Posted by: chartroose | January 12, 2009

Kick Me: Adventures in Adolesence

I decided to read Kick Me before tackling some of the novels that have been patiently waiting in my TBR stack(s) for many, many months.  I’m presently not in the mood to read about serious subjects, so the creeping piles of dramatic and tear-inducing books which are threatening to suffocate me as I sleep will just have to wait a little while longer, and no complaining allowed!  The other day, my pug jumped up on the couch, and one of the teetering stacks that I placed on top against the wall went tumbling down on his head.  He screamed bloody murder (pugs scream like little girls) and dashed under the kitchen table, where he remained in a state of cowering wimpiness for several hours.

Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence is Paul Feig’s memoir of his secondary school experiences, and it’s pretty amusing.  Feig was the creator of television’s Freaks and Geeks back in the ’80’s, and he’s also an actor, producer and director.  He’s kind of an incredible guy.  I had no idea! 

Feig hated organized sports and gym class. My favorite story is one in which he has to undress in the locker room for gym while wearing underwear that his mom adorned with a colorful butterfly.  His classmates go bonkers when they see the colorful appliqué, and start yelling “FEIG’S A FAG, FEIG’S A FAG,” over and over again.  He says, “They had come unhinged.  Apparently they’d never seen decorated underwear and the sight of it had turned them into the kids from Lord of the Flies.”

Feig may have suffered daily at the hands of his heartless peers, but they never broke his spirit.  He was a self-confident kid and he became a successful and self-assured man.  It’s refreshing to read a memoir in which the protagonist is able to take the awkwardness of his youth in stride and recreate his gawky teenaged experiences to his advantage as an adult.  Read this–it’s light and fun.      

Now for your continuing enjoyment, I’d like to present one of my worst middle-school experiences.  We’ve all had them; even the most popular kids have a hard time during early adolescence.  After reading quite a bit about this stage in a person’s life, I’ve come to the conclusion that both girls and boys suffer equally, but they suffer in different ways.  Boys have to deal with testosterone poisoning, so there’s all that aggressive crap that they have to dole out to each other every day.  Girls are mean and snotty, and there’s no meaner and snottier time than early adolescence.  During my early teen years, I suffered from an almost overwhelming sense of self-consciousness, mostly due to my height.  I was the 2nd tallest girl in school, so it was impossible for me to disappear the way I wanted to.  I was also the gangliest, most uncoordinated creature on the planet, and my klutziness haunted me until I finally figured out what to do with my mantis-like limbs after starting high school.  Here’s my story:

Chartroose’s Dance of Degredation and Despair

I fell in intense like with a boy when I was in the 7th grade, and this crush lasted until the end of my 8th grade year. The guy that I was crushing on was every girl’s dream.  He was one of the few boys who was taller than I was, and he had clear skin and knew how to use deodorant.  This was incredibly impressive to me, since many young adolescent boys are greasy, blackhead-riddled, stinky things who make their female classmates shudder in horror if they pass too close to them in the hallways.  For the purposes of this story, I’ll call my crush “Bill,” because Bill is a good and wholesome boy’s name.

The dance of despair took place in 8th grade gym class, which, as we all know, is the worst class in middle school by far.  Gym is the place where you’re the most vulnerable and exposed.  Back in the day, we were forced to wear dreadful bluish-colored one-piece polyester gym uniforms with snaps on the shoulders.  They made us feel like we were gigantic infants wearing onesies.  Since they were 100% polyester, they’d make us perspire like crazy and begin to smell awful about two seconds after we poured ourselves into them.  We also had to wear knee high tube socks without stripes.  If we wore striped tube socks, our hatchet-faced pseudotransexual gym teacher would become angry, which really didn’t bother us all that much because she was perpetually angry anyway.

Most of the time, the girl’s gym classes and the boy’s gym classes were separated, but on the infamous day in question, the girls were to perform a special rhythmic dance for the boys.  We all knew this was the brainchild of the boy’s gym teacher since he liked to watch our breasts bounce up and down every chance he got.  (His perversion was one of the few gym related things I didn’t have to worry about, since my body closely resembled Olive Oyl’s).  Several days before the big performance, we were separated into random groups and told to choose our own music and choreograph our own dance.  Each member of the group was given a small bouncy playground ball  which was to be incorporated into our routines.  In my group, there were a couple of those perfect little squealy girly-girls that all moderately intelligent normal girls love to hate.  They took over the choreography, and the rest of us just went along with what they said because we simply didn’t care enough to argue about it.

