LUCY BURDETTE: The scene. Junior high school gym class. The action. The gym teacher tells the class to drop to the floor and give her 50 sit ups. (Or was it 100? Could it have been 100?) We do our crunches and one by one stand back up. I know I didn't do 50, but I'm hoping she won't notice. The gym teacher hisses: “I know you people didn't do 50. If you didn't finish drop now and finish.” The class freezes, not a rustle. When I can no longer stand the agony of knowing that I lied, I drop to the ground and students around me begin to drop too. So that's my first memory of gym class.
|Love the girls watching!|
My high school gym days weren’t much better. I think we could have won hands-down for the most hideous uniforms. They were one piece salmon jobs that snapped on and off. And white wool socks. And white sneakers that had to be polished with white shoe polish to pass inspection.
And I was no high school athletic star either--though I partly blame this on the pre-Title 9 days, when women were cheerleaders and men, athletes. All that aside, my only “D” in 12 years of school was in volleyball. (Hey, I was short back then!)
How about you guys? Gym rats?
HALLIE EPHRON: What I remember about my first gym classes is having to line up. Endlessly line up. Alphabetically. Or in size places. The teacher (Mrs. Downey of the black pageboy and flesh-colored opaque hose) picked two girls as team captains and they chose teams. I wasn't popular but I was a good athlete, so I did not end up getting picked last, but it was excruciating for the girls who did. It was a shaming ritual.
Then we practiced something called "ball skills." Lining up (again) in teams and tossing a single ball from a girl on one team (who then ran to the back of her line) to the girl on the other team (who ran to the back...). There must have been a ball shortage. Oh yeah, we also played dodge ball, but all I learned from that was how to duck.
By high school there were quasi-real sports, like a version of basketball where you could only bounce the ball 3 times before you passed it. Insane girls' rules.JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I can't recall gym classes much before high school, though I remember my dread in junior high during the winter, when it seemed we girls had to play volleyball every day. I have depth perception issues due to my wonkey vision, and I was unathletic to begin with, so I was always getting nailed with the volleyball, which seemed to appear from out of nowhere right before it smacked me in the face.
In high school, we had a fabulous phys ed program: diving, square dancing, cross country skiing, kayaking. I loved it, except for the mandatory showers, which meant a mob of girls five deep around the dryers and outlets (this was in the days of Farrah Fawcett hair; no self-respecting teen would be caught dead without at least fifteen minutes of blow-drying invested in her hair.
The Boy and Youngest, who've gone through our public school system (Smithie went to an all-girl's high school) have co-ed gym classes, which are also not called gym classes any more, but "Lifetime Physical Activities." Interestingly enough, Youngest has no qualms whatsoever about being seen by boys looking all sweaty and disheveled. This may be the ultimate triumph of Title Nine!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: There was something so sadistic about gym class, starting with the teachers, who seemed to love to trade in shame.. There was the shaming if you didn't bring your gym uniform or swimsuit. There was the shame of being picked for teams (even if you weren't picked last, you felt sorry for the girl who did). And then there was the pain of being hit in dodgeball, where all kinds of aggressions were unleashed. Then there were the showers, where every new development of an adolescent body was commented on....
This is why I do yoga now!
I'm sometimes the class parent for the kiddo's gym class, and I'm glad to say it's a mostly happy time for them. Maybe because it's co-ed now? After running around the track eight times (one mile), they get to choose their activity—basketball, relay races, volleyball, or soccer. Having a choice seems nice.
|what Rhys looked like on pommel horse:)|
RHYS BOWEN: I have to confess that I loved gym, loved sports. We had a well equipped gymnasium at my all-girls school and I was quite good at flying over the horse and walking along the balance beam.
On rainy days we played this great game. All the equipment was placed around the gym and we weren't allowed to touch the ground. one girl was IT and had to catch the rest of us. When we were caught we also became IT. It was huge adrenalin rush to grab the rope and swing across to the bars as someone lunged at my feet. These days it would never be allowed for insurance reasons!
I was also on the tennis and netball teams, ditto in college. But then I always remember PE classes being supportive. I suppose that's the difference if it's all girls.HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, FORGET about it. We had to wear little red jump shortsuits, that snapped up the front, and they were grotesque. As if that wasn't bad enough, they were--oh, gosh, it was just horrible. With gym shoes, and SOCKS and there was just no way they weren't ridiculous, and humiliating.
And THEN we had to do calisthenics (it wasn't called "working out," it was just called "gym" or "stupid gym") to this RECORD called Chicken Fat. Does anyone remember it? It was HORRIBLE, I am sorry to be so capitalized, but what can I say. It was a guy singing, kind of a marching beat, and it began: "Sit-ups, every morning. Ten times! In a row!" Or something like that. The chorus, which we were ordered to sing along with as we huffed and puffed, was "GO you chicken fat, GO a-WAY, Go you chicken fat, go."
I cannot begin to describe how much we hated this.
Now, fifty years later, seriously, I heard that exact same song on TV as a commercial for something, something good, like Nike, and I leaped from my chair. CHICKEN FAT! I yelled.
Jonathan was completely baffled. As you might imagine. Anyway, this song instantly made me want to start doing jumping jacks (what good were those?) and pushups (which I still cannot do) and march in place (I nailed that part) and oddly, it made me very happy. And I knew all the words. Turns out the "guy" singing it was Robert Preston (who knew?) and the song is pretty funny.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, the horror. Our gym suits were white, snap-up-the-front one-piece things and the bottoms had elastic around the leg holes. Bloomers!!! Absolutely hideous. Even the cool girls looked awful, which should have been some compensation but wasn't. Gym was endless humiliation for me. I was short, had boobs when most of the other girls didn't, which meant endless taunting, and uncoordinated. Always picked last for anything. Could not catch a ball or hit anything with a stick. Those classes (and the teachers were always the sadistic ones) took any joy out of physical movement.
I want to be in Mattie's class.
Chicken Fat and stupid red jump suit. Which we NEVER washed. Anyone else?