Tales Of A Gym Class Freak

Looking hot in my cool uniform.
Looking hot in my cool uniform.
Lisa Simpson
Another Lisa suffers humiliation in gym class.



A polka dot scrunchy, white tight rolled Guess jeans, a black tee shirt with the sleeves carefully rolled to reveal the contrasting white tee shirt underneath, white socks doubled with black socks and sparkling white Keds—this was my wardrobe choice for my first day attending Niles West High School in 1988. Shockingly, this outfit did not catapult me to instant popularity. Did I overdo it with my black and white theme? Was it that I weighed only 80 pounds and looked like I just broke out of an eating disorder clinic? Was it due to my splotchy red rash, mangled hands and elbows (click here to read a description of my gorgeous bod)? Was it because I started my freshman year three days later than everyone else and did not know a single soul? The world may never know.

I can hear my mother’s voice now, saying:  Are you ever going to let this go? Why must you harp on the fact that I surprised you by deciding to move and send you to public high school? This was over 25 years ago! When are you going to get over this? To which my voice, in my head, responds, Never, Mother. I will never let you forget that two days before I was supposed to start at the private high school with all my friends, you ‘surprised me’ with a move and a new school.

I stumbled through my first few days of high school like an absolute moron. I screwed up my locker combination, got lost, ate lunch by myself in the senior section of the cafeteria and did not correct my locker partner when she called me “Laura” instead of “Lisa.” She called me “Laura” for the next four years. Eventually, I made friends, became a theater geek, and survived high school. Everything turned out okay except for one dreaded 40-minute period every day: Gym Class.

I was worse than the run-of-the-mill uncoordinated girl who was picked last on the team. I had an actual medical disease that prevented me from being able to: sit pretzel style on the floor (that’s PC for ‘Indian Style’), catch a ball, hit a ball, climb a rope, swim, run or remotely demonstrate an ounce of athletic skill. Despite this, I participated in regular gym class for three and a half years without so much as an explanation note from a doctor.

Gym class was a daily source of mortification. Even now, if I smell the mixture of sweat, deodorant, and unwashed gym uniforms, I get re-traumatized. Changing in the locker room when you look like I do was bad enough. I mastered the art of changing out of my clothes and into a uniform without revealing an inch of flesh. I would rather have dived head first into a pool of my own vomit than gone to gym. Once, I literally got stuck in an exercise machine and had to be pulled out. There was no Hell worse than P.E. for me; that is, until I found out about something handcrafted by Satan himself: Co-Ed Volleyball.

Contact with a volleyball produced sharp throbbing pain that ricocheted through my fingers and elbows. Naturally, I would run from the ball whenever it came my way. Nothing says cool like an 80-pound, bony, red rashed, calcium leaking freak racing in the opposite direction from any moving object. I was voted M.V.P. that season by my team.

High school girls can be mean, but I found the guys in my co-ed gym class to be ruthless. These competitive boys did not care that I had an awful disease. The fate of the free world hinged on us winning that volleyball game, and they were not gonna lose because of some skinny freak. One guy in particular taunted me relentlessly. He and his buddies would loudly mock my every move. They followed me through the halls and hurled cruel insults at me for several years after my impressive display of supreme volley ball skills.

Miraculously, I found an answer to my prayers during my final semester in high school: “Fat Girl Gym Class.”  That, my friends is a whole other post.


(click here and scroll all the way down if you don’t know why I am writing disclaimers)

  • Mom- I love you. It was the 80s, before helicopter moms were a thing.
  • Full disclosure: In case you read my previous post, I did not acquire my ostomy bag and road map of scars until long after high school.
  • You may wonder why a woman who is advocating for less name calling and more open-minded kindness would ever use the term “fat girl.” I will defend my word choice when I write about being in the “Full-Figured Girls Gym Class.”
  • I feel compelled to remind readers that I’m not asking for a pity party (read more on my views on pity here). As you read this, there are kids all over America suffering far worst fates than being ridiculed in gym class.
  • If you are not familiar with the terms ‘tight rolled’ or ‘scrunchy’ ask anyone in their 40s to explain.
  • To be honest, I am not completely void of athletic skill. I play a mean game of kickball.
  • Turns out I did know one soul when I started high school. Special thanks to my friend from camp, Polina, who I discovered a few days into my freshman year.
My friends decorated my locker with my name on my 15th birthday. You would think that might have been a clue to my locker partner.
My friends decorated my locker with my name for my 15th birthday. You would think that might have been a clue to my locker partner.


  1. Lisa,
    I just started reading your blog, and am blown away by your ability to express your life experiences. Not only that, but more importantly your attitude and how you have handled this disease and everything that comes with it. We were in the same sorority together in college, and I completely remember you. You always had a smile on your face and something funny to say. Your strength amazed me then, and even more so now. Thank you for sharing Lisa. I look forward to reading your next entry! I am still laughing at your perfect description of what you were wearing your first day of high school. You were definitely given a gift for writing and an adorable sense of humor.


    • Hi Jen!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I so appreciate your kind words. I completely remember you from college and am so glad you remember me for being funny rather than for wearing bodysuits and blazers 🙂 It is great to hear from you and reconnect. Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving!


  2. Oh no! I am horrified on so many levels I don’t even know where to start! I struggled with severe skin issues and photosensitivity in HS, and my doctor wrote a note to get me moved to an adaptive PE class. I was a sad little loner, but now I feel lucky, lucky, lucky.

    I am a teacher too. Didn’t this experience make you more sensitive to issues with your students and others? I cannot tolerate mean kids myself!!


    • I can say with certainty that my experiences growing up has certainly impacted all aspects of my teaching. Through the years, I’ve tried to teach my students to be open and respectful to everyone. It breaks my heart when kids are mean to one another. Thanks for continuing to read and comment on my blog.


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