Monday, May 14, 2012


The League of Ordinary Ladies: Oh, Water Polo

Previously: I Can't Believe It's Almost April, and Other Party Conversations.

Esther C. Werdiger has a weekly podcast and a rich internet life, but also a job in Jerusalem.

118 Comments / Post A Comment


Ugh, those guys are THE WORST GUYS. I like to call them Encylopedia Douches.


@Megano! To be fair, when you've done a sport (or something) very seriously for a considerable portion of your life, and it comes up at parties, and every single person says a variation on the exact same obnoxious/inaccurate thing, it gets really old. See for reference, every conversation I've ever had about my competitive skating career. I will not be held responsible for my responses to any of the following:

"Can you do a triple axel?"
"Did you ever go to the Olympics?"
Any statement having to do with Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding.
Any comparisons of my career to your sister/cousin/friend who took group lessons for a year in 1995.

Which is why I try to avoid the topic if I can.


Yes. Ugh I was at a dinner party and my riding/riding instructing came up. The lady next to me got to talking to me and had lovely things to say.
"Oh my daughter took a riding camp for a week last summer. She learned to canter and jump by the end of it. You said it took you half a year to a year to teach children that? Looks like I got more bang for my buck than those poor parents" (laughs)

No Ma'am. The difference is your daughter didn't learn to canter and jump. She was just set on a wonderful horse who knows exactly what his job is.

Sorry. I get stabby, and am having a bad day. I'm really sorry if I antagonize anyone today

Tragically Ludicrous

@SarahDances What kind of skating did you do, if you don't mind me asking? Dutch people are obsessed with speed skating so it's my new favorite thing.


@The Kendragon I get the same stuff about swimming/swim instructing. It's frustrating.



Of course it's always much better to go on believing something that's complete nonsense. Having never met a serious water polo player, for instance, I can continue to think it's just a version of Marco Polo about which people are sometimes unaccountably pretentious.



It would be kind of fun to play Marco Polo in an Olympic pool


@Megano! i have SO many encyclopedia douche friends

I try to appreciate their idiosyncrasies and just roll my eyes at everybody else at the table when they get going


Though I feel like I AM this person sometimes, so I probably shouldn't be complaining.

I'll be reading my encyclopedia if anyone needs me.


@Megano! Ahhhh I am an Encyclopedia Douche! Except I like to think I wouldn't have sighed, and instead would have said "OMG yeah totally! Except that actually...BLAH BLAH BLAH"


@shawbaby You're not an Encylopedia Douche if you're nice about it!


@atipofthehat Well, if you live in New York and don't mind crowds, you could always have that chance.


@SarahDances Yes yes yes! This this this! I was also a skater. I will write about it again for the Hairpin sometime soonish (assuming they let me)! And I literally get the same set of questions. The only one I actually like is when people ask me the difference between all the jumps, because I enjoy demonstrating the answer.


@Tragically Ludicrous I was an ice dancer, which is probably the most misunderstood of the skating disciplines. No, it isn't pairs skating; no, we don't do jumps; no, that doesn't mean it's easier. ::sigh::

@HeyThatsMyBike Oh, I loved your article on the top 10 skaters who never won an Olympic medal! It was great so see those folks getting recognized. I was internationally ranked, back in my day, but there's no way to convey the seriousness of it without coming across like a total ass.

Anyway, more skating articles on the 'Pin, please!


@The Kendragon I'm a music geek. If types of Encyclopedia Douche were bird species, I'd be a pigeon.


don't get me wrong all i love my encyclopedia douche friends! I like to place bets on imaginary scenarios where they face off against each other on particular topics and try to figure out who would win.

i know nothing about anything which is why my brain has room for that kind of thing


@Danzig! I'm a horse/bug/plant geek. I AM THE GEEKIEST OF ALL GEEKS.


@The Kendragon Yup. Or just like, "Oh, you ride horses? That's not really a sport, because doesn't the horse do all of the work?" and you're like, ughhhh. Or when people find out that I ride and they want to come with me because they think that since they've been on a trail ride once they know how to ride. FRUSTRATION.

