The Terrible Chafing of Jenna


A Daddio scenario inspired by this piece of fake-runner art found on the Web.

Perky and pretty, Jenna races through life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. Always in training for this fun run or that charity challenge, she is forever ready for a jog and will drop what she’s doing to head out for a quick six-miler if the spirit moves her. But it’s her get-up-and-go approach that often gets poor Jenna into trouble.

I found her today on the stoop of her apartment building, huddled up and crying.

“It hurts so bad,” she said. “Why does this keep happening to me?”

I held her hand and looked long and hard into her pale blue eyes. As her sobbing slowly abated, I wiped away the tears on her flushed and perspiration-covered cheeks with my sweatband.

“You did it again,” I said. “Didn’t you? Just got up and went for a jog?”

She dropped her head. “The spirit moved me,” she whispered. “I always get up and go when the spirit moves me.”

I sighed. How many times had we had this very same conversation? How often had I found her in terrible pain and yet not understanding why she was hurting?

“Jenna,” I said, trying for a tone that was both firm and kind, “how many miles did you just run?”

“I’m not sure. It started off as just a little shake-out run but then I guess I got a little carried away.”

“So how far?”

“Nine, maybe ten. No big deal. But the pain, I can’t describe it–”

“Look what you’re wearing, Jenna. You can’t keep doing this to yourself.”

Jenna looked over her sweat-soaked, disheveled outfit as if she’d never seen it before.

“What’s the matter with my clothes?” she asked. “Don’t you like what I’m wearing?”

I grabbed her roughly by her cable-knit merino wool sweater.

“Jenna, this is not appropriate running attire. You are wearing newish blue jeans, a sweater, and those blue leather ballet flats. Who in the name of all that is holy goes running in an outfit like that?”

She looked at me with a quizzical expression. Now it was my turn to cry–tears of frustration mingled with tears of sympathy for this attractive yet addled young woman.

I carried on. “The pain you were feeling was chafing, Jenna. Terrible chafing, on your inner thighs, under your arms, and God knows where else. And then there are the blisters you’ve given yourself on your poor feet, and all the strain and pain from not wearing proper support where you need it.”

“I don’t understand.”

So pretty. So clueless about this one simple thing.

“Try shorts and a T-shirt, Jenna. Tights and a tank top. Nylon and lycra, not wool and denim. And running shoes, Jenna. Shoes built for running.”

“You mean–”

“Yes, Jenna. Running clothes are specifically designed to wick away sweat, avoid friction, and support you where you need it.”

“I feel so foolish.”

“It’s all right. But it’s up to you to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“I understand,” she said as she wobbled her way to her feet, wincing as she felt the protests from her chafed-up body all over again. She bounced a little on the balls of her blistered feet.

“Jenna . . . ”

“You know, they say you can’t run away from your problems but you can run your problems away.”

She stretched her arms above her head.

“Please, Jenna.”

“I think I’m just going to go for a quick jog around the block. You know, to think about what you said.”

“You’re not hearing me, Jenna. You’re not getting it.”

“I get it, don’t worry. I understand.”

No she didn’t. Not at all. I watched her hobble her way down the sidewalk, picking up speed as she went. As she turned the corner, I sat down on the very step where I’d found her. I decided to wait for her, whenever she returned. Because it would be worse than before. And she would need a friend here more than ever. Poor thing.