Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cold Ethyl

When I was a young girl, there were two words certain to send me into a dizzying spiral of despair: Gym class. Didn’t matter if I was enjoying a Thursday night sit-com or a fun-filled day at the park, if someone (or some thing) whispered, moaned, or even insinuated those words in my presence, all good feelings, embarrassed for having even tried to make an appearance, would sheepishly trudge back into the room where good feelings go to die and bad feelings are born. Gym class. O, thy smell is acrid, thou art evil and cruel and totally not cool.

I was not the most athletic kid. My shyness prevented team spirit, and my thick octagonal wire-rimmed glasses hampered any attempts at running fast enough, carefree -- those hideous abominations weighed approximately fourteen pounds, and nine-year-old children should never, ever be forced to run with fourteen pounds of glass attached to their faces. Oh, but this child was, and this child suffered mightily. And the patch, sweet Jesus, I would be remiss in not telling you about the patch of shame, the plastic clip-on beige wafer meant to correct my lazy eye. You might not believe me when I say that whenever I attached that patch to the left lens of my thick octagonal glasses, bright pink neon words magically appeared on that patch, like those of a Magic Eight Ball, all foggy at first, then nice and clear and hypnotic if I stood still long enough. Those words? Please shoot spitballs at me. Thank you for your time. The other children, transfixed by my magical patch, could not, unfortunately, resist its lure.

Despicable as gym class was to me as a child, what with its forty mile an hour winds whipping past my ear from overzealously thrown dodge balls, the outrageous and completely unacceptable square dancing, I hated gym class even more as a teenager. Gone were the thick octagonal glasses and magical patch, but in their place came a painful realization that I was not, in fact, slim enough or big-busted enough to endure an hour in the high school swimming pool. Many girls, as they begin to go through puberty, enter a special place, a whole other realm of torment that defies anything a young man might go through; it is a place reserved solely for girls between the ages of eleven and sixteen, and it makes the bowels of hell look like Disneyland in comparison.

What kind of jackboot-wearing turd invented the notion that a young woman should appear in a swim suit, in the middle of winter (ostensibly to put pasty, goosepinpled flesh on display), before the whole of her class, boys included, when she can’t even bear the thought of disrobing in the girls’ locker room? A sadistic turd, of course. A man or woman who wore a perpetual crew cut and baggy shorts, a semi-talented jock who never could let go of his or her high school hey day as captain of the volleyball team or quarterback for the Blue Devils, and who tried to recapture those feelings for the rest of his or her miserable life by being a gym teacher.

A sadistic hasbeen turd who secretly got off on watching you, yes you, going in and out of the showers. Which is another topic I’d like to explore, but not at this time. I’ll just leave off by saying that public showering should be optional, and that all gym teachers be forbidden from sitting in their perverted "sentry" chairs, checklist in hand, fiddling obscenely with their big shiny whistles. and lasciviously eyeing every child as they enter the shower room.

I can’t even believe this is legal.

Anyway, I skipped my entire year of ninth grade gym class. Which leads me to the point of this blog entry.

See, my oldest daughter is a student at the high school that I attended during my sophomore year. Let me say first that this school is the only school in my high school career (I attended three different schools) where I sort of, kind of enjoyed myself. I made my best grades there, and I even made some friends. But I also had to make up for skipping ninth grade gym, and was required to take gym every day of the week.

Once more for emphasis: I had to take gym every day of the week.

My gym teacher, true to form, was a sadistic turd with a crew cut and big shiny whistle. She was a cold, hard Ethyl, a mean, ugly, spiteful whore of Satan who took great pleasure in my apparent misery. She made what could have been a delightful and long-overdue year of joy into a so-so high school experience for me.

Oh, I can hear you saying, "Jeepers, how bad could she possibly have been?"

Two more words sure to put a shiver down any woman‘s spine: gym suit.

One day, when I'd "forgotten" my gym shorts, she bullied me into wearing an army green gym suit, a garment dripping with early twentieth century attitude, all poufy bloomers attached to cap-sleeved, equally poufy blouson top, both glamorous parts connected at the waist by a large strap of white elastic. The expression on that gym teacher's face when she handed that rag to me and said, spittle flying, "Put it on, Howe. NOW!" was absolutely one of the most frightening things I'd witnessed in all my fourteen years on earth. I hated her, and I'm not afraid to say that I hate her still.

Yesterday, while commiserating with my girl about the horrors of gym class, I found out that this monster not only still lives among us, but is, appallingly, my daughter's gym teacher. To say that I fear for my daughter's sanity is an understatement.

This is definite proof that, at the end of time, after the bombs have fallen and the stars tumble from the sky, the only creatures left standing on our barren earth will be cockroaches and gym teachers.

After the initial shock and awe wore off, I gently instructed my girl to bury her usual strong, opinionated personality and fierce sense of justice, and become mouse-like. I told her to always be prepared for gym class, no matter how tired or ill she may feel. I implored her to not look that evil woman in the eye and to always do as she is asked, within reason. If she picks on you, I said, pretend that her words are not hot pokers slicing through your very soul, but words of encouragement and wisdom. And do not, I said, DO NOT, under any circumstance, refer to that woman as "Cold Ethyl" within earshot.

