How I almost failed P.E. class

Years ago when I was a student in a small Christian school, our physical education teacher (who happened to live less than a block away from campus), decided to put a gym in his garage so that the 7th-12th grade boys could work out. He filled the small space with donated weight-lifting equipment and exercise machines, and most of the guys were delighted to get to show off their machismo during the last hour of school a couple of days each week.

Me and my two best friends weren’t nearly so excited about the situation. We were the skinny and awkward outsiders who were more concerned with how our hair looked than whether our muscles bulged, and we typically dreaded P.E. class. Not only was the teacher a jerk most of the time, years of being called gay slurs by the older boys hadn’t helped our self-esteem or our desire to hang around and watch them show off for each other.

During our first class at this garage/gym, most of the guys went straight for the weight-lifting equipment and ignored the stationary bikes that were sitting in a row along the back wall. That made it perfectly convenient for the three of us to leave the others to their revelry, and do something that was out of the way and, frankly, not too physically-exhausting. So, we hopped on the bikes and began our usual back-and-forth banter about popular culture.

It wasn’t long before the teacher abruptly appeared in front of us and proclaimed loudly, “When you girls are done with the bikes, some of the guys would like to use them.”

The words stung.

After experiencing years of taunts like fag, queer, homo, and sissy, we were now being humiliated in front of some of those same perpetrators by the very person who was supposed to be our protector. And at a Christian school, no less.

After that incident, I began skipping P.E. class. I would either go to another teacher and claim to not feel good (which was true, in a way), or I would simply disappear into the school library until the day ended. I wound up with a D for what should have been an easy class – which stood out significantly against all of the A’s and B’s on the remainder of my report card.

We moved on from the incident. Two of us came out after high school; one still seems to be in the closet. I can’t remember if we ever even discussed what happened, but I suspect it scarred all of us in some way.

I sometimes see Mr. Teacher around town. He works at a local home improvement store, and he even speaks when I run into him. He probably has no recollection of what he said or how he acted, and he most certainly has no idea how his words can still bother me all these years later.

HBO’s ‘The Leftovers’ and childhood trauma

HBO’s new series, The Leftovers, looks very intriguing. And a little scary. After roughly 2% of the world’s population disappears in a rapture-like event, the show follows what happens to those who remain behind. This reminds me a bit too much of the movies I was forced to watch as a child while attending a Southern Baptist school.

I grew up without television, so when our teachers decided to show us a movie it was usually a treat. Not only did we get to feast our hungry eyes upon delicious cartoons like Bambi, we got to skip the monotony of classroom activities. Unfortunately, the movie selection wasn’t always so innocuous.

While still in elementary school, we were shown A Thief In The Night and A Distant Thunder – films that detailed the Rapture and the horrifying events that followed. These movies not only showed people being forced to receive the Mark of the Beast, but what would happen to those who refused. The first movie in the series had a particularly haunting song that is stuck in my head to this very day.

There’s no time to change your mind; the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. I wish we’d all been ready.
Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready.

Because the Holiness church had taught me nothing about the Rapture but everything about what would happen in the End Times, I knew I would be one of those who was left behind to either take the Mark or be put to death. I wept hysterically throughout both films, so much so that my teacher mistook my tears for a desire to be born again. She led me in prayer a couple of times, but soon realized she was getting nowhere and told me to talk it over with my parents when I got home.

Needless to say, it was a traumatizing experience. Almost as bad as the time my aunt and uncle (also Baptists) showed my family a video of people dying in car accidents and going to hell. Good times.

So, it is with trepidation that I am actually looking forward to watching The Leftovers. Hopefully I have watched enough horror movies and reality television over the past 20 years to desensitize myself.

I’ve come a long way, baby!

One of my friends from school recently moved back to the area, so Honey, Liz, and I got together with her last weekend for dinner and a movie. Since all but one of us had attended the same Christian school, we spent pretty much the entire night reminiscing and laughing our butts off.

Our Baptist school was small and often dysfunctional. Along with standard subjects like math and English, we were taught that the earth is only 6,000-8,000 years old, rock music is of the devil, and the Easter Bunny is the pagan god of fertility. Seriously.

While the history books in most schools might cover such topics as World War II or the writing of the Declaration of Independence, our history books devoted chapters to the oppression of Protestants by the Roman Catholic Church. Graphic descriptions of torture were included to cement our distrust of the world’s largest denomination.

