Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stayin' Alive

I don't suffer from PMS, but for many years I did suffer from PET (physical education trauma).

These days, however, I'm a fitness freak.  I actually like doing aerobics, step, Body Pump, Zumba, Batuka, and pretty much any other group fitness activity you can throw at me.  And when there aren't any classes, I hit the gym.

But it wasn't always that way.

Nerd Girl in the middle, sporting a poncho.  Ponchos were the thang back then.  They were bad!  And I mean "bad" in a seventies sort of way, you know, cool.
Once upon a time, there was a nerdy little schoolgirl, who wore glasses, and preferred books over sports any day.  Especially group sports.  In fact, she did everything in her power to avoid kickball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, tetherball, and generally any other ball-related activity that her teachers felt were essential to the development of any well-rounded child of the seventies.  She was always last to be picked for any team, in part, because of her total lack of throwing, kicking, and catching ability, but mostly because she did her best to hide behind her classmates to avoid being chosen, hoping she might become invisible by some stroke of magical luck.  This only worked until everyone else had been picked, and then she would reluctantly have to join whichever team she was assigned to, and prepare herself for the humiliation that usually followed.

Can you find me?

The whole thing gave her nightmares, and even the mere mention of team sports struck terror into her heart.  But there was no avoiding the daily torture hour for Nerd Girl.  She envied the kids who were lucky enough to break an arm and who were allowed to sit on the sidelines, where they had a field day laughing at all the clumsy kids

But no, Nerd Girl was perfectly healthy and deemed fit to participate in every last activity.  And participate she did. Against her will, and as little as possible, but she was out there...heroically taking the blame any time her team would lose, which was most of the time.

Kickball was the worst.  She hated that game above all others.  But would patiently stand in her assigned spot every day, as far out in outer field as the team captain could send her without actually sending her off the school grounds, hoping no one would notice her until the game was over (a wish fervently shared by the team captain).  She would sing to herself to pass the time, after all, no one could hear her out there.  And if a stray ball ever came her way, she did her best to avoid it, ignoring all the shouting from her teammates, telling her to "Catch the damn ball already!"

This went on for what, to Nerd Girl, seemed like forever.  Until the day she discovered she could slip out of line and off into the restroom, as the rest of the class was herded off to their daily "building of body and character".  There, she would hide out in a cubicle until the danger had passed, and then she would just hang out, counting the spit balls on the ceiling, until the bell rang and she could safely rejoin the group and pretend nothing had ever happened.

This is not to say she didn't get any exercise at all.

No, Nerd Girl would often enjoy a good romp around the playground, trying to catch the boys, who for some reason were very afraid of catching the girls' "cooties".  Never mind that no one had ever seen a "cootie" or had any idea of what they might be.  All they knew is that they were bad, very bad, and now I'm not talking seventies bad, which was good.  Cooties were bad, in the universally negative sense of the word.  And you definitely did not want to catch the ones belonging to the opposite sex, lest the meeting of boy cooties and girl cooties cause them to cancel each other out, making you disappear in a puff of smoke, or worse yet, turn you gay, which in those days was a fate worse than death.  The girls never really ended up catching the boys, mostly on purpose, because the fun was in the chase, and at that age, neither boys nor girls would probably have known where to take it from there.

And then there was rollerskating.  Nerd Girl did a lot of that.  It didn't involve groups, and it didn't involve balls...except the disco ball that hung from the ceiling of her local roller rink, and since she didn't have to throw that, she was okay with it.  She would go to the roller rink on Saturdays for lessons and get her groove on to the latest disco music.  This probably explains a lot of things, like the fact that she feels a compelling urge to boogie whenever she hears the BeeGees, and shhh, don't tell anyone, she actually has Stayin' Alive on her mp4.  She can't help it. Such early exposure to disco music permanently affected the circuitry of her young impressionable mind, and even though she tries to banish it from her brain with the latest hits, there it is, firmly imprinted in her gray matter forever.

Maybe that's why she likes "I'm Sexy and I know it"...because folks, no matter how hard it tries to masquerade as electro-hop, or whatever you kids want to call it, deep down underneath those metallic speedos and its hip hop exterior, that song has a heart of disco.

