I mentioned in #3 The Invisible Student the discomfort associated with speaking in front of class. This unease was dwarfed by gym class. I attended a Catholic elementary school in Houston in the 80’s, but my classmates were no altar boys! Back then, we actually had gym class (a foreign concept to many millennials today). I distinctly remember the dread I had going to gym class, in particular in junior high. In that age you are in the throes of puberty which in itself is uncomfortable, but it is especially so when obese.
The worst part of it was changing clothes. We had a pretty small changing room. My goal was to pick one of the corners of the room, have all my clothes set up, and when I felt the least amount of people were looking or if there was some sort of distraction I would quickly change. This method seemed to work most times, but time and time again if the bullies were having a bad day they would take it out on me.
The typical taunting was exacerbated by my “choice” of gym clothes. Since I was so morbidly overweight I didn’t wear the school-monogrammed gym clothes since their XL was too small for me. Our school colors were red and white. My mother couldn’t find any red shorts in my size, solely bright pink ones! I was the constant butt of gay and fat jokes for wearing this attire.
A couple of unique traumatic instances are seared in my psyche. We had a yearly scoliosis test. For most people they possess a scant memory of having to line up against a wall shirtless and wait their turn to bend over to check for lateral curvature of the spine. For obese people, time slows down like the tastiest of maple syrups on their chocolate-chip pancakes. It was excruciating having to be so exposed with my protruding belly and hips while people snickered. When it was my turn to bend over, I would hear the fart sounds. When I would walk, people would yell “Earthquake!”
Another issue was my odor. Due to my morbid obesity it was difficult for me to wipe myself upon defecating. As a result I was prone to chafing in the genitalia and anus. My mother would apply diaper rash cream daily which had a unique odor. The kids at school knew about this and ridiculed me for it. I could see why, for I was a 13-year-old wearing diaper cream applied by my mother.
Perhaps the most memorable experience was when I was changing that a kid yanked my shorts away before I could put them on to see how many other kids could fit in my shorts at one time. The answer: 5. On many days, the bullies would just take my gym and regular clothes away from me so I would be standing with only my underwear one while the whole class laughed. You might be wondering where the coach was during this time. Coach Castro had a little office in which he remained for 10 minutes while we changed.
During that intermission, it was true anarchy in the locker room. When he did come out and it was one of those occasions where the bullies took all my clothes, he would tell them to “knock it off” and return the clothes. They were never punished. I didn’t have any recourse, for I couldn’t leave the locker room essentially naked, coach was unsympathetic, and I didn’t have the courage to ask for my clothes back. In retrospect I felt that the coach was probably a popular kid in school and likely bullied kids as well so he just thought “boys will be boys.”
What can I say? It is difficult to spin these stories into something positive. I can say that such torments made me a more compassionate person as an adult. Perhaps it did. Or perhaps it just stays seared into your conscious forever. I’ll choose the former!
Reach out to me… let me help you reach your goals.
A. Gregory Luna, double-certified Health Consultant
San Antonio, Texas
“Shock the body….move the body!”
(I would appreciate your comments below.)