That being said, I do understand that the dude in the comic is coming across as kind of douchey. But maybe that means I am douchey sometimes when I have to explain horse things to people? Maybe?


@atipofthehat THIS IS TOTALLY WHAT I IMAGINE WATER POLO TO BE. Violent Marco Polo in a big pool. And I think you also ride pool noodles like horses.


@redheaded&crazie I am only an Encyclopedia Douche about two things: poetry and obstetrics. And more about poetry.

I just hate it when people assume that sonnets are easy to write because they have a set form. It just makes it that much easier to write terrible poetry, people. You have to be SO vigilant. (you did not successfully write a sonnet, it sucks.)


@redheaded&crazie It works nicely when you can find a parallel encyclopedia douche friend and have "ACTUALLY" battles about certain topics. I find it to be great fun to get into obstinate "ACTually!" battles with people if they are game and up on some facts. Last night I had a hilarious one of these about mountain lion deaths in Oregon in the last century, and I and my fellow arguer are still both staunchly entrenched in what we insist to be true, but in a mutual and good natured way! I just find it really exciting to share knowledge and can't help it.


@Megano! I worked at a living history museum and had to do that allllll the time. It's so hard trying to be cheerful and not sound condescending when you explain to a middle-aged tourist who is telling his family that everyone in 1830 got married at 13 that he is, in fact, wildly incorrect. And then of course so many of them would just refuse to believe me anyway :)


@SarahDances I don't have a sports story to add here, but I find this happens to me during "...so what do you do?" conversations. When I say copy editor, people will inevitably say either, "It must be fun to sit around all day telling people they're wrong! I should do your job!" Or, "Oh-ho-ho, I better be careful on Facebook or you'll edit me!" Oh, and, "Why? Everyone has spell-check."


What is it about the UK/Ireland and water polo? I played when I lived there, because it felt like that was The Thing To Do (and it's fun, if exhausting), but no one I know in the US plays.


@Ophelia Everything I know about water polo I learned from watching The OC, so, uh. Good for Esther for not asking if he had to shave his chest to play.

The Lady of Shalott

@Ophelia My high school had men's and women's varsity and JV water polo teams, but they had to play in the scary gross pool in the basement. It was A Thing at my school (but so was lacrosse, so maybe my school was just filled with douchebags who aspired to upper-class hobbies?) Oh no wait, right, I KNOW my high school was full of douchebags who aspired to be snobby rich people.


@Ophelia It's pretty big in California. Maybe in Florida, too. I played a little in high school, but it's not big in Washington. At all.


@phlox Hahaha I slept with one last year (the only English water-polo player I've ever met, I may as well add, and I'm English; I also associate it with Luke) and he did. Ha.


@Ophelia I don't personally know anybody who plays but as a former lifeguard i will say that water polo build > swimmer build every damn day of the week.

mmmmmmm water polo matches those were the days

(sorry swimmers)


@meganmaria Yeah, I'm in CA and I had a friend in high school who played water polo all through high school. We always laughed at his pictures in the yearbooks. (Although our school didn't even have a pool, so I guess they probably had to practice/play at the pool of the rival high school?)


@The Lady of Shalott - I did not know until today that water polo DID NOT involve horses. For some reason I figured it was just like regular polo, but in a pool. I never really thought about it, but this comment thread made me think, "What kind of high school has a pool big enough to fit horses? Oh, and horses, what high school has a whole bunch of them?"

So, there's that. It's kind of a bummer, actually. The game I was imagining for a few seconds there was far more interesting.


I kind of assume the players are on hippocamps?
(Almost said hippocampuses sheesh.)


@leon.saintjean Dangerous? I'll say. I had two ponies drowned under me!


@redheaded&crazie Oh, yes. To date, in my running mental list of "who's the hottest person you've hooked up with?" first place is a 3-way tie comprised exclusively of Irish water polo players.

