Thursday, June 19, 2008

From the peanut gallery

I wanted to share some of the letters and emails I’ve received from total strangers both in support of and against the book (or me, or my films, as the case may be). I’ve been so moved by the endorsements and, of course, hurt by those more negative. Truthfully, some notes have brought forth tears. And I don't say this seeking sympathy. It's just true.

But I am learning to have a thick skin. Thicker, anyway. I need to get over being an approval seeker. Don't I? It's hard! It's who I am, how I've always been. 39 years!! It kind of works for me. Alas, the fact that all the supportive notes – which outweigh the negatives by about 10 to 1 - have been enough to pull me from the self-flagellation and melancholy and panic inevitable when being verbally assaulted is proof I'm not really over needing approval afterall.

Perhaps I have to live with being an approval-seeking, pathetic, needy, competitive wife/mom/professional/ex-gymnast/daughter and all around neurotic. And, in addition to these afflictions, apparently I have a disease called trichotillomania. I got a letter about this after describing the finger picking on NPR. My "nervous habit" isn't a straight up nervous habit afterall. It's a disease. Excellent.

Here goes:

1) Jen~ I found your book to be a total page-turner. Couldn't put it down. I am your age (or close enough) and have always been a fan of gymnastics. My younger daughter competes now. I found myself checking myself quite a bit while reading your book. I think it would be very easy to get sucked in.

2) You have so many people having your have NO idea how many people are supporting you. Don't let those dicklicks from youtube get you down.

3) Hi, Jennifer. I just finished reading your book and I wanted to THANK YOU so much for writing it. As a former elite gymnast, I could pretty much relate 100% to every single feeling you described...even though I finally quit gymnastics almost three years ago, I can remember everything like it was yesterday. Your story made me cry, especially because it reminds me of mine in a lot of ways. Again, thanks a million. You were a beautiful gymnast, BTW =)

4) You are such an inspiration and NOT a pathetic liar. It was and IS no secret what assholes your coaches were … screw the people who are giving you crap. Like I said before, You are a great mom. That's all that matters! :)

5) I just finished your book this morning while riding the 24 to Levi’s Plaza from Marin. I sat there crying on the bus – true, I’m 12 weeks pregnant so my hormones are playing a role, but I was really moved by your story. I only competed at the Class III level, but even I endured weigh-ins, many hours a week in practice, and lasting body-image stuff as a result of gymnastics. I also know that I have an incredible work ethic and self confidence because of the sport. I too dream of gymnastics often. I went to competitive diving after injury but it never filled the hole. Then marathon running, which my body is just not made for. I still look for something to take its place and yoga is as close as I’ve come (although, of course, I bring ego and competition to the studio, which is kind of beside the point...).

6) I just finished your book. I was a gymnast in the 80’s, early 90’s. I finished as a low level 10. I experienced a lot of what you did. I’ve been reading your blog and seeing the people attack you for your experience and wonder where these people are. This stuff even happens at the lower levels. My mom took me to weight watchers at 14 when I was 5-7 and 110. I think her real problem was that I’d gotten too tall for gymnastics. Unfortunately you can’t lose height!
Thank you for writing it. I’ve been struggling most of my life with aspects of my personality and never understood where they came from and what to do with them. Upon reading your book I understood. I accept nothing but the best and beat myself up if things aren’t perfect.

7) Just wanted to take the time to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. I'm old gymnast who never quite stood out but just always loved gymnastics. I think most negative reactions are from those who haven't yet read it.

8) Reading your book brought back so many memories. I felt like I lived through so many of the exact situations that you experienced… Again, thanks for being so truthful about the sport and all of the “players” that surround it. (this one was from a former Olympian via email. That helped.)

And now for the other side of the story. And some of these were in response to my short film The Gymnast on youtube. But I’d hazard a guess that many critical of the film, are upset by the book and blurring the line between the two (one was fictional, one is memoir). I'm giving equal play to the critical and the non-critical. For fairness' sake.

1) sounds like it was written by someone who has no idea about gymnastics, and then I look and it's by a formal national champion. Talking about how the girl still "survived" gymnastics. I'm sorry but I think you're overdramatic along with your first blog post on your blog. oh PS: a lot of kids do know what they want when they are young, don't generalize because you were nieve

2) Jennifer Sey lies in her book shes nothing but a big fat lier

3) Oh believe me her book bassically makes her look like a spoiled brat who acts like her parents forced her to do all this stuff in which they didnt she wanted to

4) that was the dumbest thing I've ever seen. I hope her book isn't as stupid as this crap, I just bought it.

5) I think that this was horrible. Why do you need to blam others for your life? Can't take responsibility?

6) This book is gymnastics' version of "A Million Little Pieces."

7) Jennifer Sey is a liar by any definition of the word. Even if every word in her book is true as she remembers it. (And that’s been contested by some of her teammates from the time.) If you disagree with me, buy her book. If not, encourage everyone you know to boycott Chalked Up. You can read it, but don’t purchase even one more copy. If Jennifer Sey wanted to exorcise demons from over 20-years-ago as a memoir, she could have done it on her blog. That she chose to release an inflammatory book in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics smacks of opportunism.