But that's not the point of this story (if there really is one at all).

The blissful period of bathroom escapism was like an oasis in the middle of a desert filled with ball-sized grains of sand...oh wait, that would be like a giant ball pool.  Awesome!  No it wasn't anything like that.  Anyway, it was a temporary reprieve from the hated ball games, and Nerd Girl happily spent her days hiding out in the restroom, until one day she got caught.  By the fearsome Mrs. Barracuda.  Now, I'm not really sure why she was called Mrs. Barracuda, because she didn't really look like one.  In fact, she more closely resembled a very well-fed whale, but she did snap at people a lot.  Maybe she wasn't even as mean as all that, and she probably even meant well when she took Nerd Girl by the ear and marched her right back out to the playing field, maybe wanting to help her avoid a fate similar to her own.  But Nerd Girl never forgave her, because from that day on, she was forced to suffer through every variety of ball game known to man, or at least to her teachers, and they were a pretty creative bunch.

She spent a lot of time out on the outfield, singing "Stayin' Alive" and "I Will Survive", because it was all about staying alive and surviving P.E.

Then one day, one of her Junior High P.E. teachers, probably frustrated by Nerd girl's total lack of coordination and enthusiasm for sports, suggested she try a dance class.

This changed everything.  Nerd Girl became Ballerina Girl.  She plastered her room with dance photos, and traded in her books for toe shoes.  Okay, she didn't really trade in her books, because that would go against her very nature, but she did spend an awful lot of time doing the splits in doorways, watching Fame, Flashdance, and Dance Fever, wearing leg warmers and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts, and twirling around, thinking she was pretty damn graceful.

Once she got to college, she chucked her glasses, got contacts, and looking considerably less nerd-like, she briefly majored in dance.  It lasted for a whole quarter.  Then she realized she wasn't all that talented after all.  She wasn't terrible, but she wasn't naive enough to think there was any sort of a future in the dance world for her.

So, she hung up her dancing shoes, and studied psychology, with the hopes of discovering how disco music had shaped the minds of her generation.  She never did find the answer, but she's sure it's out there somewhere.  Then she got busy, got married, had kids, took up aerobics, and forgot about dancing for the longest time.

Until recently.  But that's a story for another post.

All I can say for now is, I still don't like playing ball games...of any kind.  I guess that elementary school torture was just too much.  But thanks to that Junior High teacher, I found something I love, even though I had forgotten just how much until now.

So, what about you?  Were you one of the first to get picked for teams at school?  Did you actually like all those sports that are supposed to be good for you.  Or, like me, were you traumatized by it all?


  1. Excuse me, but I'm going to need to see that follow-up post, about your re-venture into dance, very soon. Did you join a group? Are you taking lessons? Can you assure me I'll like Zumba if I actually try a class?

    I was like you, although even my adult self covets that poncho in the first photo since I didn't have one that so very "massive statement making" as yours. My mom made mine out of a bunch of afghan squares knit together. There was an extraordinary amount of pink. Anyhow, I hated gym class--HATED. The only time I recall having fun was during the golf unit, when I, as a left hander, had to stand a bit separate--way down at the end of the line--from everyone else (right handers, all of em). I loved being by myself and swinging a golf club.

    Until, after class, everyone made fun of me for being left handed. Turns out even that trait was enough to mark me a geek.

    1. Yes, I will do the dance post, don't worry. And I like Zumba, but I can't promise you will. but I bet you can find a place where you can try it out first to see if you'll like it or not. Just remember not to worry too much if you don't get all the steps right the first few times. You have to feel the music and have fun with it.

      My mom actually made that poncho for me, too bad I didn't keep it. I think my kids would have liked it. We didn't get to play golf at that would have been a cool P.E. class.

  2. Sorry to say, I liked PE. I was a competitive swimmer throughout my childhood/adolescence and as such cursed/blessed with a competitve streak. I was never the first one picked for teams due to my serious lack of land coordination skills but I wasn't the last one either.

