I've always wondered how people who run long distances keep their minds occupied and distracted from the reality of what lies before them: miles and miles of joint-pounding torture. Visualize the after-party? Plan a carb-drenched meal? Rehash an argument, giving yourself the opportunity to sling all those clever retorts that eluded you during the real-time version? Oh, snap.
This week, I got my answer: Instagram.
Thank you, Kelly Roberts.
Roberts is the 24-year-old Brooklyn Instagrammer who posted 13 selfies with "hotties" during the New York City half-marathon on March 16 — one pic per mile.
Most of Roberts' 5,000-plus Instagram followers, from the West Coast to New York City to the UK to the south of France, love the #hottguysofthenychalf series: "hilarious," "U weird genius," "LMAO," "you are my favorite person today," "how about hot guy every 1/4 mile."
But she's not without her critics.
Writing for The Washington Post's style blog, Caitlin Dewey accuses Roberts of "taking surreptitious pictures of strangers, which is creepy, and rating their attractiveness, which is gross. Join me in a simple thought exercise: If Kelly Roberts were Ken Roberts, snapping pictures of spandex-clad girls, would we find this exercise half so amusing?"
Most assuredly we would not — at least not in the context in which Dewey frames her "simple" exercise.
Spandex plays no role in Roberts' series, found at instagram.com/kellykkroberts. This is real life, baby. It's 30 degrees outside. These people are running, in the zone, clad in sweats, hats, gloves, hoodies and, yes, "dat headband," spotted at mile four and captioned accordingly. Isn't this the kind of setting in which we women long to be appreciated?
And Roberts' captions are far from the "attractiveness" scale Dewey perceives. This is not some "hot or not" self-esteem-crushing experiment perpetuated by juvenile delinquents. Roberts' captions, like her subjects, run the gamut and are decidedly non-titillating: "some beard action," some dad action," "oh yeah walker" and, while running through the tunnel, "hold me I'm scared." Things get a tad racier with "mile 12 eye candy" and "finish line hotties," but I fail to see the potential for damage to the psyche of her muses.
Dewey goes on to say, "Roberts' photos are funny, though, because we can't take them seriously. There is nothing threatening about a lady pointing out an attractive dude."
Is there something threatening about a man pointing out an attractive woman? The answer, of course, lies in the context. And shouldn't context have a say in whether it's time to bust out the feminist outrage or, in this case, the indignant declarations of hypocrisy?
Here's what Roberts had to say when asked, "Who makes the grade?" in an interview with Runners Experience:
"You know, honestly, everyone looks attractive running a race. Drive is an attractive quality. So I was looking for anyone who caught my eye. I tried to find men of all ages and ethnicities because getting up at 5am, waiting to run a race in 30 degrees and then running 13.1 miles, that's hot! It's inspiring!"
Instead of likening Roberts' Instagram series to sexual exploitation or some kind of malicious tit-for-tat, let's see it for what it is: a wide range of men in terms of age, race, height and hair given the "hottie" designation according to Roberts with nary a whisper of criticism. At the very least, Roberts is having some harmless fun. But quite possibly, if only accidentally, she's also leading by example.
To answer Dewey's question now doused in disinfecting sunshine: I'd like to think we'd find it funny enough to get us to the finish.
Follow Jessica on Twitter @sicaleigh. To find out more about Jessica Leigh, and to read features by other Creators writers and comics, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.
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