I started running marathons when I was 39. Before then I rarely ran, if ever. I did a marathon because it was on my bucket list of things to do.
I’ve logged a lot of miles over the years and really started to hit my stride in the last 2 years. Oddly, it wasn’t until after a couple of marathons that I began to consider myself a runner.
Any runner will tell you that there are things that annoy the crap out of us. Things such as inconsiderate dog-owners that allow their dogs to poop everywhere, bicyclists that don’t announce their passing (and too close), people that love to run in packs and cover the entire trail (at a snail’s pace), and more. Many of these things are outside of our control and when I meet them I try to keep this in mind. Some things, however, are in my control. Hydration, fuel (gels, nuts, butters), chaffing, proper shoes and equipment, routes to run, times, rest, etc… Like many runners, I’ve experimented with many different variations, run at night vs day, 3x week versus 4 or 2, gel or M&Ms, etc… And still there is one thing that drives me bonkers… my shorts.
For whatever reason, whether it is the size of my thighs, my gait, or what… my shorts ride up and bunch up in the crotch. This drives me bonkers. I’m not talking about after ten miles… after 1/4 mile. I am CONSTANTLY tugging down on my shorts. I’ve bought the really short men’s runner shorts, and they still ride up on this as well as the sides are shorter, but the inseam is still long. I’ve tried running commando, different briefs, and so forth. When I wear my shorter running shorts, I get comments from friends (Nice legs!), but then again, I get them when I wear my regular running shorts as well. It appears that the ‘guy standard’ in shorts is at least mid thigh and below, moving ever toward the knee.
During the summer I often wear a kilt when hiking. I freaking love it! Some guys think it is strange, others have told me in hushed tones “I wish I could wear a kilt”, implying that they’d be ‘girly’ if they did. After all, no matter what some of the vociferous kilt wearers say… it is a dress. So I started looking for running kilts online.
Here is a review of a running kilt. But seriously… $175 for a running kilt? And all that fabric? Isn’t it hot? Note, scroll down the page a bit to see the running shorts he is wearing. Quite short. So this got me to thinking, what about running skirt? A quick google found me this website about Skirted Running Man. He writes about the utility aspects of it and after reading a bit, I decided to order one from Running Skirts.com and cut the liner out.
Before dawn I took it out on a 6 mile run where I did some fast pace running. And after running in it, all I can say about the utility of it is HOLY COW! No bunching up, no annoying rubbing and chaffing from fabric. There is a debate on various runners websites about the running skirt, and much of the hoopla, especially the anti-skirt side, is around the idea of fashion or ‘looking cute’ on a run (and getting unwanted attention from men). But on the utility side, I’ve seen all positive. Such as this story about Shannon Farar-Griefer (she is a BADASS!).
So on the utility side, these are a win. Not even close. I much prefer wearing these and I’m contemplating wearing them when it isn’t so dark outside. My resistance, as you might understand, is the grief that I would get from people for doing so.
So it comes down to this for me… bullshit gender schemas. I was basically going against the grain of accepted masculinity.
As the above article notes, the thing about masculinity is that it is a social value. You are a woman by biology, but you are a man by behavior. In the several hundred presentations that I’ve given about mental health, crisis intervention, stress responses, how to be freakin’ awesome, resilience, BATTLEMIND and PTSD, and more… a common component to all of this is the highly restrictive and sometimes damaging effects of narrowing definitions of masculinity on mental health. Since my own return from deployment to Iraq, and the trials of reintegration and readjustment, I’ve leaned into this to learn what I can.
Then there is this side of masculinity gone haywire… misogyny. It is odd that valuing ‘feminine traits’ in women doesn’t demean masculine traits (in men or women) but valuing feminine traits in men somehow devalues masculine traits.
Many people (men) who have sat in one of my presentations have scoffed at the notion of a pervasive and sometimes hindering rule of masculinity. So I’ve always issued the challenge “wear a dress to the grocery store and report back to me your findings”. Thus far nobody has taken me up on my challenge. So this leads me to another reason to wear this… I am interested in what reactions I will experience within myself (already noted lots of negative when a car drove by me this morning).
As a Stoic I try to look at underlying patterns and find the true causes and act in accordance. Fashion, it seems, is arbitrary. Other than the utility of an item, what reason is there for preference of one or the other? This has already been shown to be of added utility and comfort. So the only negative left is social approval and emotional responses on mine and other’s. Thinking of this I came to two conclusions.
First, on my reaction. It is an opportunity to remind myself of my Stoic ideals and try to get to the heart of the matter. The closer I get, the less I care.
Second, on people that will not approve. Why care I for their opinions? (see first point above) But also, and here is where my masculinity raises its head in anticipation, there have been various physical assaults against people for a variety of reasons, among which are because they were assumed feminine (women are attacked, effeminate men are attacked). In this regard I WELCOME the opportunity for someone to attack me. In my reasoning if there is a person who is looking to attack someone because that person is (whatever stupid reason goes here), then I would welcome their attention being placed on me. Perhaps we could have a discussion where my inner Socrates would debate with them, or perhaps they’ll meet my Marine side (which can get very mean).
It is early in this experiment… we’ll see how it moves forward.