Some of us suffer from ‘jock angst’. This is an inflammation of the soul that is arguably more disagreeable than jock itch, and is likely more pervasive.
Although I’ve suffered from it for years – nay, decades – nay, my entire life from the time I entered first grade. It came to me this morning, however, that I wasn’t alone in this.
Wendy said this morning she’d be really interested in utilizing the flashy new fitness room at our town community center. But, she said, she was hesitant because she probably wouldn’t meet the standards of the regulars at this place of treadmills and exercycles and other stuff that probably doesn’t render one any fitter than a good walk can.
“Aha,” I said. “You’re afraid they will laugh at you and treat you with scorn.”
“It goes right back to school PE class,” she said, while agreeing with me.
PE class. The entire concept fills me with pent-up stress from a time gone by. That’s because, to me, there was nothing worse than those few blocks stuck in my timetable that demanded I don what was called ‘strip’ (navy blue shorts and a white T-shirt) and show up at the gym so I could face an hour of remorseless humiliation.
You see, I was one of ‘those’ kids. Not the fat kid who was picked last and even then grudgingly because the other guys had him last time, but the second last kid. You see, I wasn’t completely terrible at whatever athletic prowess garbage we were charged to participate in on a particular day. Not completely terrible, but ‘pretty’ terrible.
Apparently Wendy was the same. It’s one of those areas of commonality that makes me love her because I know we’re not going to ever ever spend a Wednesday evening on a volleyball court.
Oh, I have no quibble with jolly good exercise. I have always kept moderately fit and I love to walk, hike, swim and assorted other things that demand expenditure of musculature. And when I was in school I was a merry participant in assorted track-and-field endeavors. No, it was in team sports that I flailed. It was when somebody had to count on me. As I have told assorted wives, “just don’t count on me.”
And the ethic of gym class always got me down. You know, if a kid is hopelessly thrashing about in, say, math class, a decent teacher will try to pound the concepts of sums and long-division into his thick skull. Math klutzes don’t become objects of group derision. In fact, I know otherwise respectable people today who say with undisguised pride “Don’t ask me to add it up. I’m hopeless with numbers.” Others in the area will nod approvingly.
PE class was different. In the first place, the bozo in charge of it was a jock. Jocks were, it was my belief, guys that weren’t smart enough to be ‘real’ teachers. I know that by now I should have altered that opinion, but I just don’t choose to.
And in that same gym class there were other fledgling jocks and, as is the case with certain species, they recognize their own and regard them with favor and even affection. Part of that favor stems from pointing out the really hopeless kids (like me) and an encouragement that they must be treated with contempt because the hopeless kids weren’t going to ever amount to a pinch of coonshit because they couldn’t dribble a basketball or spike a volleyball.
So, the junior jocks regarded PE class with delightful anticipation. They ‘knew’, you see. They knew that in class they could work out latent sadistic impulses by taunting the non-jocks and they knew the teacher (a larger version of them) would ignore their behavior. And some of them were even smart enough to be able to speculate on the future. They knew, you see, that even if they didn’t make it to the ‘majors’ of whatever their field of athletic prowess was, they were bound to score a ton of nookie in high school and college (which they’d attend on jock scholarship – that wonderfully inspired contradiction in terms that means big bucks for taking meathead English seven times and never really passing).
And then, as years go by, they could go to a local fitness center and mock (albeit a little more subtly) the people of non-jock mien.