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Tiaras and Trucks

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hidden

Seventh grade gym class was my own little circle of self-conscious hell.

I couldn’t throw.  I couldn’t catch.  I couldn’t serve.  I couldn’t return.  I couldn’t dribble.
Despite years of dance classes, when I exited that stale locker room, filled with mustard yellow lockers and cracking mirrors, I became clumsy and slow to react, unable to mimic the movements that looked so simple as an observer.
To make it worse, when I ran or jumped, my overdeveloped assets participated in gym class with a mind of their own.
Eyes followed my every move.
Not actual eyes of course, but the imagined eyes that so many teenage girls feel watching and judging and laughing.
Undeserved shame hindered my efforts in class.  Trying to master athletic feats without any sort of quick horizontal movement or any vertical movement at all was impossible.
I stopped trying.
Defiantly, I stopped dressing for class. 
Defiance wasn’t causing the tears stinging my eyes as I realized what would happen if I continued to refuse to participate.  Agonizingly, I watched zeros appear next to my name in a grade book.
I forgot my shoes.  I forgot my shorts.  I had cramps.  I pulled a muscle.  Excuses ran into each other, ringing falsely through the air and falling with a thump onto the waxed basketball court.
I easily passed every written assignment and test in the class, yet my participation points dwindled into nothingness.
Looking my frustrated teacher in the face soon became impossible.  Bolstered by other girls unwilling to participate, I sat on the sidelines, pretending I didn’t want to mess up my hair or my (non-existent) nails.  We huddled on the outskirts of class, whispering about the very boys I was struggling to avoid.
Accustomed to a different sort of attention from teachers, I wasn’t sure how to act.  I could handle being called a teacher’s pet; I wasn’t sure how to handle the humiliation of bra strap snapping, and I removed myself from the situation.
Used to excellent grades, my parents were angry, especially when I tried to hide my grade instead of admitting how awful I felt during those fifty minutes each day.
By high school, I discovered sports bras, and a weightlifting class for cheerleading took the place of a regular physical education class.  Thankfully, weightlifting didn’t require a swim unit.
But I still can’t throw, catch, serve, return, or dribble.
Thankfully, distance running only requires that I put one foot in front of the other.
In a very supportive sports bra.

The prompt:
Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life.
Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Or did you bring it upon yourself?
Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?
I will do everything I can to help her not experience that feeling of embarassment
or to help her get through it with more grace than I did
I will also do everything I can to help him understand that snapping bras and laughing at self-conscious seventh-grade girls will get him in trouble
big trouble

Labels: , ,

27 Comments:

  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:44 AM , Anonymous Aunt Crazy said...

    Are you inside my head, writing about MY memories of junior high PE class? I too, was overdeveloped and uncomfortable and not athletic. I was too afraid NOT to participate, I wish I'd had your courage to stand up for myself and not do it. I hated being the only one with real boobs and everyone stared, it was awful. I am so fortunate that my daughter is an athlete, she's self confident, she did not have these same struggles as you and I but she has had different ones, ones that I tried and still try to help with. It is so hard sometimes!

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 9:20 AM , Anonymous Lance said...

    I'm a dude who liked gym class and sports. Having a house full of women who are self conscious about their bodies is eye opening, daily.

    I have had to put aside my old fashioned attitudes, easily embarrased style, and cringe worthy elements to be a dad to three girls, including a teenager.

    thanks for letting me read thi...it will help me at home

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 9:34 AM , Anonymous Carrie said...

    I didn't mind gym class and I was somewhat athletic. But I remember a few girls like you and I felt bad for them...a little jealous too since I was slow to develop :)

    visiting from RDC

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM , Anonymous Abby said...

    And you can write, and write well. And luckily, that doesn't require you to throw, catch, serve, return, or dribble...or wear a sports bra ;)

    For the record, I was an athletic one, but I STILL haven't developed boobs and I'm almost 30. Sigh. We all have our issues.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 2:06 PM , Anonymous Jennifer Barr said...

    Oh hon, there's nothing worse than adolescence. Except maybe adolescent boys.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 4:38 PM , Blogger Kir said...

    Oh my sweet friend, how I identify with this. How I hid so much of myself for so long, convinced that I was "too much" of something. And gym class was torture for me too. I just want to hug that Kel u were. One so similar to who I was...and still am when it comes to my boobs. ;) I'm just so glad we relate and understand each other on this point. LOL. Love u girl!!!!!