In retrospect, I am awfully sad college had to end.



Gosh, when I read "3-way tie" I thought you had them all at once and that ropes were involved.


@atipofthehat yes please!


@leon.saintjean HAH! your version sounds way better


@atipofthehat Sadly, they were sequential, not simultaneous. But maybe I could borrow some rope from last week's Ask A Dude.


@leon.saintjean POOL NOODLES RIDDEN LIKE HORSES (see above comment)


@The Lady of Shalott Water polo's not necessarily an upper middle class aspirational hobby - lots of public schools across the country have teams. Especially California.


I got so excited when this showed up in my Twitter feed, I can't even tell you!

I've been back in California for 3 years now and am so itchy to move someplace else again. But then I start thinking about how expensive it is, about my school loan debt, how my family here would feel, that I have a decent & stable (if not terribly fulfilling) job here, how expensive it is...and then I have a panic attack and watch kittens on the internet.


I'm finishing up my last year of undergrad and then am off to wherever the forest service/fish and wildlife/blm/state game and fish wants to hire me. I am hoping for somewhere way off the beaten path. If there happens to be a tall cowboy in that town who wants a girl like me, so be it.


@The Kendragon Off the beaten path is fun! That's why I chose to study abroad in Denmark during college rather than Italy (also it was cheaper, as off the beaten path often is). I wish you and your Hypothetical Cowboy all the best!


@@serenityfound I WOULD BE MAD AT YOU IF YOU LEFT!


Thank you! All I want is a little ranch with some horses and kids kicking around. I'm mentally shuddering at how domestic that sounds. Let's rephrase; All I want is a little ranch with some horses and kids kicking around, after I've established a career as a badass wildlife biologist, and visited the world a little bit.
Ok. I feel better now.


@alpacasloth But the WORLD, alpacasloth! IT'S WAITING.


@@serenityfound But then who would make me meatloaf?

Mike Dang

Esther! I'm so glad to see your column again, and if you move to New York, you won't be alone because I will hang out with you.


@Mike Dang EXACTLY. We will! We'll throw you a welcome to NYC party.


@Mike Dang He'll get you a knife thrower Esther!! AN AMATEUR KNIFE THROWER!!

Esther C. Werdiger

@Mike Dang YES YES YES!


@Mike Dang I don't even live in New York, but I would totally Amtrak on down to party with Esther!


The British guy kinda looks like a hunk. But EW I hate it when people are rude about correcting you.

Passion Fruit

@jacqueline Yes and yes. Of course Mr. Perfect Hairline would correct your water polo story, OF COURSE.


I'm the bitch that makes fun of ladies who live within walking/biking distance to the gym and pay to go ride/walk indoors.

Feel free to hate me, I know that's not my most attractive feature.


@The Kendragon Yeah, but I live in Minnesota, where the snow freezing unable apparently to shovel and de-ice our sidewalks thing means if you want to not break something, the gym is a good option.

But, for me it is free. So there is that.


@The Kendragon Here's my take on it- I walk to/from the the gym as well, so that is an extra 2 miles (round trip) added to my exercise, but really I just want to suffer in peace. I don't want to have to worry about tripping over dog leases or baby strollers. I don't want to have to stop for a walk signal, or get run over by a bicycle.

I just want to run for a half hour in an air conditioned room, do some weights and sit ups and go home. Don't judge me, man. I work out because I have to, not because I want to.


@yrouttasight @PistolPackinMama,
Those are both good points. I feel like if you walk to and from as well, that makes sense to me. MORE EXERCISE! Or if you also do weights, and things that you couldn't do outside.
I live in sunny NM for most of the year where a COLD day is considered 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and I usually run to the gym, do a weights routine or take one of the free workout classes, and then run home. I also ran cross country and track all through high school, and running inside seems strange and unnatural to me. I'm terrified that I'll clip the treadmill with my foot, or fall off it, or something, and then my running stride becomes really awkward and my feet feel like they are trying to succeed from the union the next day.
It just drives me bonkers cause my next door neighbor also goes to the gym, and she drives there, walks for about twenty minutes on the treadmill, and heads home. My brain melts at the thought of spending my gym money to just do that. (She also has a much better paying job than I do, and I can see how air conditioning would be nice)


@yrouttasight YESSSS. Add to that "I don't have to worry about getting attacked by mosquitoes" and "I don't have to worry about choosing between getting run over and full-body poison ivy" and you've got justification for my gym membership in a nutshell.


