The horrors of gym class

16 Mar

Collin just walked in the door from school.  It’s Friday, P.E. day for him.  It’s the last class of the day so he comes home in his track suit in various moods.

Today’s mood?  Disgruntled. 

It’s rugby time in P.E., a sport Collin is not thrilled will.  Even better, it’s all done outside.  And today? It’s raining.  So at some point, they were all down on the ground in the mud. 

He’s so thrilled. And wet.

I do have some degree of sympathy for him. I was never fond of gym class.  I am not an athletic gal.  Never was.  I spent a good portion of my freshman year of high school in the nurse’s office getting an ice pack to place on the imprint of whatever sport’s ball was on my face (tennis/volley/foot).  By spring, I had at least learned how to duck, so I never got a softball in the face.

But those blows to the face weren’t the most traumatic part of high school gym class.  Nor was it the shorty shorts they forced us to wear back in 1988.  Or making 75 girls square dance for six weeks. 

No.  It was swimming.

Yes, my high school had a pool.  So of course, we had to take six weeks of swimming freshman AND sophomore year.  Just in case they didn’t humiliate you enough the first year, they got a second chance at it. 

Did I mention it was a co-ed gym class?


So, at 14 years of age, they would shuffle us all into the proper changing rooms, where we first had to shower before getting our school-issued bathing suit.  The female gym teacher would sit by the closet of swim suits and hand them out once you finished showering.

No, you’re reading it correctly – we had to wear a bathing suit they provided. 

As if that wasn’t fun enough, they were color coded by size.  By size.  BY SIZE! COLOR CODED! 

The only safe color was red.  Red was the “normal” size.  Blue meant you were too skinny, green meant you were overweight. There was also the dreaded black bathing suit, but no one ever needed that in my class. 

Now, this is the only part where the girls lucked out.  Our suits were 1950’s style full coverage suits, including a little extra fabric panel across the front bottom edge, just across the crotch.  In case you had any inkling of stealing one of these beauties, each suit had the letters OLCHS down the front in black marker.

The boys wore Speedos. I have no clue if they were marked up with the school initials.  I never looked. 

But wait!  There’s more!

Even being in the red suit category didn’t mean you were out of all danger.  Oh noooo!  Most of the red suits…were long torso suits.  There were a handful of short torso ones.  There was no distinguishing of the two except a rumor that the slightly more faded red suits were the shorter torso’ed ones.  The problem with the long torso suits was that when you swam forward, water would cause it to float open more.  Much to the boys delight.

One girl brought in safety pins, to try to pin the shoulder straps tighter.  She was chastised.  Pins might ruin these precious items!  So then we figured out that we could use hair ties to bind up the extra strap length.  Not pretty, but it worked. 

Now, once you were showered, wrangled on the suit over your damp skin, put on the swim cap, you had to go line up on the pool deck.  Where you could not bring a towel out onto.  There you stood, cold, wet, arms strategically crossed in a certain way depending if you were a boy or a girl, hopefully wearing a red suit.

The only comfort was that everyone was suffering the same humiliating scenario. 

But wait!  Yes!  There is more still!!!

If you were a girl during a certain time of the month, you got to wear your street clothes and announce to the class that you had your period.  It was especially fun if you had the teacher I had sophomore year, who believed that a girl’s cycle could only last five days, no more.  And he counted weekends. 

Good times…goooooooood times…

Six weeks of this fun.  Every dang day.  After a while, you became numb to it all.  But you never truly forgot. Oh no. 

My son should be grateful to be playing rugby, in the rain, fully clothed.  Because it could be so SO much worse.


27 Responses to “The horrors of gym class”

  1. Angel Brookins March 16, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    oh, my! I went to a school that had a pool, also. Luckily, our suits were ALL black, but the same shower then suit-up scenario where we paraded naked in front of the teacher who handed out the suits … ick.
    Lucky me, I was overweight and floated well! My school policy was to hand out tampons with the suits, no excuse to miss swim class for your period! The California districts were very progressive, in that way!

  2. Renee Anne March 16, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    I, too, hated gym class during swimming. We, thankfully, were allowed our own suits but it was still outrageously humiliating. I think there were enough complaints that they actually started separating the boys and girls for swimming (meaning that while the boys were doing weights & basketball – three weeks each, the girls were all doing swimming and then we’d switch)…I think I was out of high school by then.

    Throw in the fact that I had to wear specially made earplugs and a swim cap to my first-hour PE class and we might as well all decide that it was the most horrible experience. I mean, who wants to go around with a wet head all day in the winter. And we all know they didn’t give us anywhere near enough time to get all prettied back up.


