, , , , , ,

For nigh on ten years now I’ve been skiing one day a week with a group called the Prime Timers. Theoretically, everyone is over 50. In reality, most everyone in the group is retired, which may include a few lucky, shrewd quadragenarians. The co-ed group is mostly male, but inclusive in spirit. I’ve been impressed by the ski level of most of these fine fellows. I’ve skied with nonegenarians who, while scaling back the difficulty of the terrain they seek out, are impressive skiers and role models for the rest of us. Of course, clad in ski gear, it is nearly impossible to determine someone’s age, which is not a particular important factor here. Many of these skiers are unbelievable fast and accomplished. We are all happy to be upright and capable of bending over to pick up a dropped ski pole or flask.

My group last week was of mixed ability. At least two of the gentleman were very good, accomplished, and fast skiers. Another was fast, but not elegant. Yet another was slow, inelegant, and filled with physical limitations: bad knee, quivering this, gasping that. In chairlift conversation this fellow, I’ll call him Mr. B. said, “You ski pretty good for a girl.” I bit my tongue and thanked him. Then he abruptly commented on the amazing strength and physicality of “women these days.” He blathered on about watching the young ladies at the gym doing burpees.

“You know what a burpee is?” he asked. I nodded. He continued to describe, in amazement, some of the burpee variations for which he had no name: jack burpees, burpee sit-throughs, mountain climber burpees, knee tuck burpees. “I just can’t believe what these women can do. I couldn’t do any of that! Women never used to be able to do that. When did women get so strong?”

The guy was serious. I was dumbfounded. I pointed out that women fight wars, battle fires, care and give birth to babies while working full time and caring for a household . . . Saved from escalation by the chairlift depositing us at the top of the mountain.

The next run was an easy, end-of-day pitch. I held back for the fellows to dive off ahead of me. I should have waited for Mr. B. to get a longer headstart. Foolishly I passed him and pulled up beside the other three who had congregated on the side of the run to regroup before heading to the bar. We four were standing there like dominoes, chatting when I looked up to see Mr. B. bearing down on us and at the last minute I realized he was going to–yes! plow right into us! He hit me first; the guy just beside me helped prop me up but slid into the guy below him, etc till all four of us were reestablishing equilibrium. Mr. B. had fallen completely and could barely get up.

I bit my tongue again and thought, “You ski like an untouched boy.”

A few years ago, a 300-pound man, benefitting from my willingness to drive three volunteers across a notoriously bad road to the trailhead where we’d spend the next week repairing wilderness trails, interrupted his copious warnings about how bad the road was about to get by saying, “You drive pretty good for a girl.” I bit my tongue and looked in the review mirror to see the other guy’s eyeballs nearly pop out of his head. That became our private joke for the week–maybe for all time.

It’s a damn good thing I’m no longer a girl. The younger Linda would have bit something besides her tongue. But in retrospect, how long has it been since anyone has called me a girl?

PS: As last-century as Mr. B. is, I’m confident that he will not see this post and be adversley affected by it.