I’m not sure why I want to tell you this story. I don’t even know if it counts as ‘too much information’. I mean, it involves a bunch of teenagers being thrown into the communal showers at school, but I don’t know if that itself is enough. The real reason I want to tell you this story is because it’s the last time I played sports. Sure, I still hit a ball around occasionally, and I still play a little table tennis, but this story is the reason I never took part in organised sports at school after the age of 14.
Like most bad experiences at schools the world over, throughout history, it involved a bad teacher. Oh, and it included bullies too. Bad teachers and bullies, the stuff of collective, pubescent nightmare.
You can probably tell this isn’t going to be a happy story, further adding to my concern that this isn’t really TMI fodder — head on over to Lilu’s blog if you want happier fare. But I assure you, before this story is out, you’re going to feel like I’ve told you too much.
We always played sports in the winter. I don’t know why. It was always damn cold and damn wet. There’s no damp like English damp, it chills right to the bone. It actually all began when I turned up to football practice in some warmer sweatpants/sports trousers — you know, the flannel/fleecy kind. I figured if we were going to run around like retards, I’d at least like to keep some sensation in my legs. There’s nothing like having a hard, cold football kicked into your bare legs, by the way. The brief cessation of all feeling followed by the flooding return of stinging pain as your numb, cold thighs register the impact. That’s why I wanted to wear more than shorts. Protection… safety… you know, normal human urges.
But my teacher wasn’t a normal human being. He was pretty young — early 20s maybe — and a complete, draconian dick. He was a football nut — as in the kind of person that actually thrives on running around in the cold and kicking a ball — and as such tried to impose his own ludicrous view of the world upon us poor teenagers. He didn’t like that I wasn’t wearing shorts. In fact, shorts were the uniform in his sports lessons.
“Take them off.”
“But I don’t have any shorts with me.”
“Take them off!”
And so I played football in my underwear. It was as shit and as painful as you can imagine, and about twice as cold.
I wore those tiny sportsshorts after that and made do with bruised, stinging thighs. It was marginally better than being told to strip down to underwear in front of my friends.
I guess this was probably when my rebellious streak really kicked in. Or wait, not rebellious… sane streak. Some of my other friends also kicked up a fuss, but they all eventually fell into line under this sports teacher (though ‘teacher’ is too generous. He was basically a thug with a whistle.) I could never quite kick the idea that running around in a field, in the cold, in the rain, in the fucking sleet, with tiny shorts on… well, it always felt a bit stupid. Like the crazy ideology of a mad man: Ja! These children will run in ze cold! In tiny shorts and vests! Zis will make them into men! – or something like that.
And then there were the showers. My school wasn’t a very classy affair. The changing room was this brutally cold, hard room with seemingly no heating. It had a huge door that led outside to the sports field, a door into the school itself, and a communal shower in the corner.
Showering was part of the sports ritual. According to our tyrant of a teacher anyway. Everyone stripping down and jumping into the shower for a good ol’… I don’t know. Tussle? Convivial soapy sponge-down? Fuck, I haven’t thought about these memories in 10 years, but we were forced to shower together.
Cold water too. Sometimes we got warm water, sometimes we didn’t. Mostly it was ice cold. The jocks — there were a few — jumped in first. The rest of us, the cautious dissenters, usually waited until we were forced to undress and waddle protectively into a corner of the shower. I think it was worse than it should’ve been because I was so young, some two years younger than most of the other boys. It’s not so weird for a 14-year-old to question whether he wants to jump into a communal shower with some ‘big’ 16-year-olds, right? This wasn’t the only chain of incidents that triggered my self-esteem issues, but it played a big part.
The whole showering thing happened three times until I finally stopped turning up to sports classes. I would actually hide somewhere in the school when it was time for sports. The teacher rounded me up a few times, frog-marching me to the football field, before finally giving up on me. I guess I wasn’t destined to be one of those idiots that liked running around in the cold.
Can you guess where I usually hid? The computer room. And that was that.