One of the teachers seemed to dislike the fact that my Pentecostal religion differed from hers, so during class one day she informed us that John the Baptist was the first Christian and therefore the first Christian was Baptist. “And, Brian, that’s the truth whether you believe it or not!” she exclaimed, even though I hadn’t uttered a word of dissent. Even then I knew that he had acquired the moniker simply because he baptized people.

Instead of being taught the core elements of Christianity, like loving and helping others, we were trained to fear those who were different. One of my friends was even denied a letter of recommendation by our principal because the college she was applying to was of a different denomination.

Over the years, as I’ve experienced life, read books, or simply talked to people, I have discovered that things aren’t nearly as black and white as I was made to believe during my school days. It’s hard to fathom how much I’ve changed or how far I’ve come since then, and I know that everything I’ve went through in my life was for a reason – if for nothing more than to give me perspective.

Still, I resent the fact that my parents sacrificed so much financially in order to send my sister and I to a school that provided a so-called Christian eduction. False advertising if you ask me.

Blogbits

Neighbor – She’s in the hospital again. We’ve been staying with her at night and her niece has been sitting with her during the day. She seems to be fine at the moment, but will have some tests ran on Monday to see what is causing problems with her digestive system.

School – Honey starts back to college next week. He’s finally settled on a career choice – teaching math. Since it’s one of my least favorite subjects, maybe there is some truth to the whole “opposites attract” argument.

Facebook – I started using the site a few weeks ago despite my negative feelings about social networking. Although I have enjoyed getting back in touch with one of my old friends from school, I’m already considering deactivating my account. Part of me wants to reunite with former acquaintances, but the other part wants to leave the past behind.

Update on my so-called life

Some of my regular readers have pointed out that I don’t really write much anymore. I post little tidbits and mindless dribble about politics and celebrities, but very little about myself. There are several reasons why I haven’t been putting forth much effort in that department, but the primary ones are laziness, feeling like I’m repeating myself, and not really having anything that important going on in my life. When I started this blog I intended to use it as a virtual diary, so I’m going to try to head back in that direction.

The best thing that has happened in my life recently is that my partner finally got to return to school to finish his degree. We are both elated that he can move forward and hopefully have a bachelor’s degree under his belt sometime in December.

Speaking of school, I’ve put my plans of changing careers on hold. Changing jobs and all the on-the-clock training that entails has left me with little desire to further my education in the classroom. I did feel a few pangs of jealousy recently when I went to registration with Honey, but I know that I’m still young enough that I can afford to procrastinate a bit. I’m making good money now, so while having a degree might give me a little more self-worth, I’m not sure it would really improve my quality of life.

Things are still a little weird with my family. My sister and I started talking again recently (although most of our contact consists of text-messaging). She made the first move – calling me and leaving a rather kind message on my machine. My mother contacted me yesterday via email – our first correspondence in around four months.

While I’ll feel much better when things are back to “normal” with my family, the part that continues to make me angry is that my feelings never seem to matter. They discriminate, I get angry and make ultimatums, then we just go on with our little lives like nothing ever happened. I guess that’s the definition of “dysfunctional family,” eh?

Speaking of “dysfunctional,” it seems that my body is falling to pieces. The nuclear test that was ran on my gallbladder a few weeks ago showed that it is only working 30% of the time. This seems to be wreaking havoc on my digestive system, since the extra bile the organ stores when malfunctioning gets flushed into my stomach all at once. My stomach tries to counteract the extra bile by producing more acid – causing acid reflux and the resulting chest pain. Doctor advised that I have it removed as quickly as possible, but not wanting to have surgery, I told her that I needed some time to think about it.

A few nights ago, I started getting a fever without any indication of being ill. It went to 101.5 before I caved in and took some Tylenol. I spent most of the next day feeling like crap – no appetite, no energy. The fever returned the next night, along with pain when urinating and sitting down.

Seems my prostate is the culprit, and after a rather thorough and embarrassing exam, Doctor joked that I was falling apart and playfully referred to me as “Humpty Dumpty.” Then she put me on antibiotics and abstinence for two weeks. And… she’s setting me up with a surgeon to get the gallbladder removed. Here’s to feeling twice your age (clink).

So, that’s about it. Just don’t expect the posts about politics to go away anytime soon.

