I don't like things I'm not good at. They're just not fun for me. I'm a teaspoon of perfectionistic mixed with two cups of competitiveness and a gallon of pride, and if I can't do something well, I'd rather just not do it at all.
So last week when Jay asked me for the hundredth time if I wanted to come play ultimate frisbee with him and his co-ed school intramural team, I said no. For the hundredth time.
He gave me his pathetic pouty face. For the hundredth... well, you get the idea.
The way the rules work for ultimate frisbee intramurals are as follows: 7 players are on the field at a time. Two of those players have to be female. Jay's team had only one girl show up for all their games, so even though they had an extra guy or two, they were a man short on the field and the girl never got any breaks. "We need you," Jay would say. "Come play."
But I wouldn't go play because I knew I'd be miserable. I wouldn't want anyone to throw the frisbee to me, but would feel embarrassed if no one actually threw to me, especially if I was the only one wide open. Does that make sense in a girly, oxymoronic way? And I knew that I'd get frustrated every time I dropped the frisbee or make a bad pass (assuming I got to touch the disc). And no offense to guys, but I really hate co-ed sports: men can get so involved in the game that they either get mean if you drop a pass, or they'll go sexist on you and only throw to boys even when some of the girls are really good. Then it's no fun playing with them.
For some reason last week, though, I decided to go play. I was dreading it because I was afraid my attitude would get in the way, but I've been wanting to get better at relaxing and just having fun, regardless of my skill level. Even when I'm the only one dropping the frisbee. Even when I'm losing a board game. Even when everyone else's craft project looks like it came out of a magazine and mine looks like a clumsy five year old's.
So I suited up and we went, with the condition that if there were two girls who showed up for his team, I wouldn't play. And as we walked to the field, there were two girls sitting with his teammates. I was off the hook! I was almost disappointed, but not quite. Turned out, though, that only 3 boys showed up. They recruited one more, but still only had 6 people. So I played.
We lost. Horribly. But you know what? I had fun. Got a little exercise running up and down the field. Missed the frisbee. Dropped the frisbee. And caught the frisbee! Threw it a few times. Even swatted it down once, right in front of the nose of the other team's arrogant, large, sexist, bossy captain (he claimed afterwards that he had "dropped" it before I touched it, but that was a lie).
Skill and winning are not prerequisites to fun. Happy is an attitude. I repeat these platitudes over and over again in my mind when I'm embarking on what I know will be a free exhibition of my lack of skill or coordination. Eight times out of ten, I still end up embarrassed and frustrated. But twenty percent of the time, I get the hang of it. Usually not the hang of the craft/sport/whatever, but of liking it, nevertheless. Enjoying myself, nevertheless. Having a good attitude, nevertheless.
All that said, however, I'd still much rather do things I'm good at. Bring me a novel that needs to be read fast. Give me a room of people who need bossing around. Ask me to point out spelling or grammatical errors in a newspaper. Challenge me to a game of Monopoly or Hand and Foot so I can trounce you soundly.
And ten times out of ten, I guarantee I'll have fun doing it.