I used to go to a driving/biking distance gym. My feeling is that I bike harder and at a much higher resistance at the gym than I do/can biking there on my road bike so for the time spent I get more of a workout at the gym than if I biked there too.

Now I live 2 blocks from the gym, it is halfway between my apartment and my office, which is the sweetest setup in the world. At college I lived a 10-15 minute walk from the gym which was good too (but I'd take the bus home at night).


@Ellie Why do I feel like the takeaway here is the same takeaway we always come to, which is "whatever it takes people to get through the day and not hurt other people, yo."

@The Kendragon Yeah... I barked my shin on the treadmill over Spring break, and Diabetic Circulation here still has discoloration from the healing scab. So, yeah. I hate the treadmill. I like trying out new distances/attempts at speeds or whatever on a track because if things go pear-shaped while running I am only 60 yards from being able to call it a day. I might be a committed attempting-to-learn-to-run-er, but I am by no means a confident one (yet).

I had never run a mile before February though, so I don't feel bad at all about that.

Also, I love weights. LOVE THEM. I find it easy and see results really fast. Totally worth a trip to the gym.


@PistolPackinMama i thought our usual takeaway around here was "what you're doing is wrong and terrible and you should do it my way instead"


@redheaded&crazie Well, as long as your way is "whatever it takes to get through the day, without hurting people, yo" you are totally right!

(It also means you are doing it my way! Awesome!)


I didn't even know water polo was an olympic sport. (Hooray for the League of Ordinary Ladies being back!)


@SarahP It's my favorite summer Olympic sport. Hockey's my favorite for the Winters.


<3 i missed LOOL!

is it wrong that i think being corrected is kind of sexy? yes it is, but tell that to my loins.


I don't necessarily think being corrected is sexy, but I think that someone who is wrong but DEAD set that they're right is about the least sexy thing ever. Especially if they get mean about it.


@The Kendragon i am THE WORST about this. but i am always/usually right!


My ex an I were both that way. We usually disagreed. I of course, think I was usually/always right, but honestly, that may not be true.
I'm sure you can imagine how loving and supportive our relationship was.


@LeafySeaDragon "Tell that to my loins"...gonna figure out a way to work this into conversation at least 12 times today.


@LeafySeaDragon I think people talking about things that they are passionate and knowledgeable is about the sexiest thing there is. This often occurs after they correct you, so.

runner in the garden

@LeafySeaDragon it's definitely kind of pleasant when other people do it because it makes me feel less guilty about how much I do it?


that is why i moved to new york before i could think about it too hard.


esther, i always get a little thrill when i'm reminded that you live in jerusalem! and i like tv shows that are set in cities other than new york. and i like stories about people randomly moving places. new york, whatever.


@plonk I have the reverse panic whenever I think about all the money I could have put towards my debt if I hadn't kept moving cities all the time, and how I could possibly have found a lasting relationship with another human (or with a medical provider, whatever) if I had stayed put, and oh my god I'm so old already and I have nothing to show for it what is going to become of me noooowwww???


@WaityKatie Don't worry! If you had remained in one place, you could feel exactly the same way PLUS worry that you never had any Life Experiences or lived anywhere else! OR SO I HEAR.

Passion Fruit

@WaityKatie Yes! This reverse panic! I feel like growing up I was always hearing advice/seeing images of people chasing their dreams!, packing up and moving somewhere new!, dumping their sweet but boring boyfriend!, basically exploding everything stable about their life on split-second notice. But now that I've tried a few of these things myself, I'm like, UGH, why didn't I stick with one major/one city/one steady savings contribution and see it all the way through! All the time and energy and money wasted on dithering!

