Who Should Sponsor Me: A Definitive Guide

I’ve been a little too entertained by insisting that one of my hobbies within the sport of powerlifting–if it were possible to have a hobby within a hobby, and if it were possible to do so without asking oneself WHY one needs to have a hobby within the original hobby–is “not being sponsored.” Whenever I take the opportunity to declare this, it is obvious that I have something of a chip on my shoulder over it, and I’m entirely aware of that and ok with it because I am ok with looking a little pathetic. As for the chip in question, I’m not entirely sure why I want to be sponsored aside from having the distinct sense that being sponsored proves something. Indeed, I’m not really interested in adding more crap to the already cluttered confines of my apartment. I don’t need to add more shirts to the laundry that only intermittently gets done, and I don’t need the limited counter space in my kitchen any more devoted to unused bottles and tubs of whatever supplement than it already is. No, I just want to feel like one of the cool kids. Having realized that the likelihood that I will be welcomed into the “sponsored cool kids clique,” however, is somewhere in the 40-50% range, my next best option is to insist that I am above all that shit and feign coolness by feigning disinterest, but being really obvious in my feigning so people actually think that it’s slightly endearing how much I don’t believe my own bullshit. So in that spirit, yes, one of my favorite hobbies is not being sponsored.

   

The deadlift face that launched a thousand ships. Who WOULDN’T want to sponsor this sexiness?
 But if I WERE to be sponsored, of course I’d only want to be sponsored by businesses that produce things I actually use consistently in efforts to better my powerlifting career. A career that, although short, should be fleshed out a bit here so the reader doesn’t think I’m some one-meet newbie insisting they have done enough to deserve sponsorship. See, I haven’t done enough, but let’s also not forget that “enough” doesn’t actually have to be done if one can just fall back on sex appeal–and that’s heteronormative sex appeal to you, with only slight emphasis on the stuff muscle fetishists message me about somewhat regularly–to be “saleable.” I’m too much of a bitch for that, so let’s return to why me writing this isn’t a complete mockery of the concept of sponsoring athletes: I have earned elite totals in four weight classes, been nationally ranked in the top fifteen in five, been ranked in the top five in four weight classes in either total or single lifts or both, and have broken two all-time world records in the no wraps total at 123 as well as the deadlift at 123. Needless to say, I currently hold the #1 national ranking in the 123 weight class raw no wraps. I am not, in other words, without some accomplishment in under four years of powerlifting and something like six years of touching weights (although the first two of those years were pretty sketchy, non-barbell lifting self-lead wastes of time). So, like, damnit, someone should fucking sponsor me. Jesus. 

So let’s talk about who that should be. A supplement company? Nope, not a single supplement was ingested that day, or any day, because I just don’t really use supplements. But I still buy things, and some of those things support my powerlifting. A list of potential sponsors:

1. Hyvee: I go to this grocery store literally just about every single day. Dude! Shut up! I live near it and I don’t like making big grocery trips, it makes me anxious. And I don’t preplan my stupid meals right now, which, if social media is any indicator, is an extreme anomaly in the lifting world. What will I eat next? I DON’T KNOW. I actually deeply enjoy going over to Hyvee, being all “what do I feel like eating next?” buying the thing, and then eating it. I feel like Hyvee not only literally fuels me as an athlete, it serves as a sort of refuge, because walking its aisles and staring at food is very soothing. Get off your damn “I prepped these veggies five days ago, YUM” high horse and buy some chocolate that has brandy inside of it that I saw in the candy aisle with me.
2. Jethro’s Barbecue, either the Johnston, IA or Altoona, IA locations. Doesn’t it just make SENSE that a powerlifter would be sponsored by a barbecue place? I am very honestly surprised that this does not happen more often if ever. Also, this place is home of this fried apple pie monstrosity that I am really hungry just thinking about right now but also a bit sickened by. Gross, Janis. Let’s move on….

3. …To Sakura Sushi’s all you can eat sushi night, which is on Mondays. Speaking of being a bit sickened by myself, the amount I am able to ingest on these nights is disturbing. The fact that I can eat two deep fried rolls as part of that amount should ring some serious concern bells in someone, because I’m too far gone into the land of gluttony for them to be ringing inside of me anymore. The only thing that rings inside of me these days is the amount of tums I ingest to ward off the impact of Jethro’s and Sakura. 

4. Tums. Because of 2 and 3. 

5. Covergirl. No, seriously, makeup is deeply important to my existence as a powerlifter. Want to know how I prep for a lifting session? I put on makeup. I mean, I have to or people see me and throw up, but it’s also highly important for me to apply eyeliner, think about the lifts I will do in the next few hours, apply more eyeliner, think about whether or not I’m going to be pushing the weight on the top set or holding off today, apply more eyeliner, think about how I look like a whore now but it’s too late to go back, makeup remover is going to turn everything into a liquid black mess, apply mascara, go to the gym. I use a lot of different makeup brands but I figure my best shot is with a cheaper drugstore brand. I mean, if Rihanna is good enough to be a Covergirl representative, I have to be able to get in there. I bet I deadlift more than her. 

