We often hear that our school years were the best days of our lives, but all I can remember are years full of pain and humiliation. I certainly wasn’t one of the popular kids; probably due to the perm my nan insisted I got at her favourite salon, the perm that got me the nickname Michael Bolton. As I recall, my school years were spent dodging insults, feigning interest in subjects I had no interest in, and praying to God for some breasts. My school uniform was carefully tailored to disguise, what the boys liked to call, my ‘bee stings’. The greatest source of embarrassment came from P E- or torture time as I liked to call it. How I hated every single minute of physical education, and the only time I did enjoy it was when I sprained my ankle and couldn’t take part.
The games kit was another provider of humiliation, and having to wear a leotard around boys with my underdeveloped chest wasn’t just embarrassing, it was the reason I was single for most of my school life. Leotards were just another form of torture, inflicted on teenage girls by sadistic games teachers. I don’t care how successful or hot Madonna and Jenny from the Block are- leotards will never, ever be sexy, even if you do have some breasts to put in them. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, we were also made to play badminton with the boys in our leotards- something which has scarred me for life. How I prayed to be big boned or have a thyroid problem, or anything that would stop me looking like a prepubescent boy.
There were rebellious pupils who thought they could outsmart the teachers by forgetting their PE kits, but teachers always managed to regain control. These pupils were simply forced to borrow something out of Pandora’s Box, or the dreaded lost property box. The lost property box contained sweaty items that people had left there on purpose- items of clothes that not even a homeless person would want to wear. Now, it’s bad enough having to wear your own leotard, but try wearing a ill-fitting leotard and an old pair of pumps that have been sat in a box for several weeks!
Even when it was freezing cold weather we still had to go outside for the the character building, cross country race. This event was a time for the really athletic runners to make the uncoordinated kids feel rubbish! I was always the slowest, least competitive person ever, and instead spent the whole event chatting with the chubby kids and the asthmatics at the back. The teachers watched from the sides in their warmest clothes, while we were forced to wear an Airtex top and the smallest briefs known to man, but we were just happy we didn’t have to wear a leotard.
I’m sure that many people have wonderful memories of carefree school days, and thank school for introducing them to great friends. I did meet some people I still count as friends today, but school, especially PE, caused me some psychological damage. Hitchcock’s film ‘Psycho’ didn’t give me a fear of showers, it was the traumatising communal showers we were forced to take after each PE lesson. The only thing I enjoyed about school was the unhealthy school dinner I had every day, and the last day of school when the bell rang and I could throw away that awful leotard.