    At least it wasn’t soccer practice out in the snow. We did that a couple times when I was in high school…

  3. Beth March 16, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I remember being the only one in gym class wearing the soon to be introduced “new” gym suit in 9th grade because we had just moved to town and there was no point in wasting money getting the old one and blending in! So, just in case the “new” girl at 14 didn’t feel self conscious enough, everyone had to ask me why I had that weird gymsuit on! I guess it was a conversation starter, but didn’t see that at the time!

  4. maryct70 March 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

    That sounds like it should be the scene from a movie, set in the 50’s. You know, one of those movies where they exaggerate the horrors of getting through high school to get a laugh… except for you it was reality! I cannot tell you how glad I am that our school did NOT have a gym…I would probably be in therapy to this day.
    My condolences!

  5. Nara March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Sweet Jesus. So glad my little Catholic high school did not have a pool…..

    • Mara March 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Ummm, I typed “Nara” for some reason, I meant Mara:-)

  6. Mara March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    My comment got lost…oh well. Just really glad my high school did not have a pool, oy!

    • Courtney March 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      Mine either Mara….the horrors!

  7. Katarina Hit March 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    The pool at my junior high was one of the main reasons I wanted to attend, even though most of my friends were going to a different school. We got to wear our own suits. I just loved to swim and be in the water so if it was embarrassing, I don’t even remember! I guess I am very much in the minority with this.

  8. Theo March 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Damn we’re strong women! Despite all the psychological drama of gym class (picture being on the trampoline when your period starts) we’re still kicking a** and taking names.

  9. niki March 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Oh you just brought back so many horrible flashbacks! Only difference is our school’s were all green, whew! Color coordinated to size??? I can’t imagine the horror!

  10. Aspergers Girls March 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    OMG, about the street clothes. Great post.

  11. Christine March 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    I take back every complaint I had about high school gym. It was apparently gym Nirvana and I didn’t realize…..


  12. Anja Olson March 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Oh my, it is amazing the things we endured! Thanks for literally making me laugh out loud on a day I really needed it!

  13. Michelle Longo March 17, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    Good grief. That sounds downright horrible.

  14. Rachel March 19, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    I believe all childhood trama began with gym class…..and the nazis that were gym teachers

    • phoebz4 March 19, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      We had a gym teacher that was retired military and treated us as troops in training.

  15. wonkafonka March 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Oh holy crap. I want so much for this not to be true. The color-coding… god…..isn’t being a teenager hard enough??? Gah. Shouldn’t have read this right before bed – nightmares!!!

  16. Sam March 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Did you by chance go to Oak Lawn Community High School? Just curious because the initials are the same.

    And by the way . . . .so glad we didn’t have a swimming pool even if it was an all girls school.

    • phoebz4 March 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      Why yes, yes I did 🙂

      • Sam March 22, 2012 at 9:46 am #

        My two oldest kids graduated from there and my youngest is a junior there right now. I also worked there for a few years. Small world!! They don’t have uniform swimsuits anymore but, considering the bathing suits that some of the girls wear, it might not be such a bad idea!!!

  17. Heather H March 22, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    I graduated high school in 1998.
    Just like you described, we had to strip naked at our lockers and then walk naked through the locker room on our way to the open group showers. The teacher would watch us shower to make sure that we were using soap. After we were showered-up we had to stand in line and wait for our names to be called off by the teacher so that we could then walk over to her to get a school-provided swimsuit. The swimsuits never fit correctly. One day your swimsuit might be too tight and cut into your skin, and the next day the swimsuit you were given might be too big.
    Thank God it was a private girls school, because on the days that the swimsuit was to large it was not uncommon for boobs, be they mine, or other girls, to pop out while swimming. I kid you not!

  18. michelle March 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    Wow! Did we go to the same high school? I was in high school in the eighties and your story is my story! It was horrible to live through but reading your blog gave me a good laugh this morning – Thanks 🙂

  19. inmandyland2 April 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    I stumbled over here via Facebook and have spent an enjoyable hour at work delving into your blog. This post in particular made me giggle. Mostly because the six weeks of swimming when I was in high school was just as bad. Made worse by the fact that I couldn’t swim – which for some inexplicable reason my PE teacher never believed. To pass the test, we had to tread water for five minutes.

    I spent most of it bobbing up and down and trying not to drown.

    Which is actually still my preferred method of “treading water”.

    • phoebz4 April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed yourself here. My sympathies on the swimming class. I had a similar incident, where I “failed” doing one of the strokes because of a foot cramp – and I tried to keep swimming. My teacher didn’t believe me until I showed up the next day with a doctor’s note and my sprained foot all wrapped up. Good times…gooood times…

  20. Ann Marie Ruschill Newland November 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    So glad I did not go to OLHS!! Whew!!

    Yes, I am really just reading your blogs for the first time and really, really, really enjoying them. I should be working though!! Your site is blocked during the work day but it is after 5 pm!

    • phoebz4 November 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

      LOL! Well I’m glad you’re finally able to get to them!

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