I learned something very important about myself during this dreadful time:  I have absolutely no rhythm.  I was by far the worst participant in my group.  I can throw and catch a ball just fine, but not while trying to move my body in a graceful manner.  Even now, I’m about as graceful as a zombie, so you can imagine what I must’ve looked like back then.  I would throw the ball in the air and try to catch it while executing a split jump and end up losing my balance and taking a nose dive onto the hard wooden gym floor.  I’d try to pass my ball to another member of the group while twirling like a fool and accidentally bounce it off my knee, and it would then zoom across the gym and gleefully interrupt another group’s practice session.  I’d try to catch a ball that another member of my group tossed my way while attempting to pose in an arabesque-like manner and fall down with a crash, my gangly arms waving feebly like the appendages of a dying tarantula. 

My teammates, appalled at my lack of coordination, held a powwow and decided there was only one solution to the terrible situation I had created:  I was to do my own little routine while they did their big one.  I would dribble my red rubber ball in a big circle around them while they performed their beautiful dance on the inside.  It was all I could do, or so they thought.

The day of destiny arrived, and I was a nervous wreck.  The boys were going to be watching, and, to make matters worse, Bill was going to be there.  I could barely stand the anxiety, and I broke out in a sweat that dampened my polyester gym uniform more than it had ever been dampened before.  I and my glistening armpits took to the gym floor, anxiously awaiting the beginning of the dance.  The music started and I began my circle bounce walk.  I had dribbled perhaps three or four steps when the biggest catastrophe in the history of my little life happened.  The ball bounced off my foot and went flying into the bleachers, where  it clipped Bill on the side of the head and bounced off the wall behind him.  After a collective gasp from the audience, the entire group burst into raucous laughter.  It was the most embarassing moment I’ve ever experienced, and I rushed into the locker room and locked myself in one of the toilet stalls where I sat and wept silently and steadily for what seemed to be an eternity.  I could barely look at Bill after that, and my schoolgirl crush was completely and utterly dead.

The funny part of all this is that Bill actually tried to talk to me a couple of times after that dreadful day.  I couldn’t reciprocate, though.  The humiliation was way too overwhelming.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I believe I’ve finally figured out why he developed a sudden (and fleeting) interest in me.  It’s very simple:  guys like to be bonked on the head.  Also, they sometimes need to be bonked on the head in order to become aware of your existence.  Men are elemental like that.  If I had known then what I know now, I would’ve laughed with the crowd, retrieved my ball, and finished the routine.  Maybe Bill and I could’ve become friends, especially if I were to bonk him every once in awhile.

The End

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Responses

  1. What a fun story! God, I have blocked out most of middle school, because while I wasn’t teased, I was horribly ‘out of it.’ And I went from being really pretty in to really ugly in the summer between 7th and 8th grade. *shudder*

  2. That looks so good and I love the cover. When we lived in France, the boys and girls changed for PE in the same room. Our son was in Kindergarten and first grade so he didn’t care. We had friend’s who had a 15 year old son – on his first PE day he had on underwear that pink from being washed with something red. He was mortified.

  3. Don’t you wonder if gym teachers actually wake up in the morning thinking of new and creative ways to humiliate young humans? I’m pretty sure it must be true. Sounds like a dreadful experience – one of those things “you’ll laugh about when you’re older” right? Or at least one of those things you can make your blog readers laugh hysterically at when you’re older. 😉

  4. What a great (and I mean great for its humerous qualities, not because of the content) story! I, too, absolutely abhored gym class, especially the dancing unit when we did not have to dance FOR the boys, but WITH the boys. Absolutely mortifying, especially to someone who has a complete fear of sweaty hands. The book looks like just the read for a down day!

  5. OMG that was hilarious!!!! Isn’t middle school simply the worst? The other day I reassured my 7th grade son that although there are some weirdos out there for whom high school was the happiest time of their life, there is no one, and I mean NO ONE, who looks back fondly on middle school. He seemed very relieved.

