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Big Game Hunting by MaryJane Huenergardt

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

“Hello up there!” a man said to me today as I walked by him. I’m 6’3” so I get a lot of shouts-out to my height. Anyone can imagine the panoply. I thought this one clever and I don’t remember hearing it before.  It made me smile genuinely. “Hi!” I replied, meeting his fabulously goofy grin with one of my own.

I wasn’t always this comfortable with my height.   Growing up, I didn't slouch, but I was constantly fixated on twisting it from being an undesirable feature, always on the lookout for ways to mitigate the social impact of my towering presence, constantly awkward.

Between my Junior and Senior years of high school I met a girl, whom I shall call “Lana,”  whose height was just an inch or two shy of mine. She completely flipped my script. Lana was totally comfortable with taking up that much vertical space. She got me dancing, talking to boys, and generally looking at my height as a wealth of fun to be had, rather than as an albatross.

Awhile back, when AIM was still the chat interface people used at work--and before we both got married and had children--Lana and I chatted about a recent encounter she’d had at a bar. “You’d appreciate this, MJ. This guy came up to me. Skirt-chaser. Average height. Said he loved dating tall women ...because it reminded him of big game hunting!” Yes! I thought that shout-out to tall woman’s height was clever AND hilarious.

Beyond high school. Being an exceptionally tall woman on the dating scene was rife with quirks, challenges, entertainment, and revelations. I learned that it generally takes a supremely confident dude to pursue a woman over 5’10”.

The “big game hunting” analogy, as raunchily objectifying as it was, stuck with me. By the time of that AIM chat with Lana, I’d already met the man I’d eventually marry, and the expression gradually started to spread to other areas of life as a sort of “inner framing” concept.

I don’t use any big game hunting comparisons in conversation. It’s not exactly “PC” to discuss big game as such, and might be tinged with an unintended, distasteful baggage that dilutes the meaning. It does however, live in my head and, now, in this post.

“Big game hunting” is a simple metaphor for pursuits that seem intimidating and out of reach yet are there for the pursuing. A person walks a little taller and calls forth bravery and/or bravado in order to big game hunt.

Since the expression (the one in my head) has its origins in the dating world, for me “big game” hunting is sexy! It is conquest, power, perhaps even an animalistic drive to propagate largesse in one’s own image! ...or at least for one’s own personal growth as an empowered individual.

I first learned what big game hunting felt like when, after a conversation with a YMCA CEO, I decided to start a YMCA in my community. I spent time thinking through what it was going to take, and I realized that I had very little experience in those areas. However, I forced myself to identify as "capable," and, with a "HECK YEAH," checked off each box I created in my head listing the attributes and willingness of the kind of person who would do such a crazy thing as start a YMCA.

Literal big game hunters say they are hooked on the sport (a statement I offer with complete objectivity with hopes you’ll stay with me here inside the analogy). Perhaps thanks to being in a small town where it’s easy to meet people, big game (back to figurative) is there for the hunting! It requires a big-sporting mindset, and it is definitely a thrill. I’ve joined and led boards and become more comfortable with spotlights. I speak regularly to crowds and community leaders. I’m hooked on what I see as big stuff, and I’m having a blast.

The pursuit of the YMCA project has opened many doors for me, including, a few years ago, helping me land a Development Director job--which was a big game hunting move for someone whose pre-SAHM job was Sales Analyst. I’m good at it, and, if I may say so, I slay big game goals every year. Our organization’s fundraising needs necessitate that I be completely fearless of big game goals.

While the pursuit of something big, professionally or as a passion project, is incredibly empowering and definitely has its sexy “HECK YEAH!” moments, it can be so.hard. to stay with the hunt. But I’m in Africa now and I’m afraid -- I’m a goner, I am hooked! I can’t imagine chasing squirrels and rabbits again, or even a respectable deer.

I fail a lot, and even seem to lose the trail sometimes. Persistence is crucial. I definitely rely on other big sporting types for help and guidance. But I’m still here, and I'm still 6'3" and think big to match. The lions and tigers haven’t eaten me yet. Wish me luck in slaying the beasts.

Where are my other big game hunters?? What are you after?

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