Thankfully, I feel like I'm learning this lesson in good enough time, so I try to suppress any quelling reverse panic attacks by settling down and working hard at the task at hand.

Passion Fruit

@charmcity That's true, too. I guess you're in an existential pickle no matter what you do. ADULTHOOD FUN TIMES.


@charmcity I think living in more than one place is one of those things that sounds a lot better in theory than it actually is. Although I never really had the option to live in one place, thanks to constantly moving parents growing up, and...I am broken now, I guess, because I kept replicating that into my "adulthood." Way to create a life that makes you always feel like you're behind everyone in your age cohort, who are all married/kids/homeowners/investment funds now, while I am scrambling trying to scrape up money for yet another probable move, yay!


@WaityKatie Yeah, but I hear that all of their kids are psychopaths. That's what I tell myself!


@charmcity And it's genetic, so...


@WaityKatie Your "adulthood" is defined by you, not by what anybody else is doing or what our culture tells you to do. Move around all you want! Your friends might have babies and buy houses, that does not make them better or more grown up than you. You are not "broken" because you want a different life!
BTW: I'm 41 and I've lived all over, done different things for work, and have met a ton of interesting people. There are a lot of people like you / us. You're not alone in this, and I have to repeat, you are not broken!

Passion Fruit

@skyslang Have you always been this confident about what you're doing?* I'm in my late 20s, and I just feel more and more confused with every year. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just constitutionally weak and feeble minded. OR, more likely, if life comes in waves of confusion and clarity.

*I hope that came across sincere, like I intended, and not snarky!


@Passion Fruit I would like to know this as well! There's just so much constant pressure from "the outside" when you're living a life that doesn't conform to what 99 percent of people do, and so much self-doubt. I don't really think I am broken, but, well, some days I do. It's just, why don't I want what everyone else seems to want, and they all seem so happy and contented, and...blehhhh it just gets really lonely and weird sometimes.


@WaityKatie I think their happiness/contentment comes at a cost sometimes, and their real lives may not always be what they seem.
People judge if you don't live a conformist lifestyle, but life really is too short to go around pleasing people. And some of that negative judgment might be borne of jealousy anyway.


For some reason I think I unconsciously assumed this lady lived in New York? So, clearly you'd fit in! Move here!


LOOL!! LOOL!! LOOL!! Esther, don't move to NYC. Move to DC!!


@charmcity I could never in good conscience encourage someone to move to DC (I lived there before), but...I may be moving back, so purely out of self-interest, yes. Move there.

Lisa Frank

I'm so glad League of Ordinary Ladies is back! Esther, you write to my soul! I was in Israel for three years too before I came back to New York. And now I feel like I was in Narnia, because I have nothing to show for my time except a lot of student loan debt and an unfinished Master's degree. And all of my NY friends have moved on with their lives and are getting married and have Careers. They all want to go to expensive restaurants and are having weddings far away, and I can not afford any of it. And I kind of feel like a Failure, because it turns out it's very difficult to monetize life experience.


Esther needs to move to Portland. Situation solved.


@Maryaed Where young people go to retire!


I really don't even know what water polo is, so i always just imagine people on horses in a pool hitting each other with sticks. That's not right, though.


@teebs Nope, it's people wearing funny hats in a pool, and trying to drown each other in order to grab and throw a ball into the goal.

Heat Signature

@teebs I also had that vague notion about water polo, mainly because water polo is not at the forefront of American sports culture and because I BARELY pay attention to sports as it is. But recently I thought, "How can they ride the horses in water? That seems inhumane." Then I asked my husband who inexplicably knows everything about every sport ever, and he told me what it actually was. I like our idea better, as long as it's shallow water and the horses are cool with the whole thing.


@Heat Signature
Actually a lot of horses really like swimming! I took my show horse to Florida for a show one time, and we went to the ocean. It took him almost two hours to get near the water, and then he just TOOK OFF. I thought we were gonna make the news for washing up weeks later in China.
Since then anytime he sees a body of water, we are going to go swimming.

