May 6, 2008

The Derby Experience

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:51 am by LG

I survived the infield at the Derby….not to mention staying in a tiny hotel room with another girl and two boys, all of which are a few years younger than me. I didn’t think the age difference would matter, but as 1:00 am approached Saturday, after a long day in the sun with the rowdiest crowed I’ve ever encountered, I felt old. The rest of the group went out until 5:00 am and I went back to the room to crash. I guess as much as I try, I just can’t party like Cancun ‘96 anymore. Lord, who am I kidding, I barely survived Cancun ‘96 when I was there.

I loved the Derby. I found it to be an incredible study of culture. Walking in to Churchill Downs, I was amazed by all of the classy beautiful people. The hats and the clothes were simply stunning. The little girl in me longed to play dress up, join the high-society crowd, sip mint juleps, and share a dainty laugh or two with all the muckety-mucks. Our crew, however, had our sights on the infield, and I certainly wasn’t dressed for the stands. So we forged through the glitz and glamor, descended under the track, and emerged into wonderful madness.

Having research the infield experience a bit before heading down — and realizing that I was partying *way* out of my league — I vowed to check all judgment (and wide-eyed gasping) at the door. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of wild nights (Maggie, let’s keep those on the d-l), but I’m realizing that “wild” is largely subjective. For most of the afternoon at the Derby, I was just savoring the sun, watching the crowd, and generally feeling connected to the people of the world. It was great. But there was a distinct point in the late afternoon, perhaps two hours before the derby race, when I realized that I needed to limit my ventures beyond our safe tarp-and-lawn chair home. Not because I was scared, but because I was nervous that if I saw one more skirt go up or tube top go down, I wouldn’t be able to resist a discussion on whether our society has somehow repackaged sleazy sexual exploitation as empowering to women. I kept having these internal debates in my mind when I passed a near-naked woman posing for pictures, or girls announcing that they weren’t wearing any underwear. “Oh my gosh, does she really know what she’s doing…I wonder why she’s doing it…maybe she has low self esteem? ….oh, Little Girl, you can be so judgmental; she’s probably just enjoying sexual freedom. Loosen up LG!”

And I did loosen up. I kicked back, enjoyed (or, stomached) a julep, and cheered on my horses.  But, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help questioning whether this Girls Gone Wild “freedom” is actually a victory for women. Whether displaying our bodies – being on display – is helpful or hurtful. There’s a lot of power there, for sure, but I can’t decide who’s holding it.



  1. Anonymous said,

    “experence” is not a word

  2. Little Girl said,

    oh lordy, thanks anonymous 😉 …i’m obviously still recovering. miss you!

  3. There was obviously more than one filly shot that day!

  4. Emily said,

    I loved your pictures LG, you looked like hot stuff~! I think I am a bit uncultured about the Derby because I didnt even know that their was an infield… I thought it was a bunch of famous people in thier widebrim hats… interesting that they never show that part (or maybe you have to buy it on the internet or DVD ;).
    I am so sorry I have not posted or commented a lot lately, three children is INSANE to say the very least. Love you lots and love to read your blog, I still check it every day!

  5. Jen said,

    i have heard various and sundry stories about the infield from my parents who made a yearly pilgrimage every year until i was 8 or so. right now, i’m really trying to keep my image of my parents (untraditional as it may be) separate from lifting skirts and tubetops in general. bleh.

    that said, i find that as i get older, i want to look out for these girls who are weilding their bodies as commodities. it’s certainly a right and one i would balk at anyone trying to control but…the big sister and now the mom in me just wants to pull them aside and whisper conspiratorially, be careful, dear. keep your eyes open. it’s a dangerous world.

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