FINGERNAILS ON THE CHALKBOARD
I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted, on account of I’ve been squeezing my tush and pointing my toes for weeks now, watching Olympic gymnastics. And yes, as a matter of fact, I was trained as a competitive tumbler back in the 70’s. Funny you should mention it. ‘Course, that was before I realized how much I loathed the nervous stomach and hyperventilation that accompanied competitions...which led me to pronounce I didn’t want to compete anymore,,,which led my coach to reply, “You either compete, or you quit,”...which leads to the rest of this story being told by my bat wing biceps and spongy abdomen.
But it wasn’t just the stress of the tournaments—the other girls in my class were mean to me. It was either because they were jealous, or I was fingernails on a chalkboard—not sure which. But here, you decide: So like, when our coach said, “You need to have placed first, second or third at ONE of the county competitions in order to compete at State,” many girls lowered their heads in disappointment. But I raised my hand, feigned innocence and asked, “Teacher? What if I placed in ALL of the other competitions? Can I still go to State?”
Yeah, I know. If I could go back in time, I’d slap my own face.
But it’s okay, because I made it up to them when I sliced my head open on a trampoline trick gone wrong. As the blood poured in rivulets down my temples, and I was led away to the emergency room, the whole class was paid in full. They earned it.
Those were some painful years. Excruciating, really. It was also around the time they pulled me out of my 5th grade class so that I could partake of the humiliation called, “Speech therapy.” Apparently, I was afflicted with a tongue thrust, and needed to be taught how to talk. Of course, everyone knew that only babies needed speech therapy. Babies and me. So I shamefully sat at the table with the toothless, drooling five year olds, and pretended I was just there to show them how it was done.
When my friends asked me why they’d taken me out of class, I lied of course. I told them they needed my help with these youngsters and that I was kind of like a teachers aid. This was all well and good until at the end of my stint, the therapist accompanied me back to my classroom and called them to order:
“I’D LIKE ALL OF YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE! WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THAT LISA WOOD HAS JUST GRADUATED FROM SPECIAL NEEDS SPEECH THERAPY AND NO LONGER HAS A LISP! I’D LIKE EVERYONE TO CONGRATULATE HER AND GIVE HER A ROUND OF APPLAUSE!”
Aaaaannnnd there you go. She couldn’t possibly have known the collateral damage she’d just caused.
I don’t recall much after that, and maybe it’s because Barbra Streisand had it right when she sang “what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” I just know that the retainer I got about a week later didn’t help matters much.
Later that spring, my teenaged aunt came to visit for a few days. The doorbell rang on a Friday night, and lo and behold, there were two cute 18 year old boys standing on the porch. Immediately I sensed they had come to see me. I was subtle, at first—laying across their laps, interrupting every conversation, showing them my wallet full of money that I had earned babysitting. But then I pulled out the big guns: I had just received a pink shirt with my astrological sign emblazoned on the front. As they sat on the couch, trying to flirt with Heather, I stood directly in front of them, pointed at my shirt and said, “I’M A VIRGO! That means I’m lovable, sensitive, frisky...” and continued on, reading the description covering my chest.
They looked at me, then at each other, then stood in unison. One of them took me by the wrists, the other grabbed my feet, and they physically carried me out into the front yard, swung me back and forth a couple of times, and then let me fly through the air, as they ran inside and locked me out of the house.
My love for them grew cold. Crazy fools. They don’t know what they missed out on.
Well, anyway, looking back, I realize that in order to have our hearts blessed, we must first have them crushed. And sure, I’d rather have been a spectator than a participant in these episodes, but it seems traumatic lessons have incredible staying power.
So learn from my mistakes—don’t lie, don’t annoy, and always squeeze your bum and point your toes. And for heaven’s sake, NEVER brag, or mean girls will smile while your head is bleeding.
Those big jerks.