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 4:45 PM , Anonymous Random Blogette said...

    This so speaks to me. I was that same girl. I was a dancer until I graduated high school and I still had no athletic skills. I despised gym class. The only thing that I liked was when we did the weight room. I had amazingly strong legs and could leg press 250 lbs. That was the extent of my gym fame.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 5:02 PM , Anonymous Galit Breen said...

    Oh sweet friend- you had me laughing at -overdeveloped assets {I have those, too}- but this one? Ended up being really important.

    I love that you used your own experience to shed light on the many, many girls who feel this way and that you brought it back to parenting and teaching our kids better {for lack of a better word}.

    This one? One of my favorites from you!

    XO

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 5:09 PM , Anonymous Denelle @CaitsConcepts said...

    Heartbreakingly beautiful writing... 

    I loved these lines:

    To make it worse, when I ran or jumped, my overdeveloped assets participated in gym class with a mind of their own.

    Excuses ran into each other, ringing falsely through the air and falling with a thump onto the waxed basketball court.

    I loved this piece.  And I love the picture of your kids.. and your affirmation of raising them in a way that will hopefully prevent them from being either the self-conscious child or the child that aids in making others self-conscious.

    Excellent work.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 5:23 PM , Anonymous Cheryl said...

    So interesting, because I don't remember a girl ever sitting out of gym class, and yet I'm sure there were those who were incredibly uncomfortable. I was one of those kids who loved gym so I'm sure it never occurred to me that others dreaded it.

    Also, having NO boobs in junior high (and high school) is just as bad. Trust me.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 6:06 PM , Anonymous Coming East said...

    Middle school is such a hard time for kids to get through, isn't it?  I had the exact opposite problem.  I had absolutely nothing until I was in high school.  My mother finally bought me a training bra because I was so embarrassed to still be wearing undershirts, and all the girls could see in gym class.  Well written and heartfelt.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 6:45 PM , Anonymous Good Day Regular People said...

    The experiences that shape us, so individual.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:24 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I didn't not participate because of courage, though.  It would be a better story if that was my motivation.  I was just embarassed and retreated :(  Those years are so very hard for everyone; I wish I would have known that then.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:25 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    You are so very outnumbered!  I am worried about raising one teenage girl, and that won't happen for a while still :)

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:25 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I would have preferred slow to develop, but who knows how I would have felt had that actually been my situation?

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:27 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Thanks Abby!  A sports bra does seem rather, um restrictive, for writing ;)

    Isn't it funny how the grass is always just a little greener?  Issues, indeed!  That's why we have our blogs, right?

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:28 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    This needs to be hung in every middle school classroom in every school in every nation :)

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:29 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Now, I watch dancers (for example on So You Think You Can Dance) and am in awe of their skill and their bodies.  Athleticism shouldn't be so narrowly defined to limit the scope to sports played in a stadium.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:30 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Thank you so very much!  I didn't know it was going to turn out the way it did when I began it, but that's ok sometimes ;)

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:31 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Thank you!  I'll do my best, but adolescence is just fraught with emotions and cruelty.  Of course it can be balanced with the utter joy of discovering life at the same time, and that's how we all make it through those years, I think.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:33 PM , Anonymous Brianna said...

    I felt the same way in gym class. I am pretty sure the only sport I ever cared for was badminton (and I wasn't even good at it).

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:34 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    Isn't it funny how all of that self-consciousness was likely for nothing?  If I just would have gone out there and worked through it the first week, it would have been forgotten.

    As an adult, I realize that each girl (and boy to some extent) had their own painfully awkward, embarassing "thing", but I was just so focused on myself back then! 

    And I'm pretty convinced that no one in the world is completely happy with the boobs they were born with :)

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:36 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    It absolutely proves that we need to be supportive instead of judgemental, doesn't it?  For everything out there, it seems like there are countless facets of the same experience.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:37 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    We didn't play that! 

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 8:42 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    And it never, ever crossed my mind that it would be difficult the other way (back then).  I would have LOVED to still been in my undershirt, but now, looking back, and I can see how that is its own sort of problem. 

    Poor kids.

     
  • At July 12, 2011 at 10:52 PM , Anonymous Jdaniel4smom said...

    I never did well in gym. I tried, but never excelled in any sport. Your experience was terrible. Kids can be so cruel.

     
  • At July 14, 2011 at 8:50 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

    I get the whole physical education thing, but I don't get why it can't focus on less competitive sports, especially by middle/high school. 

     

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