In Defense of Lycra

So I have this pair of lycra tights that I found in my parent’s garage. If their accounts can be believed, my mom sewed them for my dad circa 1985 when he was a photographer for REI. They’re pretty stunning. A couple years ago I started wearing them on climbing trips. Not consistently, but often enough to get a sense of the general reaction. They never fail to elicit comments, the best of which might be from a ten-ish year old girl at Smith Rock who remarked with sarcastic contempt, “nice pants.”

Andy Smith on Tatoosh, Lower Town Wall

Andy Smith on Tatoosh, Lower Town Wall

I can’t quite tell what my climbing partners think of them. Ryan usually doesn’t say much, but I know him well enough to know that he knows me well enough to keep what I’m sure he’s thinking to himself. One of the first times I wore them at Index Michal was pretty taken aback. He didn’t know me too well and like most people, he probably assumed I was far too reserved for that kind of thing. More recently he looked askance and said something to the effect of, “dude, I could never pull that off, I’d have to work out for like a year.” Which is funny because he’s in far better shape than I am. What I tried to explain to him is the tyranny of hope, how nihilistic celibacy frees you from so much stress. I know I’m not going to get laid wearing vintage lycra tights, but then I also know that I’m not going to get laid not wearing vintage lycra tights. In total hopelessness there is great freedom.

Myself on Heaven's Gate, Upper Town Wall (hell, I think we might even be wearing the same jacket)

Myself on Heaven’s Gate, Upper Town Wall (hell, I think we might even be wearing the same jacket)

At Index or Vantage I’m just another character, but it’s at Smith Rock that the lycra really comes into its own. The scene there is all sports bras and yoga pants and ripped guys walked around with their abs flexed, and it can be downright depressing if you’re in the wrong mood. It can feel like just about everyone is tanner and fitter and climbing harder and having more sex than you are, which is probably true. But then I have to remember who I am; I’m not a knight at the table, I’m a court jester, dancing for my bread. So if I’m shaking on their warm-ups or too scared to try the classics and they sneer at me, which they do, then fuck them. Their loins may be harder than mine but my pants are fancier than theirs.