember PEN15.

I google both BBJ and DTG, against my better judgment. The results are profane and predictable. I eat more bread and pray for the future of America.

Two weeks pass, and it all blows over. I finally learn what “finna” and “boe” mean, and despite my new knowledge, I do not feel enlightened.

Today, Student A comes to my room at the end of the day, looking for his phone. He asks me if I ever learned what BBJ means. I say no. He laughs at me. I erase the board, feeling old, lame, like a real damn adult.

Student C takes pity on me and tells me that BBJ means “Big Booty Judy,” and it’s so anticlimactic that I’m almost disappointed.

Then I remember they’ve all been calling ME “Big Booty Judy,” and it makes me love and hate everything all at once, and for the first time, I truly understand why half my teachers were eccentric and had sixteen cats and tattooed eyeliner and wore capes.

Thank God for the weekend, people. Finna be lit.peachie

How I Got Here

When I told my mother I’d made the decision to accept a job teaching English/Language Arts to eighth graders in rural South Carolina, her grief rolled in with the typical five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, acceptance. Every conversation, no matter how mundane, was saturated with emotion.

“Will we go to your new house for Thanksgiving this year?” she’d whisper, long after I signed my South Carolina contract, “Once you start teaching in New Jersey or Maryland?”

Then it was the family wedding in July, where she hit the amaretto sours and howled at me in the elevator about how my loved ones would die before I could hop on a plane and see them in a hospital.

When anger didn’t elicit the desired response, that’s when the bargaining kicked in. “If only your sister never sent you that job posting, you wouldn’t be leaving me. I’ll do anything if you stay up North.”

map

The tears followed shortly after, in bursts, in torrents, soaking through my hair, dripping down my collar bones. Skype conversations ended quickly when her voice crackled and face crumpled.

I think she finally accepted my absence around Halloween. I hosted some new friends at my apartment, we watched some scary movie that was filmed a few miles away in our town, and I made some grape jelly cocktail sausages according to my mom’s recipe. I remember her sounding happy that I made some friends, and telling me that I was lucky to have such nice plans for the night.

After that point, phone conversations and FaceTimes became less heavy, less serious. She laughed with me about the ridiculous things my students say, asked to see videos of my new kitten running around in the apartment, and warned me that if I didn’t stop gorging myself on Southern soul food buffets I would die of a premature heart attack at thirty-five. (I have finally come to terms with that last part.)

I’ve had adventure in my bones since childhood, but college and graduate school kept me tethered to Pennsylvania for seven years after my high school graduation. Stupidly, I never studied abroad, never took opportunities through school to travel, and I found myself twenty-five, landlocked, and deeply unhappy. I’d say, “Oh, I’m going to move out to Colorado, or Oregon, or I’ll explore the South for a few years, or maybe even the Midwest,” but I don’t think anyone took me seriously. Nobody really expected me to pick up and move hundreds of miles from home. When I got a phone interview callback for this job in South Carolina less than twenty-four hours after applying, all at once I was faced with the chance to leave, the chance to experience new people, new landscapes, new culture. Within a month, I visited, signed a contract, and started scouting out apartments.

My mother always told me that the most important thing at the end of every day was whether or not I could look in the mirror and say, “I’m happy with myself for the choices I’ve made today.” After six months, have I ever questioned why I’m here? Hellllll yes. Have I ever wished my job was easier, and wondered what it would be like to not be teaching in a high-poverty school with rampant behavioral issues? Probably on the daily. But I came here because I knew, somewhere within me, that I needed to be teaching these students while I was young, while I had energy, before I burned out. Sure, I could have applied for a higher-paying job in the suburbs of New Jersey, outside of Manhattan, but would I be making as much of a difference? As Albus Dumbledore once said, “We must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

I miss my family every day. But when I pass by the mirror hanging in my bedroom, I feel satisfied. Even though my mom still cries sometimes, and even when I wish I could buy booze on Sundays and that everything wasn’t so flat and that I could see a damn snowflake every once in awhile, I know I’m in the right place for now.