When I was growing up, I was the smart one. Learn to read before the age of 2, and people regard you as a brain with legs. They don't really think anything else about you. I was never encouraged to participate in sports or physical activities- I was a thinker. Thinkers think, they don't make layups or hit home runs.
This was the story that was told about me and it became the story I told myself. "I'm bad at sports." I know this because everyone told me this. "I can't dance, I'm not good at that sort of thing." That's what everyone says. It's true, you know. "I don't even want to, don't worry about it."
But really, I did. I wanted to dance more than anything. I wanted to hit home runs and make free throws. Unfortunately, I was chained to my books by the stories that had settled into my bones. I made those stories true and they made me less.
Anyway, my joints have been stiffening lately, more than usual, so I finally followed my doctor's advice and tried Tai Chi*. I always wanted to try Tai Chi. It's so beautiful, flowy and graceful. But I am not graceful. I'm bookish, you see. I'm not good at that sort of thing.
It turns out I am good at that sort of thing. My balance sucks and I'm stiff as hell, but I have no trouble at all mimicking the moves as far as I am able. Turns out, I only need to see something done once to be able to do it myself. I actually have a talent for this.
Which makes me super pissed off because I could have gone clubbing back before I got sick and had a fabulous time if I hadn't let the stories people told about me become the stories I told myself.
That's the crime of the patriarchy. We tell girls they aren't good at math and science, boys are better. We tell them this enough and they tell themselves this and then it becomes true. It settles into your mind back where deeply held understanding goes- where we keep "don't pee in your pants" and other such almost unbreakable codes. Then you never think about it again. It's just there. "I am a thinker, not an athlete." "I am a girl, I am better suited to things that aren't all mathy and scientific."
In the end, we rob everyone with these stories. The world wouldn't be the same if Madame Curie had never picked up a beaker. The world isn't what it could be because of all the other Curies who never did break free of their stories.
*Tai Chi is short for Tai Chi Chuan, which means Supreme Ultimate Fist. The Chinese should name everything.