Tuesday, April 1, 2014
A is for Archrival
What is it with gym class? Why is it that your childhood gym teacher is so rarely the fondly remembered favorite teacher?
More often the gym teacher is categorized with the worst babysitter who adhered to your parents TV and bedtime rules or the substitute that always made you stay seated until after the bell, so you were late lining up for the bus, so you had to sit up front.
And the whistle, the tool of shame. Ask any dog. It's never blown as a compliment. Gym class in Phoenix in the seventies included gold satin shorts that would have made Richard Simmons giddy. Before that they were a thick rubbery double knit so how could we complain, really? And we were required to shower after gym. Miss Doolittle was very firm on this point. There were three prison style pillars with multiple spouts. Middle school is the perfect age for this, instilling an abundance of confidence, especially since no one had provided hairdryers or curling irons to repair our painstakingly feathered hair.
The Presidents Fitness Challenge was the perfect opportunity for preadolescent anguish. We girls waited in line outside Miss Doolittle's office and went in one at a time to be weighed. Puberty can strike at 10 or 14 and it sucks either way. Horrifying. I don't think it factored into the fitness challenge other than to mess with you. The V-sit, curl ups and pull ups and mile run weren't enough I suppose.
The best part of gym class, other than the rumors about Miss Doolittle, was the daily reading aloud of Forever by Judy Blume by an older eighth grader who had the classic look of a 13 year old who probably had a fake ID and could borrow her dad's girlfriend's car. She claimed that she used tampons. Need I say more? Listening to her read the sexy parts of Forever almost made up for the disco shorts and the shower torture.
Mary Allison Tierney's essay The Gingerdreadman is included in the anthology Mamas Write, available at Amazon, or your local independent bookshop.