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11/26/2003 Entry: "I Don't Need A Note From My Mother Anymore."

The problem of obesity in America today is not caused by larger portions, nor fast food, nor partially hydrogenated vegetable oils nor corn gluts. The leading cause of obesity is middle school gym class. Though in my case, algebra had something to do with it too.

I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a nerd in junior high. I was good at school work, didn't like sports, liked the arts, hung out with the wrong people. In gym class, the boys coach was the stereotypical red-faced, sweaty, angry, ex-military guy who yelled a lot. No, he was not masturbation fodder either. He probably drank; I thought I remembered hearing that one day, years later, he would show up at work ridiculously drunk, cuss at the children, and eventually pass out in his office until the Principal came to remove him. I don't know. Maybe that was a movie scene masquerading as a memory instead. But between the intimidating coach and the usual teasing in the locker room, I lived in mortal fear of second period.

Anyway, I was legitimately sick for a couple of weeks, and had a few weeks of required algebra homework that I got when I returned to school. I was trying to catch up in all my classes and make up all these assignments and getting back to feeling well enough, and not managing all three. I was able to psychosomatically run a fever, usually before gym class. You know, why not kill two birds with one stone? It wasn't that I was faking being sick: I was certainly symptomatic, but the reasons weren't conscious to me until a few weeks later. I would be out sick again for a day or two, which made me further behind. This went on for probably a month. Eventually my math teacher struck a deal, which eased the spectre of the missing homework. However the fear and disgust of gym class never dissipated.

So when I started feeling ill just before my tour of the Club One facilities last week, I was suspicious. This was the first time I'd been in a gym since high school. (The cruisey locker room I occasionally visited in college really doesn't count.) The sales rep and I looked at all the machines, the lap pool, the free weights, the steam rooms. I got a couple odd looks wandering through the locker room, overdressed in a black vest and dress pants. As we sat in his office and talked about classes and personal trainers, I just felt sicker and sicker. I told him I wasn't going to work out (...whatever that means) today because I wasn't feeling well. He suggested that I could sit in the steam room and "sweat out those toxins." At the vivid image of sitting in a small room with a lot of other people's toxins, I felt even worse.

I left with a day pass for this week that I didn't end up using. If it was psychosomatic, I managed to make myself and my roommate sick until yesterday with something like stomach flu. I nearly called in sick to work on Monday, but couldn't quite justify it to myself, even if I felt perfectly useless all day. Thankfully I seem to be back to normal in time for Thanksgiving. I think I really was sick, but I'm no less convinced that my early gym-phobia is going strong after all these years.

Maybe I should try thinking of positive gym experiences? Well, I do remember taking wrestling one winter and being "partnered up" with my friend, another sissy boy who got picked last for team sports. Each pair of boys was supposed to wrestle while everyone else watched, to pick up pointers. I won our match rather apathetically, scoring something like 2 to 1 in three matches. The other boy eventually came out as gay in high school and transferred to the performing arts magnet, where he was only slightly less bullied by the jocks.

Oh, right, positive experiences. I'm thinking. (And I know...the erotic ones don't count.)

There must be something besides the fear of death that can get me to exercise. That's the thing about phobic thinking, though: one is already recoiling from fear, except that it's for totally irrational reasons.

The sales rep called back yesterday asking if I'd managed to get back to the gym; I told him no, and that I was reconsidering if I was going to join a gym at all anytime in the near future. Surprisingly, he put up no argument; If I've got demons to slay, then there's no point trying to tack a monthly fee on them too.

Replies: 3 comments

I can so identify with you. I was one of the "fat girl" contingent in my jr high school gym days. *sigh* I look at those pictures of me then and wish I was that "fat" now. But I am deeply self conscious of exercising in front of others. I take yoga classes because there, most of the women are older or fatter or less flexible or all three and you aren't supposed to look at each other...

Posted by Sherri @ 11/28/2003 03:06 PM PST

I am so with you on that gym-phobia business. I hate being there. It seriously scares me.

Posted by :: jozjozjoz :: @ 12/01/2003 11:15 PM PST

Heh. I hated PE classes in school. I was always among the last to be picked, if not the very last. Dodgeball. Oy. Dodgeball was the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. Who came up with that torture? Great, now I have to go rant in my blog.

Posted by Jeremy @ 12/03/2003 01:55 PM PST

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