I can’t help it, it freaks me out

By Mir
April 26, 2008

Tonight I had my first experience with up-close and personal gymnastics stars. Yes! Otto and I had tickets to go watch the NCAA women’s individual finals, and so—despite neither of us being super-huge gymnastics fans—we headed off to cheer for our home team.

It turned out that our seats were actually quite good, and we sat back to enjoy the splendor that can only come with sitting in a packed sports arena, waiting for half-dressed girls to come out and begin flinging themselves all over the place.

(I, of course, pulled out my phone to check my email while we were waiting, and then my LOVING HUSBAND felt the need to pull out his phone, snap a picture of me futzing with mine, and then email that picture to my parents, MOCKING ME FOR EMAILING. Can someone please explain to Pot Otto why that is IRONIC?)

Eventually the gymnasts arrived amidst much pomp and circumstance, and thus began a highly entertaining evening.

They started out with uneven bars and vaulting, which are definitely my favorite events. I mean, with one you’re basically watching these tiny little girls propel themselves around the bars like wind-up toys on crack, and with the other you get to watch them run like hell only to then shoot themselves into the air to contort this way and that before landing. What’s not to like?

I busied myself during lulls trying to get Otto to help me figure out important things, like do you suppose that girl is even five feet tall, really? That one right there, I think she’s actually a sprite of some kind, COME ON, she doesn’t even come up to the coach’s belly button. And that girl, over there… see her, Otto? How many sequins do you think are on that leotard, anyway? What? Oh, I understand, I’m sorry; you looked directly at it and now you’re blind. Poor thing.

(I am an extremely intellectual fan.)

Anyway, I don’t want to anger anyone who adores gymnastics, so I’ll preface this next thing by saying that I WAS and AM full of admiration for these girls. They’re incredible athletes, they clearly work VERY hard and they’re incredibly talented. No question.

But even if we all agree that that’s the case, I still have a bone to pick with the sport, and it is this:

WHY do the floor and balance beam exercises in gymnastics involve so much pointless gesticulation with the hands??

By the time they’d moved from the uneven bars and vault on to the next events, I wondered if I’d perhaps just not given gymnastics a fair shake before, in the past. But as soon as the next events started up I remembered why I sometimes find gymnastics CREEPY. If you can flip yourself into the air and execute a triple somersault before landing effortlessly in a split, WHY on earth would you follow such a thing with rolling around on the mat while doing little fluttery hand movements that cause me to wonder if you’re covered with fire ants that I just can’t see from where I’m perched in the stands?

If you can do a backwards flip on the balance beam and sweep one leg off to the side and up and out and basically perch there like a flamingo, WHY is it THEN necessary to throw your arms in the air and flex all of your fingers while twitching your hips?

Gymnastics is fraught with unnecessary “style” gestures that feel much more like mini-seizures than rhythm, to me. In the midst of these amazing, complex feats of strength and agility, it’s like latent cheerleader DNA suddenly springs to life and forces these girls to FLOUNCE. It’s WEIRD. Their being judged on their ability to land flips and… snap their wrists to and fro?

But, you know, YAY FOR THEM for being so awesome. I’ve always suspected that most gymnasts—being so bendy and all—don’t actually have any bones. Perhaps the hand stuff is to show off their finger bones. Let’s go with that explanation.


  1. Daisy

    Gymnastics has lost a lot of its grace and dance skills since the days of Olga Korbut and Cathy Rigby. The girls today have a lot of acrobatic skills, but I really miss the gracefulness of gymnastics in the past.

  2. daysgoby

    Otto, you must take Mir to LOTS MORE sporting events. PLEASE.

    Laughing is good for our hearts!

  3. Astrogirl

    … and the ever-amusing Google ads, in response, have posted links to gymnastic supply houses (natch), and to a place that sells window security guards (I’m assuming in response to the mention of the uneven bars). I’m surprised there weren’t any for the Bedazzler, with the mention of sequins and all.

    It could be worse – you could be dragging Otto across the country to figure skating competitions (not that there’s anything wrong with gymnastics, or figure skating -just that you did indicate that he and you are not big gymnastics fans), like my ex-coworkers did to torture their respective spouses. Good times.

  4. mike golch

    Otto was just being a man,we can’t help our selves sometimes.
    As Red Green and the Posson lodge gang says “I’m a man I can change I guess,If I have to” that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.

