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Mean Girls and Politics

February 15, 2009

Autumn's trampoline shoes...well-worn and much-loved.

Autumn's trampoline shoes...well-worn and much-loved.

This has been an unbelievable past twelve hours. I’m waiting for numbness, but until then am sitting in Duane’s truck, struggling against tears that just continue to brim over despite my best efforts, and marveling at the politics and injustice of athletics. The biggest injustice is that I cannot do what I really want so desperately to do—really give a nose thumbing that will be remembered—because dang it, I love my daughter, and I know she loves to tumble more than anything else.



It all started with a meet. M–, NC. We were originally told that she would be competing at one p.m., so we figured it would be no problem for us to wake early Saturday morning and drive down to the meet, rather than pay the cost of the hotel. These meets are expensive, you see, and we’d already planned on Autumn competing in another one at the end of the same month. Once you figure meet fees (80), hotel costs (100), food (50, conservatively), gas (50), admission fees (15), and a trinket for the competitor (30), you’re looking at upwards of $325. So you can see where, with two meets in one month, we might elect to rule out the hotel for one meet and save a little moolah.


Rational decision, right? Well, we get a phone call from another parent around 8:30 p.m. on the Friday evening before the Saturday meet, informing us that the competition time for the eleven and twelve year-olds has been changed from one p.m. to eight a.m.


Picture me choking.


People, I have competed all my life, as has my husband. Once a time is set, it is set in stone, particularly when travel is involved, because things like this happen. People can’t swivel on a dime and magically be somewhere else simply because someone has arbitrarily decided to change the course of scheduling.


Duane and I both were furious, needless to say. We made phone call after phone call, trying to figure out what was going on—finally receiving a return call from one of the coaches at around a quarter of ten. We had to pack, wake Autumn up, put her in the truck, and drive three and half hours at ten o’clock at night, trying to find hotel accommodations on the fly as we went. We got into M– at 1:30 a.m., tired and aware that we’d have around four and half to five hours of sleep before needing to get up and get going for the meet.


So far, in my quest for answers, all I had was contradictory information. The owner of the gym where Autumn was competing said that she “had been organizing meets for fifteen years…” and the information disseminated to the coaches two weeks ago was the same—it hadn’t been changed. Our coaches were saying that it had been changed, that they had been faxed and emailed information in mid-January with times on it for competitors to compete at specified times, and then when they arrived Friday night those times were different.


When we arrived at the meet on Saturday morning, I asked for a copy of the fax, and asked to speak to the owner of the gym. As I waited for her in the lobby I looked idly at the various notices tacked up on the bulletin board. Then I saw her coming. I could tell from a single glance that she was loaded for bear. Mentally I cocked my head to the side. Interesting. Almost as if she had been…forewarned?


I showed her the fax, and asked (I think fairly politely, given the circumstances) to explain the seeming discrepancy with what she had told me the previous evening and the paper I had before me. She got pretty hostile with me, gripping my arm to pull me down the hall. “I’m not going to stand here and argue with you about this. I told you that those times have been posted online for two weeks!” Now, I don’t like it when I have a gripe with someone and they touch me. Even if it isn’t with intent to harm. You don’t lay your hands on me. I told her that–again, pretty evenly. “Ma’am, do not touch me.”


Folks, she touched me again. Deliberately this time—a little poke in my upper arm. “I didn’t touch you threateningly,” she said, “it was just a gentle—“


“I don’t care,” I said, “I asked you to keep your hands off of me.” She did it again! What does she have, a problem with comprehension? Heat was rising around this time.


“Lady, you really want to keep your hands to yourself. Now I did not come here to argue with you. All I would like is a simple apology.” This is pretty much verbatim the conversation we had had thus far. Considering my emotional state, I would characterize it as fairly even-keeled. Her response, then, took me aback. Looking at it now, from the perspective of over twelve hours “in the cooler,” I can only say that I was taken for a ride. She was waiting for me, had her response to anything I had to say mapped out, ready to go. I walked right into her web.


But back to her response. “That’s it. We’re done. You are out of my gym.” (Whaaaa? I’ve been to so many different athletic functions where extreme disruptions had to be created before such action was taken. It seemed a little extreme.) She stalked off in high dudgeon, to find our coach, I presume. I was alarmed. Did that mean Autumn was disqualified? Would she not be able to compete? I tried to determine…”Ms. M—if you disqualify my child over this discussion, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, and be forewarned I will bring suit. There are only two competitions before states, this and the Ultimate, and she has to compete in both in order to be able to compete at States.” This was very significant. A tumbler has to compete at and qualify at States in order to go to Nationals—the Junior Olympics. Last year Autumn won third in the nation in her age division on two events at Nationals. I could not let some woman on a power trip ruin her opportunity to go again.