6. Unknown Brand: if a company ever manages to make a sports bra that fits me perfectly, I will hawk the shit out of it. So this is a hypothetical relationship, but I’m dead serious. Someone make a sports bra that doesn’t squish my back around in unattractive ways and I will be your athlete–good incentive to take the 50% risk of failure in starting a small business, right?  

  
So that’s about it. Until I pick up a contract with one of these, I’m going to continue to sponsor myself. It’s pretty great. 

Advertisements

The Wrong Ideal

I was going to make a bunch of red X's everywhere on this image Nip/Tuck style but my graphics program has possibly bitten the dust so you can just imagine all of them for yourself.
I was going to make a bunch of red X’s everywhere on this image Nip/Tuck style but my graphics program has possibly bitten the dust so you can just imagine all of them for yourself.

Let me tell you exactly what is wrong with me.

That sentence is sitting there, and staring it is like standing at one of those weird five-way intersections in a city that isn’t laid out in a grid, dense buildings convulsing around streets that run towards each other at odd angles. There are a few options, a few paths you can take, and those paths might cross and get you to the same place even if you choose this one or that one or that one. It’s all the same, but the ways to get there are not.

I’m 28 now, and I can truncate my life into little sections and big ones. The theme that stands out among at least two thirds of these sections is the inability to fully appreciate myself, and I am endlessly apologizing and explaining and fucking up and comforting and writing and reading and watching and discussing and bottling up and breaking down and rising up because of it. There has been an evolution from the self-erasure of anorexia to the self-betrayal of bulimia mixed into the erasure that preceded it to the hollow sorting out of the damages left behind.

In case you need a reminder, here is how I looked when I was eating disordered up to my eyeballs.
In case you need a reminder, here is how I looked when I was eating disordered up to my eyeballs.

So it’s hard to choose what to tell you is wrong with me, but there has been and continues to be a lot. And I’ll admit it here because this is one of few venues I have in which I’m not either enjoying the respite of being a blank, anonymous face to people I don’t know or dredging through the overexposure of myself to the few people I trust and love–it’s another purgatory. My audience is faceless and mostly nameless and, in my mind, hypothetical as much as it is real. This isn’t as brave, although it is possibly as questionable, as standing out in the middle of the street and screaming my shortcomings and my fears and my struggles, but writing in a publicly-accessible format is my best current attempt at extending myself enough to be voluntarily vulnerable. So let’s get to the catharsis, because that’s the juice you should be rewarded with if you’ve actually managed to read the block of text preceding the next paragraph.

Here is what is wrong with me–with my body. My legs are not elegant and long enough and they’re not thick and muscular enough. My ass is either not perky enough or it’s not large enough, or maybe both, or maybe it’s not small enough. My chest is probably too small although it’s too wide (because of the colar bones, you see, although for a while those were en vogue), I have too much body fat but I also may have too little and my pectoral muscles are making the whole thing a lot more awkward so I should make sure I either build those up or I get rid of them entirely. My back is far too muscular, although I could have a better lat taper and actually, I could stand to build a better trap/rear delt setup and my shoulders are certainly, absolutely too big but they’re also not really capped in appearance so, I don’t know, I should probably fix both of those things. My torso is ridiculously short and my waist-to-hip ratio horrendously poor; science says it is a miracle that I’ve ever managed to be found attractive by a member of my species in my life. My arms are definitely too large in proportion to the rest of me and they’re throwing the rest of my proportions into an uglier tailspin, two great jointed pillars drifting along in time with the rest of my body as I move from one point to another.

Once again, you're going to have to throw in some x's on my body here because GIMP and my computer are no longer friends.
Once again, you’re going to have to throw in some x’s on my body here because GIMP and my computer are no longer friends.

I cannot tell you how ridiculous it is to type that paragraph–how much indignation rises as I summarize the contradictions I now spend a fair amount of time trying to sort out for myself–contradictions that arose from what was originally a sincere attempt to subvert one set of ideals. Here’s the lesson for today–you cannot subvert one set of ideals by implanting another next to it. It doesn’t work. It’s why saying “strong is the new skinny” is bullshit and so is “real women have curves” and so is “all bass no treble” and whatever the fuck else we’re coming up with today to box everyone into meeting one ideal and saying “fuck you mate, you’re screwed” to those who don’t. Nothing human is ever ideal. To those of us predisposed to thinking things are black and white polarized boxes of good and bad, ideals are fantastic and we try to fit into them so people will call us “good” and we will be loved and fucked and respected and obeyed and saved. Because that is what makes sense. Failing an ideal means loss, dismissal, contempt, repulsion. I self-enslave over ideals because, in part, our very culture loves ideals. Because I grew up in a house steeped in judgment and dated men who built their identities out of the judgment of others–I loved and sought love from a those who took comfort in the predictability of the ideal.