  5. the mama bird diaries

    oh my god… i love gymnastics. the flips! the costumes! no period until their 30!

    I’m actually jealous that you got to go.

  6. Patricia

    My SIL was a college gymnast and I have to admit that I’ve thought about the same exact things — along with (since I got to spend even more time in the gym) — does all that chauk show up on drug tests? Do their shoulders and hips ever become normal proportions? Are wedgies required? How many bottles of Aquanet plus glitter do they have to wear? Will pulling her hair that tight so much cause brain damage?

    (Ok, so I was bored a lot.) The reality is that I’m a seriously jaded human being and couldn’t get over the freakiness of the fact that these 22 year olds looked 12 at most.

  7. Shannon

    Hee. Now I’m all ready for the Olympics.

  8. ccr in MA

    Oh, I so agree with you about the flouncing! They go racketing across the floor doing all these amazing flips, and then they pose like they’re about to say, “Am I too cool or What?” I don’t get it. Otherwise I enjoy watching gymnastics, but wtf?

  9. vanessa

    Gymnastics is the hardest sport, I think. And it’s totally insane what gymnasts can do. But I also think the sport has gotten overly sexualizied–what with the flouncing and the pouting. But still. Good routines, really excellent routines, are so wonderful. I have tickets to the Visa Cup and I cant wait.
    So who’d you see?

  10. Suebob

    It’s like a little mini break. They have to catch their breath between doing amazing things, and they can’t just STAND there.

    My Olympic sport sighting yesterday has got yours beat all to hell: I watched the US Mens Olympic Water Polo team. Those guys have some seriously perfect physiques. It still makes my breath catch a little to think of it. Yowza.

  11. All Adither

    Some of the leotards are so high cut too. I mean, how much do those young, tiny girls actually have to wax? C’mon, let them wear boy shorts.

  12. Ladanea

    What fun! I’m so glad you got to go to this. Last year my then-10-year-old gymnast daughter and I went to all 3-days’ events and it was awesome. I liked the individuals best because they’re competing more against themselves and there’s not that whole “YOUR BABY TOE WIGGLED AND NOW OUR ENTIRE TEAM LOST” thing that happens when you lose by .35.

    In defense of gymnasts and their poses, I think they do that because they learn to control every last little muscle in their bodies, and they have to be able to show off every last little muscle because it might get their team .1 point so they can win. My daughter will be dancing ballet as long as she’s in gymnastics with the hope that will inject grace into her routines and reduce gesticulation.

    And on the topic of sparkles, last month I had to pay to have double the rhinestones added to an already-rhinestone-laden $160 leotard because it was not sparkly enough. I wish I were exaggerating.

  13. Rebecca

    You are so funny!

  14. Lindy

    Did you see Nikki Childs on the balance beam? When I was shooting gymnastics, her balancing…or whatever… to “Billy Jean” always made my day. Most of the girls’ music doesn’t make much sense with what they were doing and gets boring quick, but, I mean, a moonwalk on the balance beam… I am impressed.

  15. Madge

    As a gymnast of 20 years, I am highly offended at your mockery of the sport…HAH just kidding (except about the ‘gymnast of 20 years’ part…that’s true). I TOTALLY agree with you on the gesticulating…routines are supposed to be a balance between “crazy flippy things” and graceful dance moves. Sadly, emphasis is shifting more towards the flippy things and a lot of gymnasts these days are missing (or at least severely lacking) that component of grace, leading them to flail awkwardly. And, as suebob said, it gives us a break-those routines may seem short but they’re hard!!! And the judges don’t like to see you stand around and catch your breath…so you distract them-“look! I can twirl my arm and flick my wrist! oooooh”
    and yes, wedgies ARE a requirement.

  16. jennielynn

    Hey! Cheerleading is totally a sport!

    Hee hee, sorry. I couldn’t keep a straight face. I have often wondered the same thing about the gesturing. It is weird.

  17. KarateMom

    HAHAHAHA! You completely crack me UP! And I love the word “flounce”!

  18. prophet

    THAT’s it. . . . . finger bones!

    I’m with you on that. No bones anywhere else; no bones about it.

  19. cristen

    i completely agree. and i like the finger bones explanation.

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