A few months ago I saw someone tweet this: You don’t have to be pretty like her. You can be pretty like you.
I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Literally every day. I am my own person and I should look and dress exactly how I want. I’m normally best at this when it comes to outdoor stuff. I love my outdoor clothes and gear. I feel and look like my best self when wearing four-way stretch shorts, Chacos, and obnoxiously bright T-shirts.
But then came bouldering.
At the end of April, Peter had a two-for-none coupon to the local bouldering gym. So of course we were going to check it out. He used to boulder (and rock climb) more often and I had never even tried bouldering. After just a couple routes I was on top of the world. It’s fun and challenging and highlights all the things I love about rock climbing while also getting rid of the stuff I don’t like about rock climbing.
I then got a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for the month of May and went to the bouldering gym a number of times in the month. I was all about bouldering, so it was only logical for me to get an actual pass to the gym. Now a few weeks out from my purchase, I go 2–3 times a week, after work and on weekends.
I love bouldering and I’m not going to stop anytime soon, but it’s kind of weird to go to the bouldering gym and not really see anyone else who looks like me body-wise. I’ve got a large chest (for reference, my boobs would definitely keep me from going through some slot canyons, and not even ones that are that narrow), a thin waist, a stomach that perpetually sticks out (it literally never changes size), decent love handles, thick and dimpled thighs, and skinny calves and ankles. All the women I encounter at the gym are what you would expect a rock climber to look like, even the ones who seem pretty new to the sport like I am. When I’m there I don’t think about it, but afterwards I certainly do. But why do I do this?
It’s ridiculous how hard it is to not feel inspired or excited about a sport because you don’t see anyone who looks like you participating. It’s hard enough being a beginner, let alone being a beginner who doesn’t look like they belong. It’s ridiculous that I think I don’t belong because other people don’t look like me!
It would be silly to hope that I can eventually look like the “other” climbers. But really I hope that as I keep climbing, I keep looking the same (albeit a slightly fitter version of myself with legitimate biceps). I hope that someone else can look at me and think, “Hey, that woman looks like me and she kills it on overhung routes!” (To be honest, this would be the biggest compliment because I can actually do some overhung routes from start to finish with no cheating. Overhung routes will never be my favorite, but once upon a time I could only dream of doing even V0s.) If there isn’t anyone who represents my body at the bouldering gym, that’s fine. I can represent myself.
So I’ve got a new mantra: You don’t have to be fit like her. You can be fit like you.