Friday, November 5, 2010

What's Past is Past?

Finally Friday! I'm so glad to be home!

I’ve been working on my post about my weight history and it’s been dredging up some negative old memories that I’d almost forgotten all about. One that really seems to stand out was when I was in the third grade. our gym teacher had taken my class back to our classroom after gym class, and we were waiting for our usual teacher to come back. While we were waiting, our gym teacher asked for a show of hands for who would want to play in the teachers vs students basketball game, a tradition they had every year. I’d been playing quite a bit with some kids in my neighborhood over the summer, so I raised my hand. Our gym teacher seemed a bit surprised and asked if I really knew how to play. I didn’t know all the rules, but I could shoot pretty decently, and I said so. One of the boys in my class turned to me and asked, loudly to be sure everyone heard him, if I was going to dribble the ball with my big fat stomach. Most everyone laughed and I just stood there in shock. I remember looking up at my gym teacher, expecting her to at least tell this boy to knock it off, and she was smirking! Laughing at me right along with everyone else. I was crushed. At that point I was used to hearing that type of thing from kids, but having an adult join in was a new and painful development. Even now just writing this I can feel that visceral sense of utter and total humiliation and shame.

Looking back on this now, I do go over it and wonder if there was some sort of explanation for this, if somehow I’m misremembering. But I know I'm not. I could also see that these things just don’t sound like that huge of a deal to someone who never experienced it, so maybe she just had no idea of the impact of what she did. There’s this magnification of feeling in childhood that we lose appreciation for as adults. It’s shaping who you become and how you view yourself. It’s more intense than you think. You'd certainly think a teacher would understand that. And as a phys ed teacher, don't you think it was her job to encourage someone like me to be more physical? Instead it reinforced my avoidance of activity. That as much as anything else makes what she did pretty shameful.

Anyway, I hope I didn’t drag anyone down with that story. I can imagine some of you can relate to it. It’s certainly not as bad as quite a few of the childhood experiences I’ve read on these blogs, but it’s something that's stuck with me. Most of my childhood was very happy, but sometimes these types of incidents just overshadowed the good stuff, and it feels very cathartic to share. So thanks for listening!


  1. What a ...well, bad word. Prejudice against fat people is found everywhere, even in teachers. I think gym teachers see fat kids as lazy. At least they did before fat was norm. I can imagine how bad that felt. In 5th grade my gym teacher kept me and another kid after class, weighed us and then talked to us about how overweight we were. At the time I was devastated. But, looking bad, he was very respectful and did it in private and in a nice way. But as an embarrassed kid, all I heard was, "you're fat." Maybe if I would have listened to him, I wouldn't be where I am today.

  2. Most of us have a memory or two or three just like that. My 'favorite' was sixth grade when we all took our turn stepping up to the teacher's desk and on to the scale after which the teacher announced to everyone how much we weighed. Thank God for poor Mark G who was fatter than me so I didn't have to be the fattest kid in the class.
    I don't know how you can be a teacher for as many years as my sixth grade teacher and not develop at least a little sensitivity.

  3. Many times gym teachers are the same "big dumb jocks" they were in high school and that's a shame. What could have been a very positive turning point in your life then and there just reinforced the bad self-concept that was already there at such a young age. How sad!

    So, did you play in that game or not?

  4. I want to jump in a time machine and go back and give your gym teacher a smack across the head. That was just cruel.

  5. Rebecka - Oh, what an awful experience. What is up with some of these teachers? There's some great ones, but who does something like that?

    Dr F - Yes, even when comments were kindly meant, they tended to cut anyway. I think it's just too hard for kids to figure out weight loss on their own. I mean, we're just figuring it out now!

    Nope, I didn't get to play. She really only wanted the athletic kids from some basketball camp in the game, and I just was too embarassed to push for it.

    But nowadays I'm pretty athletic thanks to some great mentors I had in high school - so there are good ones out there! Unfortunately, sometimes that bad stuff just really sticks out in your memory.