Jen Alger is a whimsical and hilarious commentator on training, climbing, and all things LIFE related. Jen’s background in theater scrupulously shines throughout her storytelling and writing. We are fortunate to be able to share Jen’s three part series on her past, present, and future endeavors in climbing. For a more detailed look at what Jen has been up to, check her out on Instagram @chubbygirlclimbing
YOU SUCK AND THAT’S OK: ME, AS A BEGINNER
CLAP, CLAP, CLAP
I wasn’t quite sure why I was clapping my hands after dusting them with chalk but, heck, that’s what I’ve seen other climbers do so it must be useful somehow.
The professionals also had a habit of mime-ing the route beforehand. I squinted seriously six feet from the wall, a raucous pop song telling me to “Werk” playing in my headphones. My hands mapped each of the holds, floating in front of me, fingers half grasped on invisible jugs.
Never mind that I’d only been climbing a few weeks and this was a V1. I was going to act like an expert, dammit.
All right, I had postured enough. Now was my moment. I approached the starting hold, grasped it and propped my right leg on a nearby chip. My left leg came up and…
Oh. Oh my God. I farted. I had lifted my leg and farted.
I FARTED on the wall. And I was not alone. There were a couple small groups of capable-looking climbers, and my little sister. Being that I had my earbuds in, I couldn’t quite discern the gravity of my situation.
“Maybe it wasn’t loud. Maybe it was silent,” I lied to myself as I lumbered up the route, forgetting any previous plans I made when I put on my little show moments before. I did, however, despite my internal panic, top the V1. This was my second completion of a route of that grade, which tells you a lot about how much of a beginner I was.
The first V1 I topped a few days before, it was on a very slight overhang so to me it felt even more impressive. As soon as my hands matched on the top hold, I jumped down and spun to my sister. We both hooted and twerked until we noticed the many onlookers of V5 + level boulderers. Ok, maybe butt shaking was a bit much for a V1 top.
I was determined to not embarrass myself again. And a mere two days later here I was creating an airborne toxic event at my local rock gym.
I jumped down and turned to my sister, slowly this time, ready to read off her face how audible my flatulence was.
Ah. I could see it in the widened eyes and pressed smirk. A Chernobyl level fart. A sound heard ‘round the world.
“I’m never coming back here again,” I whispered to her.
I was absolutely serious. Not only was I an overweight newb, I was an overweight, FARTING, newb? This could not stand. My ego couldn’t take it.
“Yeah, you have to give up climbing all together. Maybe move,” she replied.
A pause, then uproarious laughter. Like, way more laughter than any fart or fart joke deserves. We had tears in our eyes, my sides were hurting. When I looked around through our hysterics, what I noticed was pretty astounding.
Astounding because nobody was looking at us. Nobody cared. And I mean that in the most positive way possible. None of these experts shared as much of a passing glance at my toot or our egregious tittering. They were all involved in their own beta discussions, lost in their personal projects.
It’s an ongoing battle with ego. Not just being humiliated from a bodily function, but to come into a hobby and feel absolutely useless at it. I could wait forever to be skinnier, more in shape or less gaseous before I started climbing, but chances are I would just never have pulled on the harness to begin with. My constant focus on people’s judgments were not conducive to continuation or improvement (in truth, the climbing community is incredibly open and the opposite of judgmental…but my self-conscience mind didn’t see that yet).
All my attention was on proving to others I was deserving of being there, instead of actually enjoying the activity itself. It just took an earth shattering and humbling trouser cough for me to realize that. I remembered why I had shown interest in the first place: engaging in a sport that used the mind in conjunction with the body, and simply having a good time with my sister.
Now, I would still struggle with some of these insecurities, but the realization and reflection of my behavior would change how I dealt with them.
Yes, I was a newbie excited about V1’s. Yup, maybe twerking is a questionable choice of celebration. Yeah, I farted on the wall. You bet, I kinda sucked at climbing. And no one cared.
And that’s ok.*
*Plus, my sister farted in yoga like a week later. It really validated me. Sorry, Kim.