Finding Something in Nothing

As a masters athlete, it is all about recovery. I eat a vegan diet, take ice baths, bathe in Epsom salts, use compression boots, wear compression socks, stretch, and foam roll so I can keep training at a high level. Anything that can help keep this body going is something I take great interest in, so when two people raved about Just Float, I immediately looked into it. Just Float offers float therapy, meaning for one hour you float on water in complete darkness and silence. Definitely piqued my interest, but the deciding factor was that these referrals came from people who implemented the float therapy for different reasons: one is an aging cross-fitting beast who uses it for physical recovery purposes, and the other is someone with a stressful job and personal life and utilizes it for relaxation and stress management. Since my husband and I have divergent interests, imagine my excitement at finding something that both an astral projector/deep meditator and an athlete would enjoy. The idea sounded intriguing and a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The facility is clean and quiet, but certainly not luxurious, so if you’re looking for a spa experience this is not the place. If anything, there is a space age quality to it, and considering what you are about to do, the vibe is appropriate. After watching a short video on what to expect, you’re brought into your own private room that has a changing area, shower, and tank. It is definitely well set-up.

Private room is sparse but tidy.

My mindset going into this was one of skepticism. How would I “just float” on water? Also, I thought for sure that having no light or sound would freak me out and keep me tense and awake. But whatever, you can’t beat $40 to try something out. Upon entering the tank, you press two buttons, one turns on the music and the other dims the light; both will fade and turn off in a few minutes, but it is an effective way to acclimate you to the deprivation of both. Just Float also recommends moving around in the tank to get used to the feel of floating. In short, they’ve thought of your concerns beforehand.

Looks very Star Trekkian.

The experience was indescribable. Husband and I tried to articulate it to each other afterwards but fumbled with adequate words. Surprisingly, I was almost immediately able to relax in the pool and, just like anesthesia, one minute it seemed like I was counting backwards from 10, and the next I was waking up. It was the deepest sleep I’d had in…I don’t know, actually. It was profound.

Close-up of flotation tank.

The only drawback is you only have 10 minutes to shower the salt off you and change before having to leave your room, so the staff can prepare the space for the next appointment. However, they do have a lounge where you can drink water or tea and just chill for a while (there are also coloring books if you’re so inclined). So there’s definitely time to decompress before you enter into the real world again.

Afterwards I was left with a craving to do it again, and yes, we bought two more sessions. As for the physical benefits, it did not solve the lower back issues I’d been experiencing, but I noticed that my back warmed up quicker on my next two runs. I do know it was an overall deep relaxation for my body, and I slept wonderfully that night. For an athlete, this probably works best as an all-over relaxation technique rather than a spot-specific recovery method.

Whether you’re a person who enjoys deep meditative states, an athlete, or someone having problems with stress, anxiety, or depression, I would highly suggest trying water therapy. There is something for everyone in this state of nothingness.

Relationships Made Easy: The Case for Women Following Sports

I don’t blog about it much (yet), but as my bio claims, I am a sports enthusiast. I geek out hard core on sports. Not like I know who Tom Brady is or I’ve heard of Kobe Bryant, I mean that I can tell you why you’d play a 3-4 defense versus a nickel package in certain situations, and I can name the 1978 Dodgers starting infield. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. The ESPN landscape is now dotted with women — from Hannah Storm to Sage Steele — but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, when I was a growing up, I actually kept this little factoid to myself because a girl digging sports was just weird. Well, like the brown skin I hated so much in my youth but am so grateful for now in my 40s, being the chick who’s into sports has developed into a major asset. In not just a few ways, being a sports enthusiast has greatly benefitted me in my dealings with people.