And I also said this: If she ever, God forbid, brings out the gym suit, you have my permission to run screaming from the locker room, run screaming on home to Mama, even if you are threatened with detention. I've got twenty-odd years of pure, unadulterated hatred built up in me, honey, and it's about to blow. Give me a reason to stick my foot up Cold Ethyl's ass, give me one little reason. So don't you worry -- Mama's got your back.


At 5:44 PM, Blogger windreader said...

I know that they all have degrees in Education, but why is it that gym teachers could never pronounce my last name right. it is a rather simple name....

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

Aaah thank you for that. I luckily got excused from public gym class in the latter part of junior high because I couldn't see and so took "one on one" gym with a physical therapist that taught me to lift weights.
But I remember the ropes. Oh god, The Ropes!!!
By the way, that lazy eye patch never worked for me. I still have a damn lazy eye. ...among other lazy body parts...

At 2:29 AM, Blogger ms ralph said...

I hated gym class too, and I was always picked last when we had to team up for anything. It sucks. I'm glad for your daughter that she has you by her side, and that of course you will be willing to go to battle for her.

At 2:42 AM, Blogger The B&G said...

I recall having to shower before we went into the pool for swim class. One of the upperclassmen thought it would be funny to urinate in the enterway to the showers. Me, being ever so eager to get it over with, was the first and only person to parade through the piss-much to everyones enjoyment.

At 12:02 AM, Blogger G-Man said...

the only class I hated more than gym was Shops. To this day I get nauseous when I smell wood shavings, plastic burning or sheet metal. Fuck, what is it with those who think that gym or shops has anything to do with being successful as an adult? And how is it that jumping on a god damn trampoline and crashing on one's stomach and nearly blacking out with pain can prepare me for life beyong school? Well, it has fuck all to do with that. Oh, my gawd, you have opened some terrible wounds from my past!

At 12:21 AM, Blogger AcouSvnt said...

I hated gym class too.

I'm going to random blogs. Most of them are terrible. The ones that aren't terrible I'm leaving a comment in. Like this one.

But I'm getting tired of this now. I've commented/bookmarked four blogs (out of maybe 40). I'm done for the night.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Jeni said...

My high school gym teacher was a very masculine woman named Ms. Cox who was obsessed with making sure we all got our showers after gym class. She would even go so far as to snap the curtain open to see for herself that we were standing under the spray. The only way to get away from her eager eyes was to bring in a note from your mother that it was your time of the month. Can you imagine being in high school and needing a note from your mom that you were indeed ragging? During one particular stress filled month, I actually had two periods in one month and had to show her the pad to convince her that I wasn't lying. You brought up some really bad memories. I wonder if that old bitch is still oogling the girls at my old high school??

At 10:56 AM, Blogger AcouSvnt said...

Okay, it's morning, my brain is fresh, I can go back and read the whopping FOUR halfway decent blogs I found last night after hitting "next blog" over and over and over again.

I skipped out on gym class a lot too, and had to take double gym just like you, five days a week. The way it was scheduled, I was a senior (and gym for juniors/seniors was actually more tolerable for the most part) but had to do it half the time with the freshmen and sophomores.

I don't know how they managed to do it, but for some reason I was always scheduled to take gym with the most sadistic bullies, even though in my regular classes I was with normal human beings I could have a regular conversation with.

I was generally so angry at the other kids that I refused to try in any of the sports. In return, they always picked me last, but I likewise refused to care. I just tuned everybody out as much as possible, even when they got right in my face. It was an intensive exercise in not letting something matter.

At 2:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attended high school in the 1970's and we had a mandatory shower rule after gym class. To tell you the truth I never really had a problem with that rule though, and I would have always showered anyway because I would not have been able to stand being sweaty all day and smelling bad!

I don't think many of the other girls had any problem with the nudity thing either, after all it was only girls in there!

However we did have a cummunal shower room that was in the wide open in the girl's locker room, and when our gym teacher would watch to make sure that we were showering she would occasinally jokingly slap one of us on the bare butt as we walked by. I know that she was married, and she wouldn't stare at us while we were nude or anything like that, but I wonder what would happen today if a teacher was slapping her stundents on the bare butt in the locker room?

I do think that to this day mandatory showers should still be the rule to tell you the truth, but I don't think that the teachers should be touching the students at all though. A girl-friend of mine said that her woman gym teacher at her school would even shower in the locker room with the students, which I wonder how that would be viewed by parents today?


At 2:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I totally agree with you, showers should still be mandatory after gym class.
They never hurt anyone, and it's not right that our kids have to sit all day in class with purspiration on them and possibly develop a skin rash or yeast infection or some such problem.

But to answer your question about your female gym teacher showering with you girls I would say that there was nothing wrong with that. I'm sure it was nothing more than the woman getting cleaned up before a class or meeting!

Rebecca H

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never minded showering and being nude in the locker room, it was just the class it self that I hated. after running around and getting sweaty a shower was very welcomed. I don't think nudity was ever a problem for any of the girls really?

My problem was things like not being able to climb the ropes or do pushups, even though they let us "cheat" during them unlike the boys who had to do real pushups.



Post a Comment

<< Home