« Summer Afternoon in Ohio | Main | My Last Softball Game »

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Girl Who Hated P.E.

By Marcy Belson


1950, Arizona, a fat little thirteen-year-old girl shows up at the local high school to register and is given a list of items needed for the first day of school.

For the P.E. Class - and there was no choice about this; everyone took one hour a day of P.E. - you were to have white shorts, a white blouse and a pair of tennis shoes and white socks.

Up to this point in time, the only tennis shoes I had seen were on the feet of the Julian High School basketball team. They were lace-up high tops. I don't think I knew that kids wore any other kind of tennis shoes.

So, with money from my mother, I went to the one and only department store in that small town and I purchased the required items, including one pair of white, high-top tennis shoes.

Do you remember your first day of high school? Can you imagine being the youngest person there, you know no one and no one speaks or smiles.

You find the correct rooms for your classes in a three storied building and then discover the P.E. building is at the far end of the property past a field used for softball games so it is a hurry, hurry situation. You must not be late on the very first day.

Quick, quick, change clothes and line up for the body count. Wait, am I the only girl in the class with HIGH-TOP shoes? Yes, cry baby, that's you. Not only are you ugly, fat and a baby, you are wearing the wrong shoes.

Okay, go home, tell mother about the terrible mistake. She is not sympathetic, money does not grow on trees and the high-top shoes will be worn and who cares anyway?

Guess who is the very last person to be picked for any team? Guess who has never played any of the games? Not tennis, not badminton, nor softball or basketball, zero, nada. Guess who will never be a jock? Guess who hates and despises P.E.?

That was then and this is now.

I go to exercise class twice a week and two more hours per week of chair yoga classes. I don't wear high-top shoes, nor shorts and I really don't give a rip who stands behind me to view my awkward maneuvers in class.

I am minus one shoulder. Thanks to a very awkward fall down a concrete staircase, I have an artificial hip. And for some strange reason, when I stand with my feet apart, my knees touch, I am definitely not a model of grace.

I care not, bring it on. With my two left feet, I have found my place and it is just fine.

Wish that P.E. teacher could see me now. I rock with two-pound weights.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Well told, Marci. Who doesn't look back on high-school PE class as intimidating and humiliating, especially for some of us.

I was a shy skinny kid with pale legs since I didn't spend the summer before lying on the beach. To make things worse, I had terrible eyesight and had to wear very thick glasses everywhere but in the shower.

It sounds as if you're doing just fine these days, though, and as you say, "Bring it on."

Marcy - Funny story!

But, I have a bit of trouble with the described pudgy kid in your story. Certainly not the cute budding yogi, balancing on her arches pictured at the beginning of your piece! - Sandy

Always enjoy your memories and attitude then and now. How many of us would be willing to live those high school years ?
Not me.

Oh Marcy, how I hated P.E. too!! I was the youngest and skinniest in my class and add in slowest and least coordinated. It was horrible. I loved to ride my bicycle and skip rope and play hop scotch but I was no good at team sports. Ack!

PE is a so traumatic for most kids. So few children take PE casually. But what just got me were having to take showers together. One big room where everyone has to get naked in front of everyone else. That's bad at any age. Good grief.

Thank you for the comments, it's good to know most of us share the same miserable experiences!
I dealt with mine by totally ignoring everyone around me, thus, I added the dimension of having few friends.

I agree that you did not look like a pudgy teenager.

I have never cared much about what others think of me and still don't. However, I will admit this attitude can sometimes get one into trouble

Cute story.

I was so modest, and the dressing room offered no privacy. It was my most dreaded class.

You go Marci!!

Marcy, you are definitely a writing grace. I loved the way you brought us, your readers, into the time back then.

I felt so vividly being in my own phys-cultura (P.E. was called Physical Culture in Soviet Union) uniform. After we came back from Algeria and after the sudden death of my father, teachers started "faking" my P.E. grades and making them higher, so that my average would be the top mark, since the rest was ok. They definitely meant well for me and for the school, but my schoolmates started detesting me. So, I joined a volleyball team, to prove to all that I can do it by myself, and tried to do the most difficult exercises as best as possible and without the obligatory "moan" before doing an exercise. I did become better, what quieted the critics, but the running was still an issue. I loved my P.E. teacher during the last two years at school (something like high school in US). She didn't care about my average but required me to achieve what was needed to get the necessary grade. But she did something interesting. She asked a girl from my class, who was freed of P.E. because she was in athletics and participating in regional and republication competitions, to run the 2 km I had to run with me. I think her name was Olga (or shortly Olia). She motivated me, slowed and accelerate me when necessary, gave tips about my breathing and holding arms, distracted me with small talk, and I came with the top time into finish line. I will never forget this. And I will never forget the teacher (Maria Grigorievna, as we called the adults back then by their first name and father's name, without a surname) who knew exactly what I needed for growing (and I don't mean the physical growth here :) ).

Sometimes I also wish she could see me today.

Thank you very much, Marcy, for waking these memories in me!

Marcy that is a ice name - my 46 year daughter shares that name. I hated PE and in HS was able to take study period instead. I can not ride a bike or do anything sports....tried them all and failed miserably. Ice skating was the biggest disaster of all - I fell and hurt my cockcyx bone at 30 and now have cock pain at 70.

Well told. My pain and embarrassment was not my sneakers but my gym suit, all of the other girls had cute suits with flared skirts, mine (cheaper) had bloomers. But I got through it. Many year's ago while on an outing with a friend and her little girl, my friend said to me after checking out my very colorful socks, "I love you, you are personal my Auntie Mame in every way." and gave me a hug. My fiend has died, her daughter is in the 30's and I am her "Auntie"

Oh Vannie, thank you for your comments! I, too, love colorful socks! It's neat that you are a Auntie Mame!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment