I could have been a gym class hero. I could have been quite the athlete if I had had someone pushing me on. Instead, as a wee lad in wee lad school, going to gym class filled me with dread. How I survived school without an ulcer is anyone's guess. Like my will, my stomach must be made of steel.
I was a terribly shy kid. I always felt watched and judged no matter what I did. I knew there was something different about me, dare I say special, that the other kids just didn't get. During gym class I hated the games we were forced to play. They didn't fit with me, just as I didn't fit with my classmates. My grade school gym teacher, a hard man named Mr. King (he reminded me of a Ken doll), always looked at me as if he couldn't quite figure me out. It was a look of condescending curiosity just shy of a tsk-tsk and a shake of the head. And there be the problem. In truth, I think if I had been allowed to make up my own fitrness goals, doing the games and exercises that I liked and showed strength at, I would have excelled. Instead I got dodgeball and softball and blah blah blah. It was all very pedestrian. Mr. King was a crappy teacher. He didn't give much attention to those of us who might have needed it most. He had his little stars and I was not one of them.
I was always very active at home. I ran and biked and played volleyball in the front yard. I was quite athletic when left to my own devices and became a health nut with no help from school. It was at home that I picked up my first dumbbell and got all my sexy on. I had been impressed by the swollen and shocking muscle monsters I saw in the fitness magazines at the local Hooks Drugstore. There was no such encouragement in school. I found that my body took very well to my attempts at working out. When we had a fitness test one day in junior high I shocked my gym teacher - another man, shorter and rounder - and fellow classmates by boasting the most pullups. I had the strongs! This didn't keep me from being teased relentlessly, though. I was just too different, no matter how strong I was. And I was gay. Let's not forget that.
There were bright spots, though. In junior high I had a math teacher, Mr. Eckert. He was a hot number, early 20s. Coached softball. Had a fantastic butt. Wore khakis. Insane shaking when writing on the chalkboard. Anyway, I was still a shy little flower then. I had him first period so I would go directly to his class so as not to be teased by a group of boys who lived to torment me. Mr. Eckert always watched me. One morning, after finding my seat in the empty classroom, I caught him staring at me through the window at the door. He was curious. Yet unlike Mr. King, Mr. Eckert's curiosity had a gentle, almost fatherly quality to it. I have always been atrocious at math. Just awful. But Mr. Eckert was always patient. Later that year we had our final exam and he graded them in class. He marked a solid B on my paper. I gasped. That was the highest grade I had ever been given in his class. He looked up from the paper at his desk and smiled at me, then nodded. Mr. Eckert was my first older man crush. I wanted to solve HIS equation, if you get my meaning.
I never really found a gym teacher in high school or in college that I connected with, though. I don't think they're the type of people who easily connect with artsy folk like me. There always seems to be a wall there. Or it's like we're from two different worlds, staring back at each other with pity and fear. But the thing is, I do get it. In college I was supervisor of the fitness center and was there working out every single day. I grew me a very nice pair of chesticles and a sweet meat rack out back. In my books, when you come across a scene set in a fitness center, it's always based on the Horner Center at Hanover College. Weights and lifting I get. My hand/eye coordination is the issue. And now I think my lack of said coordination may have had its roots in the condition I inherited from my father. Wish I had known that then.
The Olympic Games is the only time I really understand the team spirit of sports, and that is because it focuses on the human will, on the spirit to go on no matter the cost, to compete for some bigger purpose. For betterment. In my school years, if there had been rowing or gymnastics or water polo or rugby - those are sports I could have gotten behind...and gotten BEHIND. Yeah. You heard me. Water polo...drooool... Or bodybuilding. Why isn't bodybuilding an Olympic sport? That should be a given. The whole point of the ancient games was the perfect male form. And now I've gone off point. Oh well.
No. I'm no gym class hero. I could have been. With the right person behind me. With the right patient person there holding me up and saying 'Try again', I could have been decent. Maybe not an Olympian, but then, why not. I mean, hell, trampoline is an Olympic sport. And speed walking. Speed walking, for Nike's sake!! So, yeah. Maybe I could have been an Olympian. But I'm not. And I blame you, Mr. King.
...Hehe. I kid. I kid.