Meeting Men Becomes Low-Hanging Fruit. First, let’s state the obvious. Single ladies, listen up. Watching sports is the easiest way to meet and break the ice with guys. The EASIEST. I’m an old lady, and let’s say I’m a 5-6 (adjusting for LA standards). Having this one quality instantly moves me up to a 6-7. As a happily married woman, I am the last person on earth who needs to meet guys, and yet they engage with me all the time because dudes like talking about sports. I primarily tweet about sports and the majority of my 580ish Twitter followers are guys ages 25-45 (i.e., the ESPN demographic). So even if you are an average-looking woman, this one trait alone gets you instant curiosity and respect from guys.

Me and a cute guy (husband) at Dodger Stadium. Go Blue!
Me and a cute guy (husband) at Dodger Stadium. Go Blue!

Access in the Corporate World
. Not all connections have to be romantic. Obviously, mine can’t be since I’m married, but being into sports has benefitted me professionally. I am a secretary at a prestigious law firm where the partners are predominantly white men who went to USC and Ivy League law schools –very old boys network. Well, nothing is more old-boy-networky than sports. Two years ago, after having worked for him for over 15 years, my boss finally asked me if I wanted to be on his fantasy football team. It’s a firm fantasy football league, and only attorneys are allowed in, so I would have been the only non-attorney in the league, but I turned it down. One secretary told me that I had finally broken the glass ceiling, so I guess I’m like the Hillary Clinton of legal secretaries? Alas, I’m not ambitious in this particular arena, so it doesn’t really mean anything to me except that it’s cool that my boss holds me in such high regard (ha). Anyway, knowing sports can be your admittance into that clubby corporate world.

I almost won my ESPN fantasy football league. My team is I'm a Man! I'm Forte! -- damn Cheese Machine beat me for the championship.
I almost won my ESPN fantasy football league. My team is I’m a Man! I’m Forte! — damn Cheese Machine beat me for the championship.

Athletes and Fandom Model Healthy Disagreement
Watching sports, as well as playing them, has shown me how to view conflict in a healthy way. When I see Kobe and Lebron try to crush each other for 48 minutes and then hug it out afterwards, it demonstrates to me that going at it in one area for a period of time doesn’t have to define an entire relationship. I am super comfortable hashing it out with people, sometimes heatedly, and then dropping it. (Maybe too comfortable.) It doesn’t mean we’re breaking up, or I can’t work with you, or we can’t be friends anymore. It just means we disagree. I think women are a little too keen on making nicey-nice and shying away from conflict. Conflict is not bad, and if you’ve ever watched a game and yelled “Suck it!” at a friend because your team just scored a touchdown, and then passed that same friend the nachos, then you get comfortable with conflict real fast. Knowing how to disagree and drop it is a valuable skill.

A Gateway to Social Issues. Sports often brings to light – and to certain audiences – issues that would otherwise be buried. Because sports has such broad appeal, what superstar athletes do makes news. Of course, there are the big and obvious headlines, like the Jameis Winston case, which speaks directly to rape culture and how an entire university and town (Tallahassee) conspired to keep a star athlete on the field by not investigating a student’s rape claim against FSU’s QB. However, sometimes the initial story is only the surface offence. In the case of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the initial story was how he referred to Magic Johnson and other black athletes in a racist manner. The real story as told by ESPN commentator Bomani Jones was Sterling’s – and others’ – discriminatory housing practices that served to oppress entire communities. Unfortunately, Sterling’s despicable housing policies, though known, weren’t newsworthy until he made the derogatory remarks against Magic Johnson. Whatever it takes, I guess. So, it’s often through sports that larger issues are brought to my awareness, and that knowledge makes me more conscious of how I interact with people, pushes to me question certain ideas, and inspires me to become involved in areas I’m particularly passionate about.

The Universal Language. World Cup, the Olympics, street ball. Sports brings people from all walks of life together. Playing sports is a true meritocracy, and no matter what your ethnicity, race, education, social or economic status, if you can play, you play. As a fan of sports, I have been able to meet people that I normally wouldn’t come in contact with in my everyday life. Thanks to social media, I’m never watching a game alone, and one of my favorite things is to watch a game on Twitter with people from pretty much all over the world — it’s like a giant living room. One of my favorite times of the week is Friday afternoon, when I get to spend a few hours in a sports chatroom with about thirty people from all over the country; we just shoot the shit about what happened in sports that week. The community I live in and work with is pretty homogenous, but sports allows me to come in contact with a much wider range of people and viewpoints, which frankly I crave because otherwise, BORING. Also, not the real world. Sports expands my otherwise uniform circle and gives me a starting point from which to connect with an exotic coterie of people.

