I was watching a women’s gymnastics competition on TV the other day and was awed by the pretzel-like positions into which they managed to contort their lithe little bodies. Unfortunately, the longer I watched the competition, the more I was reminded of every gym class I was forced to endure back at good old West High.
I can’t even begin to put into words how much I dreaded those mandatory gym classes in high school. For one thing, we had to wear regulation gym suits that would have made even Cher look like Jackie Gleason. The suits were solid blue, all one piece, with bloomer-type shorts attached, and snaps all the way down the front. All of my classmates’ suits were so baggy, they could have fit two people in them, but mine was so snug, every time I exhaled, all the snaps popped open. It’s no wonder my nickname soon became “The Flasher.”
To make matters worse, there wasn’t anything I was able to do even remotely well in gym class. I nearly gave myself a migraine trying to learn how to do a headstand. I never understood why it was so important to our gym teacher for us to learn how to do headstands anyway. I mean, if humans were meant to stand on their heads, they would have been born with wide, flat skulls (and in my case, a less heavy bottom). Fear also prevented me from doing a headstand. The thought of my neck crushing like an accordion beneath all of my weight absolutely terrified me.
Rope climbing also was something I never mastered. There were two thick ropes hanging from the ceiling in the gym. One of them was smooth, for the boys, and the other one had big knots all the way up, for the girls. The knots were supposed to give us something to grasp so we could climb the rope more easily.
Oh sure, as if some puny knots were going to help me hoist my chunky body up anything! I struggled for weeks to make it past even the second knot.
I didn’t do any better on the physical fitness tests. On one test, we received points for the number of push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups we could do. It didn’t take long for me to realize that trying to do any exercise with an “up” in it was next to impossible for someone who had trouble just getting “up” out of bed every morning. For this reason, I earned a consistent “D” in gym class.
Team sports were even worse. When the weather was nice, the gym teacher would herd all of us over to the field across the street to play softball. For reasons I still can’t fathom, she usually assigned me to first base. Even if I had been holding a laundry basket and a butterfly net, I still wouldn’t have been able to catch a ball. I also had a phobia about being conked on the head and knocked unconscious by a hard-hit pitch, so whenever the ball came toward me, I ducked and threw my arms over my head. Soon, the teacher realized there was another position I was much better suited for…on the bench.
I did, however, excel at one thing in gym class…falling. I fell off the balance beam. I fell off the monkey bars. I fell off the dumb rope with the knots in it.
To this day, I still believe our gym-suit bloomers are what kept us girls from getting severely injured in gym class. We could have jumped off the roof wearing those things and they’d have puffed up with air and gently floated us to the ground. Except for mine, that is. My snaps would have burst open, the air would have escaped, and I would have plummeted to my death.
At least I wouldn’t have had to suffer through any more gym classes.
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