I’m going rock climbing at Smith Rock this weekend. Smith Rock is in Eastern Oregon, about 2.5 hours from Portland. I’ve been there once before, when I was the “talent” for an Oregon Scenic Bikeways tour video. You can amuse yourself by watching it below, and read about my adventure here on WildlyTraveled.
Melissa is the friend doing the actual climbing in the video. I’m the brunette watching, encouraging, and wishing I had her abs. I wish I could say that not having Melissa’s abs had nothing to do with me not rock climbing, and in truth, 90% of why I didn’t climb was that I didn’t have the gear. That other 10%, though, was not wanting to be caught climbing on camera, because I am insecure enough to not want that filmed. That said, I am also adventurous enough to actually want to go, and so when another friend offered me an opportunity that included all of the gear, a guide, and at least one other first-time climber in the group, I jumped at the chance. And here we come to the point of this post.
It was while filling out the medical questionnaire for the trip that this sleeper question was lying in wait, amidst questions about previously existing health conditions, experience with the outdoors, and food allergies, ready to fire with the accuracy of a sniper: “Please describe your physical condition.”
This is the question that anyone with a shred of insecurity dreads answering, no matter what the context. Whether it’s an online dating profile (curvy? athletic?), a doctor’s office visit (what answer will get me out of here fastest?), or, apparently, the medical questionnaire from a guided rock climbing excursion, there is just no good one-word answer for, “I’m slightly overweight according to medical standards of height/weight ratio, but considering that’s due to a combination of genetic predisposition and years of my body being ravaged by stress hormones and illness, and the fact that I workout several times a week focusing on both muscle building and cardio, I’m perfectly happy to embrace my curvy self, even if I’m not quite as toned as I wish I was, thank you very much.”
Oh wait, yes there is. It’s the word NORMAL.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter how much I worked out that very day, or how often I tell myself that I resist mass-media-promoted forms of beauty. I couldn’t get past that question. I didn’t know how to answer, and I couldn’t move on. I wasn’t prepared for it, didn’t have my shields in place to defend against it, and so when I read it, my head exploded with all the different things they might be looking for as an answer to that question and how I couldn’t possibly measure up to any of them.
- “I’m a tall, blonde goddess of model-thin proportions who will display my willowy limbs to their best advantage while relying on my partner on the ground to primarily hoist me up the rock wall.”
- “I rock climb daily and have the tan, biceps, triceps, pecs, deltoids, glutes, and calves to prove it, which I will show off while climbing in only a sports bra and short shorts.”
- “I don’t always exercise outdoors, but when I do, I can hike, climb, swim, and bike for days while speaking in complete sentences and never be out of breath.”
(It’s funnier if you read those answers in the voice of The Most Interesting Man in the World.)
Eventually, I got myself under control and said something like, “I’m this tall and weigh this much (figuring they might need to know that for gear purposes). I workout regularly in these ways (figuring they might need to know that for stamina purposes), and I’ve climbed indoors though not anytime recently, but never outdoors (figuring they might need to know that for guiding purposes).” And I’m pretty happy with that answer, thinking it must cover whatever it is they’re trying to find out.
But, while I still think that the question should be rephrased to speak to what they’re actually asking (height/weight? date prospects?), it also made me realize how far I have to go in terms of working on my own self-confidence, so that I don’t have to be stumped the next time I get a question like that. The good news is, it’s certainly not going to keep me from climbing. Especially when it’s at Smith Rock. I took this photo with my iPhone. It’s really just that gorgeous. You should go see it for yourself. It is, after all, one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon.