Saturday, June 21, 2008

PELS (Phys. Ed Loser Syndrome)

My daughter recently acquired a set of “High School Musical” Barbie-sized dolls for her birthday. Gabriella & Sharpee look pretty realistic and true to their models, but Troy...

“Krista, Troy looks like my middle school gym teacher, Miss Angus,” I say.


“My middle school gym teacher. She had the same kind of warm-up suit too. In fact, here----take it's creeping me out.”

Miss Angus was just one in a long “squad” of gym teachers who made my life miserable. Looking at the Troy/Miss Angus doll—I feel 11-years-old again in shiny purple shorts trying to do a “road-runner” or a memorable “flipoversommercrash” instead of a proper vault.

My family is full of artists, musicians, engineers, geeks and nerds. I think we eventually turned out a good swimmer, a Frisbee Golfer and an extreme bicycle rider, but pretty much the rest of us had PELS (Phys. Ed Loser Syndrome).

Ever since elementary school and the dreaded “Rope-to-the-Ceiling”, I’ve hated gym. Unless that rope had big knots spaced the entire length of it—my “tween” arms and abs were much too weak to take me all the way to the top. Where were the practice ropes? The ones in the private gym area where a child could explore his/her muscle strength without an audience of monkeys?

We had relay races, lorded over by Mr. Crosby, and I was forever letting my team down. It was assumed that all children were born able to “crab walk” or “bear crawl.” Apparently, I was playing with Tiddly Winks when they gave out the free “HIKE UP YOUR TORSO AND WALK ON ALL FOURS” lessons.

Middle School was the worst. Every fall we had the 880 yard run and with not nearly enough training for a PELS sufferer—it was just:

“TWEEEEET--GO!” Miss Angus would blow and shout.

A giant line of girls 100 yards across would all take off—running full speed. Having no idea how to breathe right, no idea what to do with that panicky, heart-rate reaching 300 bpm feeling, I walked…a LOT. An asthmatic and the girl with a special shoe to correct her “one leg shorter than the other “ handicap both passed me…wheezing and run/limping, respectively.

Thanks to Mr. Snarry, in 7th grade we had a Girl-on-Girl wrestling unit. I did learn some useful terminology about “center of gravity” and the correct number of hand-smacks to signify a “PIN.” But being weighed and shuffled into weight classifications and finally struggling in the middle of a circle to the jeers of nasty, hormonal teenage girls sucked!

Mr. Link made Fridays hell by emceeing our gym class dancing. There were always too many girls and those of us left on the wall were told to walk up to an already happily-paired couple, and “cut in” whenever Mr. Link would say, “Snowball” over the microphone. It was Mr. Link, and not over-use of the “cooooooo” sound effect, that ruined disco for me.

By High School it was looking like another round of gym horror stories. Badminton, Tumbling and other sports I was no good at were on the horizon for me.

Then a miracle happened…

I injured my knee and my orthopedic doctor wrote me a note that said, simply:

“Heidi is excused from gym until further notice.”

I took the note to my counselor and when she asked me to choose another class instead of gym, my eyes started shifting, guiltily--obviously, I was meant to return to gym class eventually. But the doctor never gave me official notice and I never had to take another gym class. Justice was served--PELS style!

P.S. If Miss Angus is reading this—I never, ever, EVER, took a “mandatory shower.”


Bev Spicknall said...

Yep, the ropes were a B--*CH! And so was the 800 dash and what kind of school makes you wrestle?!! I am so glad you wrote this because it's nice to know there is a name for my syndrome - PELS. Here's to losers!

Jenie Altruda said...

I am also a PELS survivor. Luckily I was diagnosed with Lupus in the second grade and never had to take Gym. NEVER. If it hadn't been for swimming my heart would be in worse shape.

p.s. there really isn't any hope for my boys is there? Just don't tell Vin. He was a football player.

Kasper in Suamico said...

I'm quite sure there is a hidden camera somewhere in the gym for all the teachers and staff to sit and watch live feed as the kids try to climb the rope. I would prefer to fashion the rope into a swing. Much more relaxing. Why would I ever want to climb a rope to a ceiling? When we're done climbing the rope.... let's play dodge ball!! Another fabulous experience...

Nicci said...

I remember the wrestling and the dancing! I think we became friends after wrestling against each other?? Yes??? I always danced with the teacher - is there anything worse for a middle school kid????

Laughing my A** off!