  6. Gawd, I hope I don’t have to sub for the PE teacher.

    Wonderful post.

  7. Middle school is terrible, isn’t it? This was one heck of a review. I believe that your feet were for once taking charge and you blew it. Who would have known that feet could be so smart?

  8. Oh, thanks for sharing that, Char. It definitely made my night…I might have to share my own middle school nightmare sometime. Until then, I’ll simply recommend Feig’s other memoir, Superstud, which is the story of how he ended up a 24-year-old virgin and proceeded to try to lost it…over and over and over. It’s painful but hilarious.

  9. Sounds like a funny book. I’ve only seen a few episodes of Freaks and Geeks, but always wanted to see more.

  10. You are funny. Loved your review and loved your story as well 🙂

  11. LMAO! Well that was pretty frikkin’ funny. You should write a high school memoir, if all the stories were that good it would be a best seller in no time 🙂

    On the bright side, imagine if it happened in a school nowadays – there’d be videos on YouTube and pics on Facebook before the ball stopped bouncing!

  12. Forgive me, but that is one of the funniest stories I have ever heard! I’m crying, I’m laughing so hard.

    I’m glad you survived to tell it.

  13. I just recently read Paul Feig’s middle grade novel Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut.

    What a great middle school story. I have several very embarrassing ones as well…

  14. I don’t mean to laugh at your memory of truly the most horrendous grade-school gym experience anyone could endure, but I had no choice. It was hilarious.

    In eighth-grade gym, I dislocated my finger while playing volleyball well for the first and only time in my non-athletic career. Seriously, it was at a 95-degree angle. Made me sick to my stomach just to look at it, it was so unnatural. I still remember the vice-principal telling me cheerfully to have a nice day as my dad is carting me off to the doctor’s. Not as bad a memory as yours, but 8th-grade gym is not fun for anybody.

  15. Teen boys love to be bonked. He could’ve been your soul mate…….

    Poor traumatized pug. Read what makes you happy! When it’s gloom and despair’s turn, you’ll know. 🙂

  16. Not entirely sure about the ‘being bonked on the head’ thing. As far as I can recall, me and my mates wanted attention from the girls, although I think things like “them talking to us” would have been preferable to “them kicking things into our heads”, but then again, given the normal teen angst thing mixed up with a whole pile of hormones sloshing around would probably mean most teenage lads would happily settle for that…

    Good story though!

  17. Oh lord…that was funny!! Isn’t it amazing how horrifying something like that was back then?

    Jr. High sucked…but I really liked High School. God, I was weird!

  18. gym class was always awful. how humiliating. I couldn’t help laugh. your “Bill” sounds like he was a nice fellow, too!

  19. “…intense like” – a better name for puppy love.
    I taught (and principaled) middle school for years and watched dances like this occur repeatedly. Although we can try to mitigate the way kids treat each other, I worked hard to keep the adults from making it worse. It seemed, however, that some of the adults forgot just how traumatic middle school can be.
    At least you’re laughing now, some people never seem to get over the trauma.

  20. I *love* your story. It’s so funny although it wasn’t at the time of its happening. It’s growing pain so they said!

    I see myself more of a victim of testosterone poisoning. LOL I didn’t get along with most of the boys, whom I thought sloppy, uncouth, and stupid!

  21. Ah, you have captured that horrific early adolescent time so perfectly in this post. You do know that we are twins separated at birth, right? I was also the 2nd tallest female in my junior high, skinny as a stick, flat as a board-nothing that would jiggle anywhere, completely uncoordinated, always hunched over in a vain attempt to minimize my height- which was absolutely mortifying. I blushed at the slightest provocation.

    Ugh, junior high was hell. My mother used to remind me of the ugly duckling story and would forever be predicting that one day I’d turn into a beautiful swan, and everyone would be jealous of my height and that I was effortlessly thin. This did not help because I felt that even my own mother could see how ugly I was.

    I remember being relieved that there was one poor soul who had it worse than me because she was just a little bit taller than I was-maybe an inch or two- but to make matters worse she was “big boned” (as my mother would say) and also had a horrible name (her first name rhymed with her last name). This made me feel better about myself, knowing that I wasn’t as bad off as SHE was.


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