Unlike my sister, I don’t have any memories of exercising with my mother, or with any of my parents for that matter. Growing up in New York City, working out was done in gyms or on Sunday morning jogs through Central Park. Until I was a teenager the only exercise I remember hearing about involved a class called “Body by Jake,” and some jokes about how my father was the only man ballsy enough to attend.
By the time fitness became a passion for my parents, I was a teenager and uninterested in the joys of physical exertion, lest it make my eyeliner run. My Tretorns were exclusively used to accessorize my Guess? Jeans and I liked it that way.
I did gymnastics a little as a kid, took a tap dancing class and played a bit of squash but by the time I got to boarding school my sophomore year of high school, I felt woefully behind when it came to sports.
When I got to Kent, not only did I not have any real experience with sports, I didn’t even know what some of them were. No one plays field hockey in New York City and I spent my first semester of boarding school baffled by why my roommate would change out of a perfectly cute outfit to don a shrunken Catholic schoolgirl uniform and run around a field with a stick.
I decided to join the cast of the school play and smoke cigarettes at the local pizza place instead. I wore incredibly short skirts, don’t get me wrong. But my hair looked great and, unlike the field hockey team, I smelled of Ylang Ylang Perfume, not like sweat and tears. To the field hockey coach: You are welcome.
The one thing I have always enjoyed —a necessity as a New Yorker—was walking. The city has always inspired me to take long, brisk walks at all hours of the day and night. Here in San Francisco, without a car, my walking habit has continued. I’ve covered a lot of terrain in this city on foot and hoofing it remains my preferred mode of transportation. So, while I am not an athlete of any kind, I challenge anyone to out walk me, especially in a major city.
When Lorrin mentioned the idea of the Fit to Be Equal project, where we would run a sponsored mile every day to raise money for charity to honor our mother, I balked. Mainly because, as you may have gathered by now, I am not a runner. Unlike other sports, I do know how to run. I just choose not to, preferring to spend my time participating in activities that don’t make being hit by a bus seem like a more pleasing option.
A runner I am not, but in my 30s, I begrudgingly developed a gym routine to supplement my walks. I have also found a perverse pleasure in Bikram yoga over the past year. Somehow, contorting myself in a boiling hot room has proven therapeutic for me.
So I am going to accept this challenge and pledge to shake the ample booty that my mama gave me with a walk every day for one year. That will be a minimum of 365 miles to honor my mother. I am doing this to remind me of her, to honor her and to remind myself that some of my personal goals, fitness among them, are worth the struggle.
I write this a little bit terrified of the commitment. But then I think of my mother. My mother fought hard for everything she had. She was lusty and was always after something that seemed out of reach; for her, love, respect, self-esteem, education and equal rights topped the list. She achieved almost everything on that list, even marriage to her same-sex soul mate.
A regret she expressed before her death was that she wouldn’t live to see marriage equality for all people. She wanted everyone to be allowed the experience of marriage; the rights it affords you as a couple and, mostly, the deep affirmation of love and respect that she and Elly celebrated until the end.
I’d like to help her cross that last goal off her list.
So, starting on April 12, 2012, I will walk at least one mile every day, or do a commensurate amount of exercise in the form of yoga or Pilates. (Or, who knows, maybe I’ll even take up field hockey.)
Along with my sister and Elly, on opposite sides of the country, we’ll do it again on the 13th. And again and again, every single day until April 12, 2013. I’ll keep track of my progress here and keep myself honest by posting a weekly journal of all my workouts to Facebook via this blog.
Whether or not you knew my mother, you surely know someone in the LGBT community whose greatest hope is to marry. I hope that you’ll join me in this fight for equality by sponsoring me at 50¢ per mile (or any amount you can manage) to be donated at the end of the year to the Human Rights Campaign in my mother’s name.
Thank you in advance for your contribution as I embark on this journey to shake this big ol’ thang!