Efforts have been made to encourage me to become athletic, if not an athlete, and all of the efforts have failed. I did learn to ride a bicycle when I was a kid, , but I was clumsy on roller skates—there were no sidewalks in our neighborhood—and didn’t get any better even when skating parties were a part of junior high social life. I was terrible at anything that involved throwing, catching, or hitting a ball, and naturally I was never chosen to be on a team, even when the teacher said I should be allowed six strikes (there was no chance I’d hit it no matter how many strikes I was allowed). Also, I was a clumsy runner. All of this meant that I hated recess, because I was so terrible at the games other kids loved.
In junior high I was forced to take gym classes and did my best to find excuses for NOT taking gym classes. Scared to death of tumbling (I couldn’t even turn a somersault) and all forms of gymnastics, awful at field hockey and basketball. Then I heard a rumor that you had to be able to stand on your head in order to graduate from high school, and for years I lived in fear that I would be the first straight-A student denied a diploma for not being able to stand on her head.
I thought college would be better. It wasn’t. During my freshman year I aced all my courses except for a B in physical education. Sophomore year was more of the same. It ruined my GPA.
A few years after college I fell in love and took up skiing but never got past the bunny slopes. Later, someone talked me into trying ice skating, with predictable results. My mother had once sent me for golf lessons, which, naturally, didn’t take (she wasn’t good at sports either), and years later, still trying to find a socially beneficial sport, I signed up for tennis lessons. After a few weeks of whiffing the ball and hearing the instructor repeatedly yell, “Keep yer eye on the BALL!” I gave that up, too. Sometime in my forties I learned to ride a horse, sort of, but gave it up after I fell off and creaked around for weeks. I also swam a lot, but not very well, and developed a chlorine allergy.
But now, finally, after all these years—decades!—I’ve found something I like: walking. I walk every morning, usually close to four miles. I even have a Fitbit to keep track of my mileage, including whatever else I rack up on a treadmill at the gym. Yes, I go to a gym, an hour three times a week, and work in a desultory fashion on my abs, pecs, delts, glutes, quads. It’s mindless, and I like that. I admire the guys and their tattoos. I have a few gym buddies.
I wish my old gym teacher could see me now. Even if I still can’t stand on my head.