Often experienced but poorly documented, the female crying point occurs when a particular combination of frustration and exhaustion mix with an outdoor sport and a more experienced partner. Symptoms most often are tears and cursing. Additional symptoms include throwing skis into a gully, walking a mountain bike down an entire trail, or threatening to drown an expensive fly rod in a river. Although more common in women, not all experience symptoms, and men are also affected.
The moment – struggling up a hillside of snow, the skins on my skis start collecting snow. My quads burn as I attempt to knock off the gloppy mess with my poles, but it only worsens. Ahead of me, my ski partner turns the corner. He cruises forward with ease and doesn’t even look back to notice I’m gone.
Or – with a flash, my mountain bike partner flies down the single track trail, swiveling around switchbacks with an easy swivel of the hips. I attempt the first switchback and crash. I attempt the second switchback – and crash again. This time, I go over the handlebars, and my elbows and hip are left raw from gravel, dirt and sand.
And even – a fish rises in the deep green water of an undercut bank. “There!” he whispers, “cast your fly THERE!”. But attempt as I might, the fly wont go there, and instead tangles in the willows as the fish slowly swims away, chuckling at my feeble attempt.
Despite every attempt to look tough and keep pace, hot tears start washing down my cheeks. This only makes me more frustrated and embarrassed. I’m a woman of the 21st century, I’m strong and I’m trying just as hard – why the $@^# can’t I keep up? But the truth is – I’m not always as strong, endorphin-addicted, or technique savy. Maybe I had a couple too many beers the night before, and I’m not trying as hard. Or maybe it is genetics, gender differences, hours of practice or the luck of the day. I want to blame my short comings on anyone but myself (generally the partner showing me up), but I know I’m the only one responsible.
When I was younger, the female crying point was a familiar companion on my outdoor adventures.. I was learning to ski, to mountain bike and to boat, with a dad, mom and boyfriend that were more experienced than I was. I watered plenty of trails, snowbanks and rivers with my tears and let my curses ring off canyon walls and into banks of cedar trees. But there is another moment, that comes after tears have been worn out or you realize your partner isn’t coming back for you. It is a moment where you take a deep breath, pick yourself up, and try it one more time. And then, comes a second moment.
I finally reach the top of the skin track and below me lies a perfect, untouched, field of powder, waiting to be skied.
Or – the switchbacks stop, and trail begins rolling around trees and through meadows. My mountain bike is steady under my thighs as I whiz around banked corners amid rocks. The next time I attempt the set of switchbacks, I only crash on one.
Or- I cast again, and this time my line loops perfectly, dropping my fly into the seam between the eddy and the current. A trout rises, and without question, grasps my fly in his mouth.
I have learned, as I’ve grown older, how to notice when I am reaching the female crying point. I push myself, follow partners who are better than me and find myself close to my limits of exhaustion. But when I reach that point, I stop. I eat a chocolate bar. I let my partners run one more lap up the sticky skin track while I drink a beer. I laugh off the tears that sometimes come instead of cursing them. I have found people to recreate with who don’t mind if I’m a bit slower up the skin track, or awkward on switchbacks, or incompetent with a fly rod. I have found friends and a boyfriend to teach me who are patient – who retrieve my skis from the gully, wipe the blood off my elbows after a bike crash and gently untangle my fly line from the bank. Every once in awhile I look around and realize I am the first up the skin track, cruising down a trail that once gave me hell, or actually catching and landing a fish.
The point of the female crying point isn’t really gender, or weakness, or making excuses. It’s about finding the delicate balance in outdoor sports between pushing your limits and enjoying yourself. It’s about realizing learning from those better than you is more lucrative than competing with them. It’s about knowing that sometimes, you will be so damn tired, hungry, and pissed off that you can’t believe you call these outdoor sports “fun”. But it wouldn’t be fun if it wasn’t difficult. And around the bend is that powder line, single track or cutthroat trout, waiting.