Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Sing it with me, Simon and Garfunkel fans... A Red Rubber Ball

"And I think it's gonna be all right

Yeah, the worst is over now

The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball..."

Heh. I'm re-reading "Why G!rls Are We!rd," where the main character compares watching her friends get married before her to worrying that she'll get kicked last for kickball. Kickball is a fairly harmless game, except for the painful, embarrassing picking teams business. It's a fabulous analogy, actually. She writes: "Then I was flooded with jealousy of another person getting picked first. I didn't need a husband to prove I was worth something. I just hated being second. Or last. God, please don't let me be last....I don't have to be next, just don't let me be last."

One gorgeous Spring day when I was in 7th grade, we had a substitute teacher who decided that instead of continuing our unit on Humiliating Rope-Climbing, we'd play kickball for the entire period. At first, that seemed like a really good deal.

On this particular day, I was doing okay, hanging out in the out field, doing nothing but praying for the ball to stay away from me and my braces and my pink glasses. I always forgot to keep lotion in my Requisite Drawstring Plastic Gap Bag Turned Gym Bag, so my legs were stubbly and ashy compared to the Popular Girls, who all passed around their Victoria's Secret Garden sample size lotions of Peach Hyancinthe or Her Magesty's Rose or Romantic Bouquet before class.

So yeah, someone kicks a homerun, the ball goes flying waaaaay beyond me, unsalvageable, but people were screaming Run! Run! so I did- trying to get there fast, but also not wanting to look like I cared too much, because that wouldn't be cool. I finally reached the ball, and I decided the fastest way to get it back to the game would be to kick it. Hard. Well, sad as it is, when I went to kick it, I missed. I didn't fall on my ass, but I stumbled around for a while, got really flustered. It was awful. They were all laughing and pointing. Seriously.

I eventually decided to run back to the game carrying the ball, which was a bad move, and when the bell rang, even the teacher laughed at me and said, "What exactly were you trying to do? Did you go to kick the ball and miss, even though you were HOLDING it?" Getting laughed at by the substitute junior high school gym teacher? Almost as bad as the Popular Girls. Almost. Shudder.

I used to imagine that there were secret trapdoors all over the school, up at the blackboard, underneath home plate. Any time I was embarrassed I could freeze time (like the girl in "Out of This World," that sitcom where the girl's dad was an alien) by pressing my fingertips together. I would then go down a trapdoor to my imaginary underground place, which had a big bed where I could take a nap any time I wanted, a TV and a swimming pool, and oddly enough, a hairstylist who was always there to fix my hair for me if someone made fun of it. There was a Decoy Me who would sit in class while I was "away." Decoy Me could also do my homework and spontaneously teach me whatever I missed (think: Trinity learning to fly a helicopter in the first Matrix movie). I sort of wish Decoy Me could go to work for me tomorrow.

But before I digress even further, I'm putting out a call for comments. I'm curious- Where were you in the "Picking Teams" Food Chain? Were you the boisterous jock kid who always got to be captain? The first-round (Fast/Tall/Pretty) draftee? Were you the Nice Kid who was friends with the Fast/Tall/Pretty Kid who lobbied on your behalf? I was Nice Kid in elementary school, but obviously I became the Blushing, Fingers Crossed, Please-don't-let-me-be-last Kid in Junior High.

If you don't want to put that out on the Internet, let me ask you this: Did you have an Imaginary Escape when you were younger? Comment away!

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