There’s something about coming out as a rower that invites comment. I know it’s a relatively unusual sport to be doing (maybe not up there with dwarf-throwing or underwater hockey, but a lot less mainstream than, say, running). Even so, it does seem to excite a disproportionate amount of interest. And with interest come comments and questions.
Now, I’m a pretty easy going kind of girl, but I have noticed that certain remarks are guaranteed to make me growl. Since an angry rower is a bad rower, I thought it might be helpful to go public on the comments that really annoy me. So here’s a handy, print-out-and-keep list of things never to say to a rower.
- You don’t look like a rower. However you look at it, this is just a bad thing to say. It either means we’re too small. Or too fat. Or too thin. However kindly meant, it’s just not a compliment.
- You must be very rich. OK, so most of the schools that do rowing are well-endowed, private schools. And Henley does give the impression of wealth and privilege. But club rowing is unbelievably good value. I challenge any gym in the country to offer the facilities, tuition and all round fun that a rowing club provides for the same price.
- Why are your hands bleeding? Look, there’s no need to draw attention to it. I’ll be the first to admit that I do not have the hands of a lady. There are hard bits and sore bits, and my nails are in tatters. I’d just prefer it if you didn’t remind me.
- I went canoeing once. I’m going to blame the media for this one. How is anyone supposed to know any better if rowing is hidden away under “Other Sports” on the BBC website? By the way, if you don’t believe there’s a difference between rowing and canoeing, next time you’re out in a canoe I dare you to challenge some rowers to a race. Go on, try it.
- Ooh, the rowing machine is my favourite exercise at the gym. Watching non-rowers on the erg is hilarious and maddening in equal measure. But here’s the thing. However bad you are at it, you don’t have to go on it. We do. So please don’t tell us how much you enjoy it.
- Wouldn’t you rather come to zumba? What, ditch the work-out and join the party? Give me a break. Rowing is for life, not just for Christmas.
- I had a lovely lie-in this weekend. Early starts are a fact of life for most rowers. I have no idea why weekend rowing has to be done at an hour when civilised people are tucked up in bed, but that’s just the way it is. That being so, we prefer not to be reminded there’s another way to live.
- You row? Why? Please, please don’t ever ask this. Because sometimes we just don’t know the answer.
- Hey, it’s only a race. OK, I’ll come right out and admit it. I have been known to cry when I lose (just a little bit, and always in private, in the loos). But listen. If you’re happy to come second, there’s no point racing.
- Attention! No matter what the context, saying this is guaranteed to have us flinching and sitting up (and probably sweating and staring straight ahead). Don’t do it. It’s just cruel.
So there we have it. My top 10. I’d love to know what comments make you frown.
Patricia Carswell (a.k.a. Girlontheriver)