That semester I intentionally flunked Phys. Ed.

Annotation 2019-03-16 211216I very much would like to forget most of my schooling years.

In the second grade, my lack of physical coordination resulted in my being taken out of regular P.E. classes and being put into "Special P.E.". It also didn't help that my teacher, Ms. Truby, ruled her classroom with an iron fist, and didn't take kindly to students who couldn't finish their math work before they had to leave for "Special P.E." (like me). Probably the sole memory that's still around is my mother having to walk to the elementary school to come get me after I was sent to the principal's office and then had to wait for her outside, hyperventilating from crying so hard.

The next year, my sister and I were enrolled in a parochial school for fourth and third grade, respectively. The boys wore insanely starched and large-collared baby-blue polyester shirts and dark blue corduroys; the girls had plaid skirted jump-dresses (eventually we got to wear much less itchy sky blue polo shirts with those corduroys). The principal was a no-nonsense Irish-born Sister of Mercy whom we were required to greet with a "Good morning, Sister Vianney!" every time she came by (she ultimately retired and returned to Ireland in 2015 after bring principal for forty years).

I spent three years at the Catholic school, all of them I'd like to forget. Not because I didn't like teachers, or teachers didn't like me (they supposedly loved me), but because the students clearly didn't. I suppose it was because in my 8-year-old naivété I thought the way that Peter Parker got turned into Spider-Man (being bit by a radioactive spider) was entirely plausible, or that I was fascinated with bringing ZooBooks with me to school. Or maybe it was because I was still very uncoordinated and could be blown over by a good breeze, and therefore sucked in P.E. (except when it came to volleyball—it was the only time I didn't get picked last because I could skyrocket a serve, even I couldn't do anything else).

The bullying was in earnest, and it was daily. If I didn't have the wind knocked out me when Sister Vianney wasn't looking, it was being shoved up against the wall of the church in the mornings and forced to "hump" the walls (remaining fully clothed, thankfully). When it reached the point that it finally got the attention of Sister Vianney, I was blamed for it.

By sixth grade there was a new fundamental intermediate school that had opened, and we left the Catholic school. I was part of the second full-three-year graduating class in 1986. I attended as an outcast and shunned attention because usually when I got it it led to more bullying by everyone else. One group of kids tried to get me in trouble after an assembly by knocking my books out of my arms and then throwing a porn novel on top of the pile before I could react and pick them up (I left it there; a science teacher picked it up). I played role-playing games for a while until the rest of the group drew up and signed a formal agreement kicking me out of their group. I had lunch alone after that. The only reason I picked up my awards was because teachers forced me to.

The same thing continued into and through high school, which brings me to that "F" in P.E. the second half of my freshman year. Failing to change out of street clothes and into one's P.E. t-shirt and shorts more than a specified number of times resulted in an automatic fail. I tried everything to avoid being poked fun at and harassed during P.E. the first semester and up until about a quarter through my second semester—wearing long sleeves and sweatpants under my t-shirt and shorts, usually, even when it was in the 90s outside. Nothing helped, until I finally decided to stop suiting up entirely and showed up the rest of the semester intentionally in my street clothes, just so I'd be sent to walk around the perimeter of the school's field and be left alone while those who followed the rules did everything else. I earned my "F" within two weeks and never suited up again the entire semester. Also, apparently the coaches never got the message as to why I stopped suiting up, or alternatively they did and then did nothing about it.

The irony of the entire situation is that I earned an "A" in every semester of P.E. after that, probably because by that point I had decided to just ignore everyone else and do the best I could.

And, again, volleyball was the only sport in which I did not get picked last.


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