Me and the actor from Cougar Town at the ESPYs (sports version of the Academy Awards).
Me and the actor from Cougar Town at the ESPYs (sports version of the Academy Awards).

Being into sports is often viewed as a guy-thing, and its fans can be unfairly characterized as oafs. Some are. (I’m looking at you big shirtless guy wearing a giant foam cheese wedge on your head in 20 degree weather.) Some fans simply enjoy athletic excellence and competition, and that’s cool, but sports has given me much more than a fun way to pass two or three hours. Following sports has given me a way to relate to a wide range of people and an interesting lens for viewing society. It’s given me a framework that’s served my life well in all areas. So ladies and other sports skeptics, perhaps this is an opportunity to reconsider sports and, rather than see it as something just for the testosterone-heavy, view it as a vehicle for contemplation and interaction.

Deciphering the Code: What Chris Paul was Really Saying

“My bad, I didn’t hear the code.”

That’s what my husband said during our discussion about NBA point guard Chris Paul’s ill-advised comment about rookie female referee Lauren Holtkamp. Paul made the following comments after the Clippers’ blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in which Holtkamp gave Paul a technical foul:

“The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says, I don’t care what she says; that’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, ‘Uh-uh.’ I said, ‘Why, uh-uh?’ And she gave me a tech.

“That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”

Everything up to that last line is pretty understandable. I mean, the interview was right after a bad loss, and his team is struggling. But his comments cross the line from general referee reproach to a specific gender assessment with the words “this might not be for her.”

My husband, like many men on talk radio the morning after, thought Paul’s statements were no big deal. Some of his defenders said it was a comment that he would have made about any rookie ref, regardless of gender, but that struck me as false. It’s not unusual (but it is fineable) for a player to criticize a call by a referee. However, Paul directly addressed Holtkamp’s qualifications for the job, a distinction that I’m not sure he would have made about a male rookie referee, and one that was uncalled for given that Holtkamp has paid her dues and, having refereed in the D-league, both she and the NBA would know by now if the job was indeed “for her.” At the very least, Paul’s tone was patronizing.

Still, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that had me so unsettled about “this might not be for her” until I heard sports anchor Liz Habib on ESPN 710 LA. Habib voiced it perfectly by clarifying that Paul’s statement was really one that so many women have had to hear in their occupations: “You’re too sensitive.”

Now people have learned a little more nuance in this PC world. Sports media couldn’t say that Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman acted like the N-word in his viral interview with Erin Andrews last year, so they used the word “thug” to describe him instead. He/we knew what they meant. And here, rather than saying “Stick to the WNBA, sweetie,” Chris Paul chose the words “this might not be for her”. His wording directly questions her ability to handle being with the big boys. Basically, Paul went for the easy shot; the low-hanging fruit.

After all, the “too sensitive” card certainly isn’t new. Women in management positions have heard it, and I as a person of color have had it thrown at me when I questioned a remark I found offensive. It can at times be an effective strategy to put someone who dares to speak up back in their place, or to simply shift the topic from the incident being the problem to the person who brings it up being the problem. Or, in this case, to patronize a referee who dared to call a technical foul on an All-Star point guard like Chris Paul.

I do not think Chris Paul dislikes woman, and I’m not even sure that his comment was meant to be gender specific, but the optics aren’t good. I absolutely believe we should be able to criticize a referee for a decision regardless of gender, but I also feel strongly that such assessment can, and should, be more sophisticated and creative than “you’re too sensitive.” We’re on to you, guys. Step your game up.