Nicole Cliffe

So envious! I had to work for weeks to get Bella to step INTO puddles instead of walking around them, and she shies at dark shadows that she thinks MIGHT be puddles.


@Nicole Cliffe
Luke has jumped out of the warm up ring at a show to go swimming in the pond nearby. He's discovered he can chase ducks around and has a ball. For a full blooded, ex race TB he is about as calm (and slow) as it gets.


Hungary won, 4-0.



Known today as the Velvet Ablution?


@atipofthehat Polo with a human face.


@noReally But Krum caught the Snitch.


RE the blood in the water match: why isn't there a disney movie about this?? I feel like it has all the elements of a successful sports movie: hot guys, international conflict, and an underdog triumph...

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

All I have to add to this is I once played for an inner tube water polo city league team - you had to have one leg in the tube and one leg out and balance yourself like you were on an inflated horse or something - and you could push people out of their tubes if they had the ball. That shit was DIFFICULT.


i have to assume this is partially fabricated because 1982 was certainly an olympic year. so if that was just creative license/tweaked facts because it's a good comic story and perhaps you didn't remember every detail because who would, other than that guy, whatevs, but if that is verbatim what he said to you, sit tight in your smugness because he was wrong too!

Cat named Virtute

@excitedheart It was not. The Summer and Winter Olympics were held in the same calender year every four years until 1992. Both Olympics were held in 1980 and 1984, but no games were held in 1982.


This always gets me: before you post something as fact on the internet, you can maybe check it, give it a cursory google, it's pretty convenient cos guess what you're ALREADY ON THE INTERNET :o

Then again maybe knowing Winter and Summer Olympics were the same year until Lillehammer 1994 marks me as a Somewhat Old, like knowing the Titanic was real.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

"Because I did and you know how conversation works"

Cat named Virtute

Esther! Delightful. So happy to have you back. Sorry about the douchey encyclopedia.


Water polo players are HEFTY! HEFTY! HEFTY! or at least the South African Water Polo team that my friend had to kick out the the pub during the 2006 Commonwealth Games was, the police could not move them as they just ignored them.

I thought the 1956 water polo story was well known? It was even a part of the Australian movie "Newsfront". Not sure how these urban legends get started and people will still not take the 30 seconds to look up Wikipedia or Snopes before posting it all over social media.


Pedantry: the only thing that will dissuade me from an Englishman.


@charizard Also, some British men I've met have been obsessed with raging on about American imperialism. Um, have you read any books about history preceding, you know, 1950?


I've registered just to comment on this! I played water polo in both high school and college (Division I even!). Here are some general statements!

- There are no horses in the water. Or anywhere near a water polo game.
- The (ideal) playing field is all deep (i.e. untouchable by people of normal height) water. You can't touch or hold onto the sides during play. Some pools are shallow though, in which case only the goalie can jump off the bottom to block shots.
- You can only use one hand at a time (except the goalie).
- It gets physical (punching, kicking) but technically you're not really supposed to do that. You just try not to get caught : )
- One time (IN PRACTICE EVEN!) a girl shot on goal and almost blinded me (she cut my skin open about an inch below my eyeball). It was near Halloween so I just went as Nelly.
- Refs check your fingernail lengths before the game.

Ask anything else too!


@burnsoundburn "It was near Halloween so I just went as Nelly."
My wife and I would like to marry you plzthx.


I'd just like to chip in here with another pointless fact that I KNOW ALL ABOUT THAT WATER POLO MATCH because my Dad was THERE, working with St John Ambulance as a young scout. He has told that story just about every year since I was a young 'un.

Other bloodthirsty facts from this era include the Hungarian who went nuts after the war and chopped up a bunch of people in a darkened cinema with an axe.

He told me this when I was really young, and to this day I still can't sit in the aisle.

In all other ways our family has nothing against Hungarians.


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