8) … it is ironic that Sey was probably the winner of the worst USA Championships ever. Then she drifted into obscurity.I still remember watching 86 USAs, wondering how US gymnastics got that bad since the 84 Olympics. Everyone was awful. The commentators couldn't even get excited about Sey's performance.I don't think USAG even posts the results in their archives.And now she's back...with a book. It's right before the Olympics and right in the middle of USAG being thrust into the media spotlight for allegedly harboring child abusers. I may read the book...just to give her a chance...but the first thing I thought of when I heard that a new dramatic gymnastics biography was coming out, I thought, "Oh...HER??? How dramatic can that be?"

So that’s a short summary of the good and the bad. No analysis required.


Kerrith said...

Honey, you have to get over yourself!! I am amazed that at almost 40 you are still so self absorbed.You come across as a whining brat.Get some help!

Amanda said...

My daughter quit 3 months ago from a noname NJ gym, level 9, 10 yrs old. She got screamed at from the coach because she did a double full instead of a 1 1/2! Called me crying (which she has never done before) that she didn't want to do this anymore. I walked in, told the coach we were leaving and never went back, even though states was 3 wks away. It haunts me that I let it get to the point that a 10 yr old would burn out. Even at a lower (non-elite) level the sport can manifest everything you are talking about from the rotation order, comments about weight. Thank you for writing this book, it has helped me realize that my daughter's choice was a good one. She "could have been a contender!" but I would rather she have happiness.

Jennifer Sey said...

Thanks Kerrith. The things I muse upon and write about are not the sum total of my life. I work, have friends, 2 kids, a marriage of 9 years, cared for a very sick parent in the last year and write some stuff every once in a while.

So while my writing on MY blog may appear self absorbed as I'm writing about things that happen to ME, I don't believe my life is all about me. Like most women, my life is generally about others.

That being said, I've had much help, rest assured.

thekla said...

I find some of your blog entries intellectually stimulating, particularly when you are writing about others or a thought-provoking topic that has a wider appeal, such as your wonderful piece about a mixed race marriage and politics. Perhaps you should focus your efforts on looking outward rather than always focusing on the not-so-interesting musings of self-doubt, self-flagellation and in general, self-absorption. These get tiresome and narcissistic. While they may not be the sum total of your life, they represent a large percentage of your writing and seem to be weighing you down. Your writing and your audience would benefit from a broader brush stroke. I sense that is what Kerrith is saying between the lines.

KristenM said...

I don't think it's narcissistic to talk about your own personal demons-it's a way of dealing with them so you can move on from them.

Jen, I bought your book and thought it was very insightful, especially for those of us who are very hard on ourselves and always feel subpar, even if we're not.

I do find it kind of funny that the most vocal critics of the book are those that haven't actually read the book. The former Parkettes especially crack me up-they make personal comments about you rather than really making a mature argument to dispute what you've said.

Anyway, good luck.

Anonymous said...

Just returned from working at the gymnastic trials in Philadelphia.
Your book was talked about by all. Judges, coachs, gymnasts, and USA Gymnastics officials, especially Steve Penny. No one was calling you a liar, but they were very disturbed by the release of your book right before the olympic games.

Former said...

...they were very disturbed by the release of your book right before the olympic games.

I'm sure it would make so much more sense to have released it shortly before the last Stanley Cup playoffs. Everyone knows that hockey and gymnastics go hand in hand. I, like millions of Americans, automatically think "Mary Lou Retton" immediately upon seeing Wayne Gretzky on the television.

flippyfox said...

Hi Jen... Just want to send a note of support. I'm a former gymnast ('80s vintage) who totally relates to you and your story. I grabbed your book and promptly read it from cover to cover (oddly, I think I smelled tincture of benzoin wafting from the binding). Great job. FYI, who cares about comments from the "other side?" Your story is your story. Ignore the critics.

Bucky said...

Hi Jen!
I'm not sure if you read this stuff and I'm not even sure you'd remember me, as I was a senior elite when you were a junior. My name is Penney and I was from a small gym in PA. I also coached at Stanford when you were there on campus. As a matter of fact, I coached Doe for one year. I wanted to let you know that we all(sisters in gym)have your back. Although I didn't have the same experiences as you did, we all KNOW this crap went on. I was one of the lucky ones that came through the elite program relatively unharmed (emotionally). Best of luck with the book and this roller coaster we call life.

Jennifer Sey said...

Penny, yes i remember you! thanks for the nice note of support. much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jen,

I just read your book. In one night. Yep, one sitting. I had to drop you a line and say - I was no where near as good as you, but I still had olympic dreams in my head, (and so did my mom) and I identified with everything you wrote. All I thought about when i was between ages 9 and 15 was gymnastics. I wasn't even that good - a level 9 by the time I quit. I actually tore my ACL at 15 and thought - thank god, now i can stop.

I was anorexic, bulemic, and I hated myself for years. I was told I wasn't strong enough, fast enough or talented enough all the time. I still often think I'm a failure and I'll never be good at anything - just like my coaches told me - and I'm 33 now.

ANyway, I just wanted to thank you for writing what you did. I identified with it. I can't even watch gymnastics on tv. When people tell me they are putting their kids in gymnastics, I often react by rolling my eyes, or asking - are you sure you want to do that? If they ask further, I just try to explain my experience and why I am sour about it. But really, all I'll have to say in the future is - read Jen Sey's book.

Blue moon said...

I read the book. I got a headache from rolling my eyes so much. Sey has no humility and zero gratitude to anyone. Every medal she won should go right to her parents. What an insufferable bore. What a malignant narcissist.

Jennifer Sey said...

i wonder, now, amidst the Nassar horrific-ness, if anyone feels differently about the "lies" in Chalked Up.