This is the first year ever, in the history of the world, that women from Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam and Qatar have been allowed to participate in the Olympics. True, it’s only a few women (Saudi Arabia has two, Brunei Darussalam has one and Qatar a whopping four) and those few will be closely monitored, but it’s a start.
Growing up, my parents wanted my sister and me to learn an instrument, so we took piano lessons from a very patient neighbor two houses down, Mrs. Avera. Our lessons lasted a year or two until her arthritis made it too painful for her to teach.
Once piano ended, my dad came to us with a proposition. And when my dad has a "proposition" it's not a suggestion, it’s a command.
"Both of you, come here. I have a proposition for you!" he'd say with a smirk, knowing how we felt about being propositioned.
"Mommy and I have decided that you each will continue to learn an instrument. And since Mrs. Avera is out, you can choose what instrument. Piano or otherwise."
Looking back, I think he may have thought that my sister and I would chose piano because we were already two years in. But we weren't going to make it that easy. We didn't want to take any more lessons. I don't know why, it’s not like we hated music. We were just at the age where we hated everything.
“Drums!” I blurted out.
My sister sat quietly, hemming and hawing for awhile.
"Drums!" I said again.
"Girls don't play drums. Choose again."
"But you played the drums!" I said.
"I'm not a girl," he shot back.
"But you said I got to pick any instrument I wanted."
Of course I mentioned how I always saw drums and percussions when we went to the symphony. But by this time, he was done being polite. If I continued, I would have just gotten in trouble for arguing, so that was that.
"But it’s not fair!" I cried.
"Life isn't fair. Get used to it."
You know what I hate? Being told I can't do something. You know what I really hate? Being told I can't do something simply because I'm a girl.
My sister chose the cello. I believe she chose the most obscure instrument she could think of hoping my folks would drop it. Alas, my mom found one at a garage sale and, as luck would have it, she also found an cello instructor just a few short blocks down Fernside. My sister developed into a pretty decent beginning cellist, too.
Reluctantly, I choose the piano. Then the violin, then the flute. I was still bitter about the drums and I never stuck with any instrument long enough to learn anything. Even as a youth I was pigheaded and stubborn. Some might say, just like my father.
"That'll teach him!" I probably thought. When, in actuality, I just wasted time, money and perfectly good music lessons. Now that I'm all grown up, all I know how to play is the radio.
In his own way, he was trying to help us be well-rounded individuals. My dad has always been a forward thinker and he believed learning a proper sport, a useful language and a classical instrument could only help us in our future. Was my dad being sexist, not letting me play the drums? Maybe. But my dad also isn't the kind of person to pretend the world doesn't work the way it does. Was it the only time limitations were placed on me because of my gender? No. Does it make it right? No. But, life isn't fair.
What does this have to do with the seven female Olympians? Not much, I know it’s a stretch. But instead of saying, "Since I'll never get to go to the Olympics, I'm not going to do anything at all," these seven women didn't throw away opportunities. They persevered. They had dreams they never let go of, even under what must have been considerable pressure, personally and socially. And now they're on the way to London. Man, I love the Olympics!
, a week from today, at exactly 7:30 p.m., I’ll be glued to the TV watching the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics. Throughout the games, I'll be rooting for my beloved Team USA, of course. But, I'm also going to keep my eyes on Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar, both from Saudi Arabia. I'll be watching for Maziah Mahusin from Brunei Darussalam and the four athletes from Quatar: Nada Arkaji , Noor Al-Malki, Aya Magdy and Bahiya Al-Hamad. Al-Hamad will also be the flag bearer for Quatar. Will they win nothing but gold when they play in London? Who cares! They're all heart and I can't wait to cheer them on.