Does being a woman mean being a masochist?

One lonely Sunday night, I decide to indulge in some quality R&R time in front of the TV, with a bag of Doritos. I reach for the remote with gleeful anticipation, preparing to indulge in my favorite hobby: channel surfing.  I’m flipping through the usual stuff- commercial, commercial, sappy Lifetime television, more commercials, when I stumble upon Lesley Stahl, interviewing two top contenders in the Badwater Ultramarathon. And what, one might ask, is this Badwater business? The equivalent of five marathons in a row, yes five, through a desert and halfway up a mountain no less. As I sit there munching contentedly on my Doritos, I begin to ponder- who in their right mind would even attempt such a thing? It’s bad enough that there are people crazy enough to trek up the highest mountain in the world, risking (and in some cases losing) life and limb, but to run 135 miles without stopping in the hottest place on earth? Do these people really exist? Maybe Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay were mythical heroes invented by my eighth grade geography teacher in order to raise our lagging class performance level. Yet there they are on 60 minutes, and they look pretty real.

One of the interviewees in particular catches my attention: Pam Reed, a 44 year-old mother of three, who won the race in 2002 and 2003. She came in fourth in 2004 only because she got her period right in the middle of it. All mothers deserve a medal for having endured childbirth, which is the most painful thing on earth. You’d think after going through that three times, one’s masochistic tendencies would have run their course. Apparently not for Pam Reed. Surely she is not, and will not be, the only one out there.

According to 60 minutes, researchers say that women have an advantage in long distance running because we have a higher tolerance for pain. But the question remains, why do we consistently seek it?

Moving to a deeper level, we all know that women, yes, even sensible and intelligent ones, sometimes tolerate and even seek out emotionally or physically abusive relationships. I know I have looked at more than one of my girl friends and thought “What is this beautiful, smart, and kind girl doing with this jerk? Is she blind or just a masochist? Sometimes I wonder if there’s a wanted ad for pain carried on the second X chromosome.

For now, I’m ok with just chilling out here on the couch, but if masochism is lying dormant in my DNA, chances are I’m going to throw out this perfectly good bag of Doritos, put down the remote, and head to the gym. In fact I think that’s what I’m going to do.

Here I am running the NYC marathon a few months after writing this article!


About Jean C Wong

I am a world traveler, writer, photographer, and teacher. I've lived all over the world and speak 5 languages.


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