Choosing Love When it Comes to Chicks

Time freezes just long enough for me to have an epiphany. Do I treat her like a girl, or like a ball player?

Steve Roberts black ink drawing: person with fancy hair and glasses bouncing a ball

I’m not exactly sure what it means to be a feminist, but I assume it includes considering females beyond gender stereotypes.  If that’s reasonably close, then the first big feminist choice I remember making occurred when I decked Kathy McMinn as she was racing for home.

We were playing softball during the end-of-year picnic in eighth grade at St. Mike’s grammar school, boys and girls on each pick-up team.  It was 1957.  In the fall I’d be off to the seminary looking for God.  The futility of that quest, I eventually figured out, was the universe teaching me that I was searching in the wrong direction––out there, rather than within.  I mention this because my infatuation with the G-man, since birth really, led me to feel that just about every way we humans label ourselves is incredibly limiting.  Man, woman, American, criminal, cannibal, saint, you name it….  There’s no label I’ve ever run across that captures the vastness of human consciousness.  A small slice is the best we can do.

This doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the roles we play.  In fact, it was just that sensibility that sent Kathy McMinn sprawling and my heart somersaulting in celebration when she popped up, dusted herself off and walked away like no big deal.  The faces on more than a few of my classmates, meanwhile, said, “Eewwwww!”

I was the catcher.  Kathy, the runner on second.  The batter hits a ground ball to the infield and gets thrown out at first.  Kathy moves to third.  The first baseman wings the ball to me to prevent Kathy from coming home, but the throw is wild and hits the backstop.  I run to retrieve it as Kathy darts toward the plate.  I get to the ball about the time Kathy is half-way to home.  Time freezes just long enough for me to have an epiphany.

Do I treat her like a girl, or like a ball player?

The answer is immediate.  If I treat her like a girl I won’t be honoring her as a person.  So I race toward the plate and launch myself in the air in the hope that just maybe I’ll be able to tag her in time.  As often happens, enthusiasm trumps finesse.  We each had some wind knocked out of us.

Today, more than half a century later, I can’t recall whether Kathy was safe or out, but that collision still teaches me: in every moment, we make a choice––love or fear, big or small.  In that light, maybe feminism is nothing special.  Maybe it is merely the practice of thinking big, of choosing love, when it comes to chicks.

For a video version of this essay, click here.


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