Back to school

Honey will be returning to college tomorrow to finish his bachelor’s degree. This is the first time he’s been financially able to return to classes since 2005, and to say that he is excited would be an understatement.

I took off from work yesterday to accompany him to registration – a process that was quite foreign to me since I have only attended a couple of night classes at a local community college. The experience at this large state university was much different and I enjoyed it immensely, but what made me even more happy was the opportunity to share a new beginning with the one I love.

The weather was simply gorgeous as we navigated the campus in search of professors and paperwork. Blues skies, sunshine, beautiful landscaping. There were many incoming freshmen being led about on tours and I couldn’t help but feel my age when studying their youthful faces. It was interesting to hear all the different accents and languages being spoken, and to see traditional dress from various parts of the world.

Honey must have been a standout student during his time there three years ago. I was quite proud to hear every professor that he approached call him by his first name or exclaim how good it was to see him coming back. It was obvious that he had great respect for their teaching abilities, and they were quite impressed with his desire and ability to learn.

He kept telling me how much he appreciated me joining him for the day, but the pleasure was all mine. As we sat under the umbrella of a huge magnolia tree and watched the splinters of sunlight dancing around us, he remarked, “This is life. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

It certainly doesn’t.

Not your typical ladies man

I’ve always loved women. I love the way they smell, look, act and react. I admire their ability to weep at the drop of a hat, yet handle heartache with the strength of an army.

I relate better to women than men, finding them much easier to talk to. I like to flirt with them, too, and my dad says he learned everything about hitting on the opposite sex from me. In fact, for someone who’s never been sexually attracted to females, I’ve had quite a few girlfriends.

Elaine was talk, dark, and mysterious. I fell desperately in love with her one warm, sunny day when my grandparents had a huge outdoor picnic and invited over practically everyone they knew. It didn’t matter that I was only around 7 years old or that she was several years my senior – I was spellbound. I remember following her around the entire day, sitting in her lap, and holding her hand. My tiny heart was broken soon after when it became clear that she really preferred a boyfriend whose lap she could sit in.

Deana became the light of my life a short time later. She was blond, popular, and determined not to fall for my romantic advances. I passed note after note to her with the earnest but overused line, “I like you. Do you like me?” followed by check boxes for “Yes” and “No.” It was always a negative, but sometimes it was just crumpled up and thrown back at me. Embracing the challenge, I never gave up my pursuit of her until I left for another school in the middle of the fourth grade.

Amber was also blond and popular. She had this incredibly annoying habit of switching between her first and middle names from year to year. The “Amber” from last semester now insisted on being referred to as “Dawn.” How could anyone not find that intriguing? I was smitten with everything about her and began emulating one of her most fascinating characteristics – her impeccable penmanship.

Although Amber never showed any interest in me for most of the time that we knew one another, she decided one day that she would wager her heart on a game of chess. If the winner was one person, it belonged to Matt. If it was the other, it belonged to me. Of course, Matt won possession of her devious little heart and I promptly collapsed into tears. Apparently the pity party paid off, because she immediately dumped him and became my girlfriend.

We would laugh and joke about kissing, but her ruby lips never touched mine and it wasn’t long before summer came and we parted ways. I think she changed schools the next year, but I like to fantasize that she is somewhere writing her first and second name in that beautiful script and is happily married to a chess champion.

I had known Sarah my entire life, but I suddenly realized that she was the most beautiful girl on the planet! She resembled an angel with her light-colored hair and porcelain skin. My arch-nemesis was Lamar, and it didn’t help matters that everyone said we looked and acted just alike. Similarities or not, she seemed to like him while having no time for me.

Missy was a feisty little redhead who was at least 3 years older than me. I was in seventh grade and had just had my braces removed when her friend informed me that she liked me. That’s pretty much all it took in those days to make two people an item, and we were together for as long as it took her to realize that I wouldn’t be making any physical advances.

By that time in my life, I was beginning to realize that something about me was a little different from most other guys. I still liked girls, but unlike most of the guys in my age group, I wasn’t the least bit interested in talking them out of their clothes.

So, here I am at almost thirty-four years of age and I’ve never even kissed a girl. I still get crushes on women and every once in a while one gets a crush on me. It’s flattering and a big ego boost, but this is one ladies man who would rather put a girl in a fabulous outfit than take her out of it.