What a “Perfect Ponytail” on a Female Athlete Really Represents|
I love all things “perfect ponytail.” I also love that you just raised an eyebrow in unadulterated what-is-this-girl-talking-about confusion. Let me explain.
“Perfect ponytail” was a term I coined in college while playing on my university’s softball team. A teammate would always roll her eyes endearingly (well, usually endearingly) when I would comment admiringly on an opponent’s perfectly placed and poofed ponytail as she effortlessly fielded a one-hopper and snapped it to first. But pointing out her great hair didn’t mean that I wasn’t also noticing her standout talent — because to the Lehigh University softball team, a perfect ponytail is a symbol of the ultimate balance between strength and femininity.
It is no secret that women today are overrun by images of the ideal size 2 supermodel or fashion connoisseur with a skintight dress highlighting her narrow frame. It is also true that these body types can be beautiful, healthy and celebrated. So as we tip our very cute fedoras to those ladies out there excelling in the industries that so often appear in the media, the next question is: what’s a bicep-sporting lady to do in a world that sometimes feels like the fashion section of Pinterest? The answer is to kiss that bicep and rock the show.
That’s what the United States women’s soccer team has done in their journey to come back from the 2011 World Cup loss to Japan, winning us over with a genuine display of both determination and vulnerability. It’s what the female athletes of the London Olympics did last summer as they sweat, flexed and smiled their way into our hearts, and it’s probably why the girl on the treadmill next to me was rocking a “Strong Is the New Beautiful” fitted t-shirt the other day.
Lisa Leslie says it best – or at least the 12-year-old version of her does – in a shoutout to femininity in Nike’s “Voices” ad , launched in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Title IX. She says, “I’m a fashion model who can dunk.” She is also co-owner of the L.A. Sparks and an ABC/NBC sports analyst. Oh, and she is also gorgeous, as are the 11 athletes named Pantene’s newest beauty ambassadors for its “Healthy Is the New Beautiful” campaign. That’s 11 fierce, hard-working, talented women who can flip their perfect ponytails to anyone who tells them otherwise.
So for the retired athlete no longer wielding a baseball bat in daily life (although sometimes I think I should in Manhattan) and feeling like her biceps are taking over her little black dress, remember: not only did those muscles win you games, they are a symbol of everything you learned and what your athletic career meant to you. Strong is the new beautiful and so too is poise, brains, drive and humility. You already know how to rock a perfect ponytail on the field. Your next mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make your everyday life the newest shrine to the ponytail and all that it stands for.
Have you had a “perfect ponytail” moment recently? Tell us in the comments section!