I’m not blaming anybody here. My history is really not the point. What’s most striking to me is how much the act of reflecting on the convolution of two particular ideals–the female physical ideal championed by white Western culture and the female physical ideal coveted by the lifting and strength world–leaves me shaking my head in absolute disbelief. You don’t fix generations of body image issues by introducing new ideals. Sure, the new ideals are going to exist and the trends are going to come and go–I swear the flapper flat-chested elongated body of the 1920’s which is itself a nod to the far older Mannerist trend is going to rear its head out of a decades-old grave one of these days–but if we’re going to address the reparation of how we’ve talked about women’s bodies, trying to take the body that strength training might build and elevate it as the answer to all our eating disordered, body dysmorphic, image-obsessed issues amounts to shooting ourselves in our feet. It looks like a good answer, but when we embrace it we end up preventing ourselves from moving forward. You’ve read this before, but I’ll write it again: we’re not going to fix skinny worship by supplanting it with a singular worship of another type. Singular is not inclusive; whatever ideal you choose as the next skinny, you are right back to a focus that is as misdirected as it is narrow-minded. 

So out of all of this, here is my suggestion: if you struggle with a sense of how much you don’t measure up at a physical level, make a list of everything that’s wrong with you. The absurdity of the contradictions that will stare back at you should you cross-check your list with several sets of ideals beloved by this culture or that subculture is kind of great. Doing this exercise might not solve all of your problems, but it will have you peeking out of your box a little bit more.

The Scale as Torture Device

This title is misleading. In the Keough-Finkelman residence, two scales, not one, hold court in the bathroom. The younger scale is a blue Weight Watchers product found on sale at Target; the older is a clear, unassuming purchase from some other big box store years ago. It has never been a particular aspiration of mine to own two scales, but I do now. And as an athlete in a weight class-defined sport, I am an unfortunate slave to both.

 

thetwoscales
The perpetrators.

Why do I own two scales? To put it simply, the older, clear scale started to behave abnormally around April of this year. It would weigh heavy one minute, and then a few minutes later show a very different reading for the mass of the same body that had recently stood on it in consternation. Then it started weighing its user in consistently heavy, and I got kind of irritated. You see, if you need to make weight for competition, you track your weight for months around that competition. You do this in order to understand both your weight but perhaps more importantly how your body retains water as might be influenced by diet, or how much of your (water) weight “floats off” overnight while sleeping. Knowing such details makes the process of making weight more easily refined and controlled–in other words, less stressful both physically and psychologically. So when the device that you count on to help you track your body’s mass starts to act like it got ahold of the scale equivalent of a psychotropic drug, you get concerned. You weigh yourself on the Clear Monster, and then you go to your gym to step on the $1,000+ scale in the locker room that tells you that, indeed, the Clear Monster is screwing with you. You decide to go to Target and buy another scale in order to escape the devious machinations of your formerly trusty one, and you bring it home. Upon putting it next to Clear Monster and weighing yourself, you discover New Blue Scale weighs you heavier than Clear Monster. You kind of freak out, because seriously, how much DO you weigh right now? What’s right? What’s wrong? Are you a skinny twig or a behemoth?

So for several weeks you run experiments on your two scales in comparison to the all-knowing, accurate Gym Scale of Peace. The two conspirators in your bathroom, you discover, constantly weigh you at differently weights in relation to the GSP. This means that you can’t just get on them and expect to be able to subtract a pound and be able to trust that that number is your weight. In other words, the scales have figured out how to exact psychological warfare, and they’re waging it now.

Fast forward to months after initially realizing the Clear Monster was messed up–I still get on both scales even though I KNOW they are not reliable. I don’t know why I do this. Both consistently weigh me in heavier than I am, and both are probably chortling away while they do it. Sometimes, I can step on and off both of them and have them read differently within a matter of minutes. I KNOW I am completely complicit in my own torture–I’m enabling the devices themselves–and still I do it.

At this point, you may responding to this with one of two impressions: one, that I’m way, way too obsessed with this, that it’s unhealthy to be focused on the scale, that you can’t imagine living with the kind of awareness and frustration I describe here. If this is you, I am willing to bet you do not compete in a weight class-based sport. If that is true, I cordially invite you to stuff it. Seriously. Go play chess or whatever it is you do. Impression two: you get this. You either compete in a weight class or you have spent many years agonizing over the number on the scale. Having experienced both defining myself via the number on the scale and having to pay attention to my weight because I compete in the 114 lb weight class, I will tell you that I vastly prefer the latter relationship to my weight. I will further tell you that there is a difference between the two.

The weird thing in the situation with our conniving and/or faulty scales is that it’s kind of been a blessing for me, psychologically. I have asked myself to let go of the exacting way I try to determine and influence my weight, and I have made sure I don’t engage emotionally with the weights I see. Because I understand that what I see on our scale duo is kind of messed up, but I’m pretty sure the way I’ve been eating and taking care of myself has me at a stable and productive weight for my sport and, indeed, my weight class. I’m relatively confident I’m in a good position to make weight in November, but I’ll be standing on two dysfunctional scales tomorrow anyway. They’ve got a hold on me.