Silver Spring, Md.
In high school in Queens, New York, I menstruated with “horrible” cramps at least four times a month to avoid P.E. and the dreaded “gym suit.”
I hated it. Constant harassment. Team sports are evil. I finally stopped going. Got into trouble because of it. Did not care.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Because it was 55 years ago, I have forgotten why we did this, but my best friend and I decided to protest P.E. We refused to put on P.E. uniforms one high-school semester. At the time, our school was giving number grades in every subject and the P.E. teacher gave us a 70—for merely sitting on the gym bleachers, I suppose. Those low grades in P.E. ruined our overall four-year grade averages. That protest cost us the valedictorian and salutatorian honors our senior year and it was a graduating class of 31 students. Since then, I think very carefully about what and how I protest.
One reader found a way to customize P.E. to fit her needs:
Oh, how I hated P.E.! I hated my body, was terribly self-conscious in those awful gym shorts, and was terrified of being the weakest link in the team chain. Every week, weather allowing, my high-school P.E. class went for a 45-minute run through the woods around the school. My mother had recently been trying to get fit and was spending her mornings speed-walking through the neighborhood. I read an article in one of her fitness magazines about how a fast walking tempo was as good for you as going for a run. The next day I took the magazine to school, screwed up my courage, and confronted my gym teacher. He was a towering, gruff man and I was an overly sensitive, poetry-reading, theater-department geek. I stated my argument—“Scientific research shows that a brisk walk is as beneficial as a jog, therefore I plan to walk the jogging route at a fast pace instead of running.” I showed him the magazine article, said I had my mother’s blessing, and waited, shaking in fear, for the backlash. However, I was met with approval. My plan was allowed! I was the only one allowed to speed-walk, cementing my reputation as the weird one who did everything her own way. But the respect I had for my gym teacher grew and, I would like to think, his for me. I still grumbled while I fell behind in burpees, but I was pleased as punch speed-walking through the woods.
Many readers had positive experiences—one even discovered a lifelong love for distance running:
I enjoyed my childhood P.E. classes. They were a welcome break from the rest of the day and a fun way to release steam.
I don’t remember much of what we did in gym class, but I do remember having lots of outdoor playtime regardless of the weather. If it rained, we still went out. If there was snow and cold, we bundled up. We played a lot of dodgeball and kickball and there were always jump ropes (double Dutch) going and we practiced shooting baskets from the basketball free-throw line. And here’s the best: We were taught dances of all sorts. I remember square dancing, but in particular I remember we learned the minuet. Of all things, the minuet? It was so not an East Chicago thing. Go figure.