|Still waiting for rowing to ask you to the prom?|
|Articles - DyslexiaCox|
|Written by DyslexiaCox|
Rowing has been compared to everything from doing time to an addiction to a cult, but what it's really like is a high school relationship. For all but a select few of us, our time in the saddle has a definite expiry date.
Like that first high school relationship, the first few months of being a cox are dreamy. Everything you learn is exciting and intriguing and leaves you longing for more. The first time your stroke looks at you with respect and says, "good call!" it's a rush as good as - and in some cases better than - a first kiss. And your first major medal and the consequent coxie toss? That's a breathtaking physical sensation equal only to..... well, you know.
Those first few months are blissful indeed, but just like your high school boyfriend, the sweetness of novelty wears off after a few months. After a year of going out with rowing, you both start to relax around each other. It's easy to let those common courtesies lapse. Rowing suddenly expects you to be available all the time and gets jealous of your other commitments. You no longer carry the cox box carefully in its big black box, but toss it loose in your backpack. You both get a little possessive. What's that crew doing rowing your shell? He thinks he can just share your shell like that? What do you mean you want to skip practice for a family reunion? We have a regatta in a week! Don't I matter to you anymore?
The things you used to love about each other now annoy you mightily and spawn long bedtime arguments. Bow pair in your bowrider seem hell-bent on soaking you every practice. Your last crew thought it was cute how you said "star-board" and announced every time you took the 69th stroke. Now you and rowing take a good look at each other and see things you don't like. What do you do? No one would blame you for quitting. After all, relationships are hard. Blame destiny and say that you and rowing just weren't meant to be. But if you still believe your love is pure, you will have to suck it up and adapt. You know rowing's not going to change. Your mother always warned you that you can't change men. Even if she was picturing you dating a popular, sports-car-driving sport like football or cheerleading, she knows how much rowing means to you and secretly hopes you'll last to the senior prom.
If you and rowing decide you love enough to stay together after the first year, congratulations. The next few years are both harder and easier than the first. You are secure in one another's love. When rowing introduces other coxies, you are not threatened. When you sleep in one morning, rowing doesn't panic thinking you have abandoned him. You both know you're in it for the long haul. He teaches you rigging. You get T-shirts with his name on them. Your parents have accepted rowing, however reluctantly. They may even put a picture of you and rowing up on the fridge. You start to think about the future together. Someone - maybe a close relative - brings up the N- word.... the national team. You love rowing but you're not sure yet. You're still young and you don't want to think that far into the future... except for short furtive daydreams of you and the national team eight rowing right through the field at the 2012 summer games. You don't tell rowing that you fantasize about your future together. You play it cool.
Eventually it's been two years.... or three. People start to look impressed when you tell them how long you and rowing have been going out. You are proud. Pictures of you and rowing are all over your room like it's the eighties and rowing is the New Kids on the Block. . Most of your friends are now people you've met through him. You know how to make each other happy. Sure, you don't really surprise each other any more, but you know what to expect from each other. He knows you aren't going to allow any talking in the boat, ever, and you know he just isn't going to make those coxie seats any bigger, ever. You live with that.
Sometime after year three you and rowing start to lose track of how long you've been together. You have to count spring seasons on your fingers. You remember how sure you were that by the time you'd been coxing for four years, you and rowing would be inseparable and sure about your future together.... but you're not. Sure, you're committed, but he can't even guarantee what boats you'll get in the fall, and you still can't quite tell when they're dropping their elbows. The N-word inspires a bit of anxiety along with the thrill of possibility.
After five years, people start to look at you in shock and awe when you tell them how long you've been with rowing, and you always add, "Yeah.... a long time. A bloody long time." Once in a while you look at rowing and think, I can't believe I'm going out with him. The next moment, you're ready to die for rowing.
Sometimes you think about what life might be like without rowing. You know people live without rowing, you've seen them, bravely going about their single lives without the comfort of rowing waiting at home, but you don't know if you can do that. If you don't have rowing, what do you have?
Five years, maybe six, and you don't feel any closer to the national team. People have expectations of what happens after you've spent five years of your life with one significant other... and so do you. Maybe you're starting to worry a bit about how rowing really, truly feels about you. Doesn't look like he's going to commit to you any time soon with a validation of your skill, like an award or a national team boat. Can you stay dedicated to rowing when you know you're not as good as the best?
Some people hold on to those high school relationships, declaring that first love is the sweetest. Most of them end, within a few years, leaving both parties a little sad, a little reflective, and a little wiser. The hardest part is knowing precisely when the relationship should end. In rowing there's no senior prom, no going away to college to force us to evaluate how good we are to rowing and if staying together is worthwhile.
Like the first boyfriend or girlfriend, coxing careers aren't meant to last forever, even though we hope against hope they might. At a certain point, though, we all have to decided whether to break up or get married, and rowing, while polygamous, is very selective. Whatever you do, whenever you and rowing break it off, be sure you get your CDs back before you break up, 'cause it's practically impossible afterwards.