    My curse, as it would turn out, was math. Math class very nearly sent me into a fit of panic. And once letters (pre Algebra) were thrown in, I was done. I would sink down in my seat and pray that the teacher wouldn't call on me. I had no interest in doing proofs, knew I'd never be an accountant and promised myself I'd hire out all my contracting jobs just so the measurements would be spot on. And you know what?

    I was right.

    1. We didn't get swimming until High School. That was actually something I liked, but we didn't get to do very much. It was mostly balls, balls, balls...

      As for math, I didn't mind it too much. It wasn't my favorite, but it beat P.E. hands down. :D

  3. The only sports I liked at school were the ones they didn't let us do very often. I like rounders in summer, which I can remember playing about THREE times in my whole school career, and I liked field hockey, which was limited to the winter when we weren't indoors doing gym (which I loathed). I liked swimming too, but that was a rare event. I've always loved to dance, but despite going to an all-girls school, there was NO dance on the curriculum, ever.

    Netball, tennis, stool ball (I can't even remember how you play that one but it involved a square bit of wood on a stick which you had to stop someone hitting with a ball for some reason .. ), athletics, cross country running ... UGH. Of course, being asthmatic didn't help.

    I recently got Zumba for the Wii. I'm working up to it. It is far, far more energetic than I expected and I'm really unfit - but it's fun!

    1. I have never played rounders or field hockey, so I can't say if I'd like them or not, but anything involving hitting objects with some sort of a stick is not my thing. Zumba for the Wii sounds fun, you'll have to tell me how that goes. :)

  4. Well, considering you and I wrote a whole story about the evils of volleyball, I think you know my views on P.E.! What is so horrid about games with balls, anyway? To this day, I don't even like to watch sports that involve balls, which is 95.87% of televised sports.

    I don't recall ever having a poncho, or at least not one as cool as the one your mom made you. I may have suppressed some fashion memories from the 70's, though. I have a vague recollection of huge lapels and acres of polyester ...

    1. Death on a Volleyball Court! We may have hated Volleyball, but we sure did have fun with the story, didn't we? I remember lots of polyester, and we actually wore long dresses to school. :D

  5. I must say that I liked PE, we didn't play sports with balls though, the only ones I can remember was table tennis and dodgeball, I liked both and when I was a kid there was an anime called (in Spain) "Bola de Dan" based on it so it was kind of "cool" sport :P

    We used to do a lot of Basque sports also, like Lokotxak (first minute of this video) or Sokatira, that is pretty international, I think it is called something like Rope pulling or something like that (this is what I mean). And we also played a lot to Badminton, so not bad.

    I have to admit that I hate dancing, I can only do it after several beers and not very successfully, I have a friend that always says, there you are with your dancing face as I have to really focus on what I am doing. When I dance I realize how difficult is to coordinate legs and arms and beer and the body and so on...

    Very nice post by the way.

    1. I think I would have liked those sports better than the ones we had, although we did play badminton, which I didn't mind so much. Dancing face, eh? I'd love to see a video of that! Next time, if you've had enough beers, get one of your friends to take a video and post it on your blog. That would make an excellent post. ;D


    Not only was I an introverted nerd, I all but failed PE because of athletic induced asthma and my extra large knockers! This made all the other girls jealous, causing them to ignore me, while the boys and male teachers oggled and taunted me with hopes of them jumping out to see if they were real! If I had known about sexual harrassment laws back in the 70s, I could have all but closed down the high school due to lack of male teachers!

    But, time has a way of changing things and I not only downsized my watermelons to cantalopes, but I can now exercise without gasping for air which helps when I am playing with the grandchildren!

    1. Wow, sounds like you had an even worse time than I did. Luckily, times have changed and it's a lot less likely you'd see that sort of behavior, at least on the part of the male teachers, if they know what's good for them. Boys, on the other hand, probably act about the same.

  7. I sympathise! I was rotten at P.E. too though had no knockers of any description to worry about, Wanda! (But you should see me now....). All that netball and hockey was just misery to me, especially out in the wild, wet and windy Scottish weather. Now I feel quite prejudiced about P.E. being examined here. I suppose it is a real subject but it doesn´t seem like it to me.