“How’s Rowing?”

“Rowing is going great.” It’s really the only good response to that question. What are you supposed to tell your non rowing friends and family? “Today was really awful, my legs hurt and my butt is chafing,” or “I am an awful rower. I can’t catch well, I can’t finish well, my coach thinks I’m not trying and I think this blister is infected.” To a rower, these are totally valid responses, but they’re not quite what was expected. The inquirer probably just wanted to start a conversation, not hear a rower complain about how awful the sport they are choosing to do every day sucks.

I’ve answered the question so many times that it is second nature to answer with a smile and a quick recap of that morning/days practice. It’s easy to talk about, but it’s starting to bother me for some reason. Rowing is so easy to talk about because I’m constantly submerged in it. Everything revolves around practice, recovery and sleep so that I can wake up in time for practice again. I know rowing is not all there is in life, but a lot of the time it seems that way.

I am a rower, but being referred to as “that rower girl” recently by someone who doesn’t know me and didn’t think I could hear them stings a little. I think I’m a lot more than “that rower girl.” I have other stuff going on in my life, but the questions “how are you” or “what’s up” will nine times out of ten will prompt the exact same responses as “How’s rowing.”

I wish people would ask me something else. Anything else. Next time someone wants to start a conversation they should say, “Hey! How was your day and also what’s your favorite movie and why?” I’m sure they would be much more entertained by what I have to say about Emma Stone in Easy A being my spirit animal than a recap of my splits from this morning’s erg workout.

Having conversations is hard. I so incredibly lousy at making small talk with people I’ve recently met. I am the most awkward person I know. After I’m comfortable with a person, I have no problems telling them why I’m chuckling to myself. Unfortunately, in between asking someone their name and major and telling them my life story there’s a rut. It sounds a lot like: “how’s rowing?”

When I really think about it, I don’t know a lot of people past their own version of “how’s rowing?” I think we all cling to conversations about activities, classes, events or weather. There’s nothing wrong with talking about any of these things, but it creates a lot of surface level relationships. I could tell you all about someone’s day, but I have no idea what really makes them happy.

I am not encouraging walking up to strangers on the street and asking them about the last time they’ve cried. That will get you punched in the face. Don’t do it. What I am saying is get to know the people you think you know. Your friends won’t punch you if you ask them “what made you smile today?” instead of “how was class?” If class made them smile, ignore me. You’re already asking the right questions.

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