Sunday, October 20, 2013

When You Come Into The Gym, You Have No Religion

In a twist of Brooklyn fate, I have been living within five blocks of my old gymnastics coach for the past four years (and counting). She no longer coaches. She and her husband own a bar in the West Village and have just opened a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from my apartment.

I went there last night and got to enjoy free food and alcohol--the opposite of what gymnastics coaches traditionally for their students, Marta Karolyi's recent gift of pizza notwithstanding. And the part of me that will always be ten years old rejoiced when she introduced me to her friends and family who came out for the soft opening of the restaurant (Hoja Santa on DeKalb in Fort Greene-delicious upscale Mexican food) as her "best" or "favorite" gymnast.

The front of Hoja Santa, my former coach's new Mexican restaurant in Fort Greene


She also told them the story of teaching my class at the Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, most of which was comprised of other yeshiva girls. Apparently, a few had attended their first lesson in skirts, explaining to my coach that it was their religion. Though she tried to be understanding, she explained to the students that if she went to spot them in their long skirts and her arm got caught or if she broke it as a result of their attire, she would sue them. "When you come into the gym," she explained, "you have no religion." The next time, the girls showed up in sweatpants.

Of course, my only religion was gymnastics and my rabbi was my coach.

As it turned out, my coach, then a college student living at home, was teaching us on Sunday mornings in order to escape her own Catholicism. Her mother used to make the family attend early morning church services every Sunday in a.m. When she heard that the recreational gymnastics class she would be teaching would be meeting on Sunday mornings, she accepted the job offer immediately. "I didn't even care if they were going to pay me," she said of new job/get out of church free card.

I guess we were both using gymnastics to escape religion.

Alcohol. Better for rehydrating after gymnastics than water. 

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