Friday, October 31, 2008

The Gym Class Chronicles, Part 2

At the end of my last gym class recollection, I had just administered my vault-routine coup de grace (although not on purpose) to a spunky student teacher. I managed to finish 8th grade gym class without any other major mishaps, but it was still far from a good experience. Let me put it this way: there was a kid in my class who had CP, and used crutches to walk. He used to get picked for teams BEFORE me. I was always the very last one. Ninth grade was blissfully free from gym class, and I was in heaven. I had a great time that year.

Imagine my dismay when I found out that gym was a requirement for sophomores! My teacher was a lecherous basketball coach whose sole goal in each class was to meet the maximum possible number of cheerleaders sitting on his lap. Since most of the junior varsity cheerleading squad was in my class, and Coach H. was therefore well-occupied, I learned the fine art of making up excuses not to "dress out" for class. While my mom was pretty strict about academic grades, she had suffered through gym classes herself, so she was usually willing to sign an excuse note. (I had a lot of "back problems" that year.) My friend Richie and I managed to dress out just enough to keep a "C" in the class; the rest of the time, we sat at the top of the bleachers and made fun of all the suckers who were down there on the floor, sweating and getting yelled at.

When I was forced to participate, it was often a nightmare, as usual. Our class was combined with another group of sophomores for most activities, and their teacher was pure, unadulterated evil, in the form of a cheerleading coach. She yelled at me, in front of the whole class, because I screwed up a complicated football play, even though I had never played (or watched, for that matter) tackle football in my life. Coach V. was vicious. Once when I presented her with my (fake) excuse note, she yelled, "You big WEENIE! My girls cheer with BROKEN ARMS!!!" Of course, I did not say what I really wanted--which would have included my opinion that most of her "girls" spent a lot of their time acting like idiots, so I wasn't too surprised that they would cheer with broken arms.

My biggest clash with Coach V. took place on the school's running track, and it involved a pole vault. Specifically, she wanted me to pole vault over a bar that appeared to be about eight feet off the ground, and, remembering the disaster of my last vault, I flatly told her no. Having mustered up the courage to refuse the pole vault, I also disabused her of the notion that I would be participating in the hurdles. Couldn't these people see that I was not only short, but fat as well? How the fudge is a short fat girl supposed to jump over anything that hits above waist-height? The laws of physics simply do not work that way.

I guess Coach V. wrote me off as a lost cause after the Track & Field unit, because she (mercifully) left me alone for the rest of the year. Toward the end of the year, I had what became my best gym class moment ever. We were working on the square dance unit, which was something I could actually do pretty well. (Do high school kids still learn square dancing, I wonder? Is it just a Kentucky thing, or do kids everywhere learn it? I thought it was lots of fun.) When the teachers matched us up with partners, they told us we would dance with the same person throughout the entire unit. I promptly ended up with a guy named Dennis, who was easily one of the ten most objectionable people I've ever met in my life. He saw that I (the fat, unpopular girl) was going to be his partner, and erupted in a stream of compliants so bitter that Coach H. finally gave in, and picked another partner for Dennis. My face burning, I hoped that my next partner would be at least a bit more gracious. I heard Coach H. say my partner's name, but I couldn't believe it until he walked over to take my hand. His name was Jeff, and he was the cutest, most popular guy in the 10th grade. I saw all the girls looking longingly in my direction, and said a silent prayer that Jeff would be as nice as he was good-looking. You know what? He was even NICER than he was good-looking...and he was really good-looking. He was sweet, friendly, funny, and unfailingly polite, and we had a great time dancing together. I doubt that he ever knew how much better he made a chubby, nerdy girl feel, just by being kind for a few weeks.

We weren't required to take gym class after sophomore year, so I was able to eliminate that little slice of hell from my life. Some people continued to take "Advanced PE" all the way through senior year, which could, I believe, serve as evidence that they were certifiably insane.

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