She kept walking.


By the time I got into the main portion of the gym, where, as it would happen, the main portion of the day’s drama would play out, she and Autumn’s main coach, S— (names have been hidden for obvious reasons) were stalking over to me and Duane. S— started the discussion (and I use that term very loosely) off with a finger in my face and fire in her eyes. It was immediately obvious that she had just been waiting for this.


“You’re done. You’re out of here. You need to get off of your high horse.”


Wow. I stood there, shocked, as her venom spewed. She just kept on throwing me under the bus, as if in slow motion, over and over. I had not expected that from her…but then, I suppose the alternative would have been owning up to failing to check for changes in the originally posted schedule, and that was just unacceptable.


“Times change. Everyone else was here and ready to deal with that except you, because you were too busy playing volleyball—“ She made a scathing passing motion with her arms.


I had to stop her here. “I wasn’t here because we decided that if it wasn’t necessary to pay for a hotel room, we weren’t going to! Volleyball was secondary.” (I had filled in for one game out of five for a team that was short until I discovered what was going on with Autumn.)


She rolled right over top of me. “You always have to pick everything apart. You have to b**** about everything….”she kept on talking, but a rushing sound filled my ears and I couldn’t really hear her. What the heck was she talking about?


“What are you talking about? What do I pick apart? I’m one of the most laid-back parents you have!” And I honestly think I am. I’m not a “gym mom.” I don’t hover over the coaches, picking apart what they’re doing or not doing. I don’t question their ability to train my child. The only thing I have ever questioned, and this in confidence (which makes me wonder…) was their impartiality. That, however, is another story.


She didn’t really answer me…just kept right on going. “You’re just like M—we try to love you, but you’re just so hard to love. You hold yourself apart from everyone. Always talking about your daughter getting shafted.” Was I supposed to come every day singing Kum-Ba-Yah? And I kind of liked M—. A lot. It was like an evil dam had opened up and needed to gush for a while. I stood back and tried to keep dry, while Duane stood stoically beside me. I was actually very proud of him, because it was pretty apparent that the objective here was to get both of us out of the building, and Duane has a notorious temper. He wasn’t biting, though.


After a moment the owner inserted triumphantly, “You’ve just shafted your daughter!”


Whew. I felt kind of like Cinderella showing up all beautiful and ready for the ball in the dress she and her little birdie friends had made, only to be ripped to tatters by the wicked stepmother and stepsisters. What was there to say after all of that? I’m sorry you feel that way? Umm, thanks, I needed that new one?


So now, my daughter is in there competing and I’m out here writing this and crying because I am p-od, and that’s what I do when I get really, really angry and am helpless to do anything about it. And to make it all worse I am out of tissues.


And to make it really worse, Duane has come out to give me a couple of updates, and tell me a couple of other things about the situation, and these people just continue to press and lie. I can’t stand lies. This is the part that really just makes me want to pick up my child and run with her…get her into some other sport…but I know I’d be tearing out a piece of her heart if I did. Duane said S— came to him and threatened to kick our child out of her gym because of the message he left for her other coach, M—, on her cell phone, in which he ranted and raved, and cussed a thousand times. Now, Duane told me exactly what he said, and it was along the lines of, “You need to call me, now, because I need to know what’s going on, now.” There was not, he maintains, a single cuss word in the message. I believe him, because if there is one thing Duane does not do, it is lie. M– is probably confusing the message with the actual live conversation that I was having with her, during which Duane arrived home and started going slam off in the kitchen. He wasn’t yelling at M–. He wasn’t yelling at me. He was just yelling. That’s just what Duane does. But to take that and tell someone, anyone, that he left a message being profane to you…? That’s wrong. That’s a lie.


And then the owner of the gym is telling S– and others that I cussed her—“F this, and F that,” apparently, during our conversation. Well, our conversation is recounted, almost verbatim, above, and funny thing, I don’t recall any f-ing of anything going on. I did not utter a single profanity.


I don’t like liars.


I don’t like power plays.


I don’t like politics and ego trips and ultimatums.


I really don’t like Mean Girls.


And the funny thing is, what it all really boils down to is this: all I ever needed—from anyone—is a simple acknowledgement that “hey, I screwed up,” and an apology. How hard is that?

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