Flexing My Way to Athletic Prowess

Thursday, March 17, 2016 | 0 Comment(s)

Only once, in an educational career that has spanned three decades, has my physical fitness ever been formally measured.  And, because the Devil, capital D, run's all middle schools, that time was during my 7th grade gym class. Smack in the middle of my pubescent transformation, the Board of Education had me go through a series of physical challenges a la Double Dare.

For one class period all the guys lined up next to the pull-up bar and took turns seeing which of us spaghetti-armed 80 pound towels could haul our newly smelly bodies up and over the literal and metaphoric bar. I still remember that I almost did one.  That was how horrific this experience was -- the accomplishment of barely failing to meet the lowest possible standard was memorable.  "Almost" would be the title of my one-man play, which focuses solely on middle school gym class.  The predicted run time is 3 hours. Inevitably, the pull-up exercise would devolve into watching the severely overweight students get put through this same farce. The difference now, of course was that we, their peers, had just fully embarrassed ourselves, and we took that aggression out on the most vulnerable as we mocked from the sideline. Brutal. 

I'm rooting for you Tiger.
This week of scoliosis tests and measuring arm strength always culminated in a mile run around the unofficial track that was our soccer field. While our school system lacked the funds for a pool, insecurities ran at "swimming without a shirt on" levels during the weighing and measuring period that was our middle school Combine.

I'm not a talented person. Almost everything I'm decent at now I worked hard to achieve at some earlier point in time.  One of the few talents I was "blessed" with, however, is the Sit & Reach. (I'm also a prodigious Rez player, but that's another story for another time).  The Sit & Reach was a measure of flexibility. Every student, boys and girls, sat on the gym floor with their legs straight out in front of them, about shoulder width apart.  We all lined our heels up with a black line that usually served as the baseline of the basketball court. When the gym teacher squatted in front of you, each student stretched their arms like Superman towards the black line. The grown men in polyester shorts then measured how many inches the tip of your fingers were from the baseline. If you managed to cross the line, you received a positive number; If you fell short of the line, the number was negative.

Even considering the flexible natural of the pubescent skeletal structure, only the occasional male reached his way to a positive number. I got a +4. Me and the girls who took gymnastics got +4's.  If ever athletic prowess came with a negative reputation, this was that time.

No one avoided picking on me because they feared my superhuman flexibility. If anything, they enjoyed the challenge my particular bounce back provided. Unless by flexible I meant that I could literally stretch my body into various rubber-band inspired shapes and sizes a la Elastic Man, Flatman, & Mr. Fantastic, my talent pointed me towards a road that may have passed by Avenger's Headquarters, but it ended in Coney Island.

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