I grew up in a suburb of Montreal. A suburb is a suburb, no matter where on earth you are. And in the 70s a suburb was worst than it is now. There was no city bus linking my sublahblah to the cool city of Montreal.
My grade school had somewhere around 300 kids. Not a big school, but not a small country school either. Small enough for everybody to know who everybody was. In my entire grade school career, I remember of 2 kids who were fat. 2 girls. That’s a good ratio, 2-300. And they were sisters. And we were harsh on them, but that’s besides the point and expected of kids. To be harsh on those that stand out. 2 fat girls among 300+ kids? They stood out. In today’s standards, they would be considered plump. But back then they were fat.
In 1976 Montreal hosted the Olympic Games. I guess the government realized that if 2 out of 300 kids were overweight, they needed to promote an active lifestyle before things got out of hand and link this to promoting the Olympic Games. Out came the “Participaction” program. They also created this 1-week physical fit test that every grade school kid had to be put through. At the end of the week we were awared badges, gold, silver or bronze. With a participation pin. The test was a series of speed, endurance, strength tests. Like how many push-ups can you do in a certain limit of time, sit-ups, climbing that painful rope, chin-ups, sprints, endurance runs, etc.
At the end of the week our teacher sat us down in the gym and gave out the awards alphabetically. My last name starts with the letter L. About halfway through the alphabet (in case you’re from Kentucky or Arkansas, sorry, I’m a bitch). The “plump” girl was a K. She came before me (once again, in case you’re from Kentucky, or Arkansas) and got a bronze. I assumed I’d get silver since I had to be better than her… had to be. The obvious ones, the jocks got gold. When my turn came up, she said my name and paused. Everybody turned to look at me. Those before me were all wearing their pin, the super jock had managed to make his gold badge stick to his forehead (hot saliva enough to melt the glue?), and is staring. right. at. me. I hear my heart beating so loud I can measure the beats from my ears. Then she says “Sorry, but your score wasn’t high enough for the bronze.”
Not high enough for the lowest tier. So I get up to get my participation pin. She stops me. “Sorry, actually I’m not supposed to give you one, your score wasn’t high enough for that either.” The jock with the gold badge on his forehead takes it off. I am staring at half a class of 4th graders with pins on their t-shirts, and badges in their hand. Wish I had the instinct to say something witty and positive like “Well, at least I have room for improvement!” or something from Young Frankenstein “Badges? I don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”
That’s the day I decided I may be a spaz in gym, but at least I’ll be funny. Growing up in a suburb, in the 70s was all about sports. That was it. There was nothing else. And did I mention the fat girl was better than me? This is the day I finally found out why when we were asked to make 2 teams, and there was only 2 people left standing begging to be picked next, me and the fat girl, the captain up next always picked the fat girl. I may have been blessed with skinny genes (haha like skinny jeans) but I was not coordinated. I even had the lack of pins and badges to prove it.
Life’s not such a bitch when there is still room for improvement…
Oh, and by the way, after the fat girl got picked is when I discovered what the term negotiate meant. The captain would look at me, turn to the other and say “If you take her, I’ll give you her too (pointing to a pretty good girl on his team).” To which the reply would be “Not enough, if I take her, I’ll need that one, plus him!” Oh the pain of not being last picked, but the bartered one.