So, ever since I was young, I have put a lot of emotion into the sports I play. I have cried a lot, but have normally been able to keep it off the court/field/diamond and saved it for my poor mother or father. They usually are sympathetic, but try not to let me get myself worked up.
Here, I didn’t think there was a danger of crying. I play with 11-14 year-olds and they are the funniest kids, even though I don’t understand half the things they say. I have been working with this age group since I myself was a kid of 16, so there are no surprises. The boys pretty much act the same as they do in America. I even have a few admirers from the crowd. One young lad of 12 has offered to marry me. His pick up line? “Amy, you are old and need a husband; I will marry you because I like you a lot.” Haha, guys I think you should start using this one on the TWENTY FOUR YEAR OLDS in the clubs, see what happens.
The other day, I decided to break out of my comfort zone. Usually I am not shy playing soccer with anyone. I am pretty confident in my abilities and usually can keep up. However, the 20-something male age group here has intimidated me. I know that girls just don’t play soccer in my community and they see me as an anomaly that they can’t quite figure out. I knew that they would be trash talking me the whole time I played with them, but I wanted to play with them anyways. Kate and I have had trouble reaching the 20-something age group here because a lot go to the bigger cities near by to study in college and a lot don’t leave the house very often. They asked to play. We ended up playing a big game, the 11-14 year olds vs the 20-somethings and a few 10-year olds. The older guys would not under any circumstance pass to me, and if by some miracle, I did get the ball, if I made a mistake I would get yelled at. The whole group didn’t do this, only one or two guys. However, I let these two people get to me and stormed off the field. Tears welled up in my eyes and I tried to high-tail it out of there so no one would see me cry, but alas, I didn’t make it. I walked out of the stadium and it took me 30 minutes taking the long way to get home. I needed to calm myself down.
Unfortunately, I had worked myself up so much that when my host family asked what was wrong, I burst out into tears again and my host sister started crying because I was crying and it was just a mess. I explained to them I had just had a bad day and not to worry. They asked me if I was crying because I missed my family and I said “mmhmm”, because I had worked myself up so much that I couldn’t speak English, never mind Azeri.
Over the next few days, people all around town were asking me why I had cried. Even people who didn’t know me or weren’t even there. I had to explain over and over again that I was just angry and I am okay now. Kate’s host sister found out and told my host sister. She then asked my why I hadn’t told her that boys were bothering me. She offered for my host dad and cousins to go beat this boy up. I THINK she was kidding, but it was a nice gesture anyways.
I was asked so many times why I cried that I eventually looked back on the event and tried to analyze it. I tried to make explanations as to why on earth I had just made this outburst, because in my world, there’s no crying in soccer (at least not ON the field). I tried to reason that I was stressed, but I am really not that stressed here. Then I said I was PMS-ing (the quintessential girl excuse) but I am not even close to it being that time. I then said maybe I really did miss my family, and my host sister was right! However, I always miss my family, and don’t really cry about it (anymore :)). I have stopped trying to reason with myself and accepted the fact that I just had a weak moment where my pride was hurt and I cried about it.
So, my site mate Kate offered to go back with me, but when the next Tuesday rolled around, she was at the dentist in Baku, so I was to go alone. I decided to take a page from my mother’s “glamour days” from her times coaching middle school soccer where she would have the girls dress up and play. I wanted to make myself feel better and show them a girl playing soccer. I painted my nails pink, kept my make-up on, put some earrings in and walked over there to the tunes of the likes of Meredith Brooks, Fiona Apple and the Spice Girls. (Girl Power!) This is NOT my normal getting-ready-for-soccer-routine, but I walked on the field, the kids asked me if I was okay, I said yes, then I started serving crosses for them to head into the net. When the older guys showed up, we played. I played on the kid’s team so I would get the ball, and I schooled all the older guys and let none of them school me. Problem solved and I showed them how a girl can be a girl and play soccer.
My mother recently gave me this comment in an email: “Tears are how we take the edge off the emotion and make it something we can handle easier. Crying when employed correctly is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Other tools used for handling strong emotions like breaking things, hard physical labor, retreating to your man-cave, seem to work better for men.” I am happy to announce I have no man-cave and rarely break things. I overreacted to the effect of my tears and learned that a good cry can really release tension. Also, that the boys I play soccer with really don’t care if I cry, as long as I am okay in the end and, of course, I play well. :)