Last week’s women’s soccer frenzy got me thinking about girls and sports, something over the course of my life I have spent little time contemplating. It’s no secret that I am a naturally gifted klutz. I have little hand-eye coordination which may be because I have poor eye-sight and no coordination or may be because the tasks that require me to use both my eyes and my coordination don’t really interest me. Plus, I don’t really care who wins or loses. But which came first, my lack of interest or lack of skill?
Recently my father commented on the remarkable physical grace, agility and strength of Niece One (or Granddaughter One to him). His own daughters had lacked those qualities, he claimed, and wasn’t it nice that his granddaughter had them? Before I registered his comment as being vaguely insulting, I agreed with him and remembered an experience I’d had at Niece One’s age. Like a lot of little girls I was interested in ballet, having seen The Nutcracker multiple times. So one afternoon my mother took me to a try-out at Lincoln Center for the School of American Ballet. Dressed in my simple royal blue leotard and pink tights, I found myself surrounded by chignon-ed, tutu-ed six-year old sprites. Groups of girls were taken into a dance studio where fat, old Russian ladies asked us to twist ourselves in various poses. I remember one particularly scary woman with a hairy mole by her mouth grabbing my thigh, hoisting it onto the barre, kneading it and muttering something in her native tongue to the younger woman following her with a pen and a clipboard. I have no doubt that if my niece were to be subjected to that kind of physical exam today she would be accepted into the school immediately and not end up at the 92nd Street Y where her aunt’s instructor’s meaty thighs bore no resemblance to the lithe ballerinas she’d seen every Christmas at the New York State Theater.
Sure, I took various after-school classes—ice skating, swimming, ballet and then modern dance—but I didn’t follow through on any of them. In the meantime, my elementary school’s gym class was more about running around and some minor gymnastics than learning any real team sports. One fateful summer when I was about nine, my siblings and I went to stay with our grandmother for a week while my mother joined my father on a business trip. Nana enrolled us in the day camp held at the community pool in Great Neck and the first day I knew I was in trouble. All the Stacys, Mindys and Laurens were wearing gym shorts, tee shirts and sneakers. My outfit? White pants (practical for outdoor play, no?) and a tic-tack-toe patterned blue and white empire-waist pinafore top with short, fluttery, ruffled sleeves. And if memory serves, this fetching ensemble had been selected with great enthusiasm on my part from the array of choices presented to me by the dwarf who served as the chief saleswoman at the Pretty Please Clothing factory in Glen Cove. But this wardrobe mis-step was only the beginning. One of our first activities was a game called Newcomb. I’d never heard of it but just followed along with the other girls who seemed to break into a song every few minutes, “Side out and rotate! Our team is really great!” (I still don’t know what “side out and rotate” means.) At one point it was Lauren’s turn to serve and I overheard Stacy whisper to her while staring at me, “Aim it at her. She’ll never catch it.” And she was right. The only thing that got me through that week was my counselor who looked enough like Donny Osmond to distract me from the mean princesses. Oh, and I wore shorts the next day.
Luckily, that camp was really my only bad experience with mean, jocky girls. As I got older I had enough athletically gifted friends that when it came time to “pick teams” I always got chosen relatively early in the draft. But still, there was no denying I contributed nothing to my team’s effort to win, ever. My favorite place to stand was the outfield where I could think my thoughts and pray no one was strong enough to hit a ball anywhere near me. If we were playing pin-dodge in the gym, I’d gossip with my friend Annie and jump out of the way of the hurled red rubber ball so as not to suffer bruises to my shins.
Unfortunately when you brand yourself a non-athlete that moniker accompanies you for life. It was up to me to change my own thinking, which I did in my mid-thirties when I realized there were non-competitive, solo things I could do to make myself feel fitter and healthier. For the past 10 years I’ve been doing strength training and yoga and I run regularly. So it was against my usual thinking that I agreed to sign up for a 5K road race with my sister. Team sports are not my sister’s forte either (sorry Sis) but of the two of us, she is in fact more competitive than I am and running a race versus running just for running would be appealing to her. She ran in this race last year and had had fun but I still resisted when she suggested I join her for this year. “Why does everything have to be about being judged?” I protested. Then I thought the wiser and got a little competitive myself. Why not push myself a little? Plus, how can I let my little sister do something I am completely capable of doing too?
Despite her warning that we wouldn’t be running “together” we wound up going at the exact same pace and had such a nice time making our way through our parents’ town in tandem, being cheered on by the onlookers and especially by our family. And as we approached the finish line my sister sprinted, beating me by 5 seconds. But who’s counting? (I like to think it’s because she’s 3 ½ years younger and ½ inch taller.) The point is that it is never too late to adjust your attitude about yourself. Although no one would mistake me for an athlete, and I would have a panic attack if someone suggested an impromptu softball game, I have more grace, agility and strength than I did as a girl. And when Niece One can join us in the race, it will be perfect.
These frozen pops are a great creamy, icy, fruity way to cool off after a run, or just after running around in this crazy heat. They are like a peach flavored Creamsicle! You absolutely don’t need to have an ice pop mold to make them, just use paper cups as indicated. And most importantly, you don’t need to win the race to enjoy them.
Win or Lose Frozen Creamy Peach Pops
Adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2011
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1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups RIPE (!) peeled, sliced peaches (from 5-6 medium peaches)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is completely disolved. Pour into small pitcher and refrigerate until cooled. Stir in vanilla.
Combine peaches and sugar syrup in food processor and pulse until very smooth.
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large spouted measuring cup or pitcher and pour in peach puree. Using a spatula, stir puree until it strains through sieve. You will have 2 1/4 cups or so of puree.
Whisk cream and yogurt into peach puree until completely combined and pour into ice pop molds, leaving a 1/2 inch of space on top, snap on the covers and accompanying sticks and freeze for 24 hours.
Pour about 1/2 cup of the creamy puree into paper cups, freeze for 30 minutes or so and then insert wooden sticks into cups. Mixture should be frozen enough to support the stick so it stays upright. If not, keep freezing and try again in another 30 minutes. Freeze for 24 hours.
Fill a small bowl with warm water. Dip bottom of molds or paper cups in water for 20-30 seconds and unmold pops. Serve.
Yield: Approximately 8 pops